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During these winter months I am currently attending the gym 3 times a week. On each of the days I start my training on an exercise bike with the following:

  1. 5 minute warm up
  2. 30 minutes, 1 minute hard, 1 minute recovery
  3. 5 minute warm down

I am using a specific interval training setting on the bike. I preset the training to level 15, which is a high resistance and as much as I can take.

Hard is a cadence of between 80-90rpm high resistance. Recovery is a cadence of 60prm and the resistance backs off considerably, I imagine to approximately level 7.

My heart rate towards the end of the session reaches 170–190bpm, and I am working flat-out. I turn 30 in March, am 5' 8" and weigh approx 168lbs.

Does this training routine seem sensible for building strength and speed on the mountain? Should I be changing up the training with other types of bike training?

It is also worth noting that after the interval training I perform free weight strength training too.

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What kind of racing are you going to be doing? XC, downhill, etc? – Vincent Agnello Jan 23 '12 at 15:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Whether an interval training is effective or not depends mostly on your particulars relative to the interval. Heart rate is only a very inexact measure of effort, but you seem to be roughly in the ballpark. However, such quick switching between on/off interval state does not generally produce interval-like results and should be viewed as a single 30-minute interval at the average power of this period.

A better gauge of interval quality would be this: how long can you keep up the effort? A more typical interval training might be e.g. 6-7 times 3-8 minute efforts, with 2-5 minute rests, at such intensity that you simply cannot complete another interval round.

A goal of "strength and speed" on the mountain is unspecific enough that you can be sure it's being helped somewhat, and in some way, by the intervals. However, it's counterproductive to do interval training and weight training both in one session. If you are still in shape to do weight training after your intervals, it means the intervals weren't done hard enough. Do intervals and weights on alternate days.

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Thanks for this. I have worked with a personal trainer in the past who has suggested 5 rounds of 7 minutes, with 7 minutes at high intensity. Fully rest in between each, which would normally take around 5 minutes. This seems to fit in with your suggestion here, would you agree? – DigiKev Jan 22 '12 at 21:50
Yes, as long as, again, you don't mix it in with weight training. The idea is that if you want a session of higher intensity training, such as threshold, intervals, or sprints, to be effective, you should train hard. You should feel like you should be carried off the bike at the end of the session. Then rest at least two days before attempting another hard session. – ttarchala Jan 22 '12 at 23:42

I think there are several issues with your approach for improving power on bike:

  • doing the same workout stresses the same aerobic pathway, since there are several ways your body can burn fuel it is worth exercising all of them. This means doing intervals of different length with different rest periods. Example: 3x(12+6) min on and off. The on part is similar to what you can do for 1 hour and the off part is half of that. Another example: 3x(3+3) min on and off where the on part is what you can do for 5 minutes, off part is half of that.
  • the intervals do not seem to be anaerobic, because of the short recovery period( anaerobic intervals need longer recovery periods ). They are either Vo2Max intervals or Threshold. If they are Vo2Max I think the workout is too hard, usually accumulating 6 to 9 minutes at Vo2Max in a training session is too much, if they are threshold I don't think the approach is very good, better go with a longer interval period since threshold power can be usually sustained by riders for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • if you want to endure in long events/rides you need to do longer sessions to have the endurance
  • heart rate on an indoor trainer seems to be artificially high for me, I think it is because of the poor ventilation. Also power on the trainer is much lower then going outside, so pacing with heart rate on an indoor trainer seems to be a bad idea at least this is my experience. Suppose your 170bpm is upper tempo power, on an indoor trainer that might be actually upper endurance because of the artificial high heart rate.
  • for effective mountain biking you also need riding skills, these are not developed on a trainer.

I would try to look at the requirements of your specific events and target those, also try to do longer sessions on the trail to build the endurance needed to complete this events.

An alternate way is to get a generic mountain biking endurance plan and build on that, it won't be perfect but I think is much superior over what you have now.

Also, try to ride outside if possible, the workouts are better and you will enjoy the training much more.

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About Vo2Max intervals, I meant that 6 to 9 minutes in the zone for one session is enough, no need to do more. Of course it depends on your ability and level but you seem to be at beginning, why risk overtraining? – Bogdan Petrica Jul 9 at 3:16
I can't comment anywhere, I am curious what kind of strength training are you doing after this? Can you do squats after this? – Bogdan Petrica Jul 9 at 3:25

To some extent whether it will be effective depends on your goal. Are you trying to develop endurance or speed?

There's an article at on the "Effects of High Intensisty Intermittent Training on Maximum Oxygen Uptake and Endurance Performance" which compares several different interval training techniques if Endurance is your goal.

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At the end of this workout are you 'smoked'? If so, then these are 'anaerobic endurance' intervals. Some training plans suggest just starting these 6-8 weeks before your first "A race"

Some plans suggest you work on "muscular endurance" first with long fairly hard efforts = 10m plus - then 6-8 weeks prior add anaerobic endurance intervals. The two biggest abilities for MTB are said to be muscular and anaerobic endurance.

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