Sunday, October 2, 2011

Brownie’s Take: Pros & Cons of Off-Season Weight Training


Mike “Brownie” Brown (pictured here securing his annual victory in the Copperas Cove season opener to another Texas road racing season) just finished his 2011 season where it all started – on the top step of the podium in Copperas Cove. Brownie’s most recent Copperas Cove victory made him the 2011 Master’s Age 45-49 State Champion... which makes a nice bookend for the P/1/2 State Championship Brownie won at Chappell Hill in 2001. Brownie will be the first to tell you that he owes a great deal of his success each season to the foundation he builds during the off-season. In this “interview” with Bob He of Timewaster Media Enterprises, the first in a series of at least one, Brownie offers what some may consider a surprising view on a common element of most off-season training programs – weight training. But with 2011 victories in January (Copperas Cove), March (Jesuit Ranger Roundup), April (Matrix Challenge) and September (Age-Based State Road Race), along with podium finishes at the Age-Based State Crits in May and at Cotton Patch, Brownie’s opinion is certainly worthy of respect and consideration.

Bob He: I’m here with Mike “Brownie” Brown, newly crowned Texas Masters State Road Race Champion. “Brownie” – what an odd nickname... where did it come from?

Brownie: You add an “i” and an “e” to my last name... it’s a pretty common nickname for anyone named “Brown.”

Bob He: Oh yeah, duh... sorry, that was a panic first question. Forgive me, I’ve never fake interviewed a state champion before. Let’s talk about the race: So you won huh? Was that pretty awesome? [delete before publishing] Where the guys you beat any good? [ditto] Anyone you’d like to thank?

Brownie: Yes, my teammates at the race, Price, Weber, Fene, Burke, Moore, Looney, Feldman and Millwee, and of course all our McKinney Velo sponsors, but especially Jim and Rhonda Hoyt over at Richardson Bike Mart.

Bob He: A lot of Texas racers, including many from Oklahoma, are wondering what they can do this off-season to have a season like Mike “Brownie” Brown had in 2011. Some are asking if they should go to the gym for lower extremity weights... what do you think?

Brownie: The answer to that question is very simple. It depends on when your first "A" race is in 2012. If you answered that question with Lago Vista or Pace Bend, then the answer is "NO". If you answered a race in April or May then maybe.

Bob He: (Possible Pulitzer winning question alert.) Why is that?

Brownie: My answer is based on the TxBRA calendar. With the State Road Racing Championships being in late September and the real road season officially starting (at least in my mind) with Walburg 4 ½ months later, that time frame will not help you at all from a weight lifting perspective (if you're planning on riding hard starting in February and March.) Let me explain this in more detail.

Bob He: Can you explain your answer in more... oh, sorry.

Brownie: Joe Friel's Training Bible does an excellent job in laying out a good time line if you truly want to benefit from weight training. The first weight training phase is an anatomical adaptation (AA) phase. This phase is critical as one transitions from a whole season of pedaling in circles to squats, leg presses, etc. Most people lift way too heavy way too fast. They don't start lifting light weights first and let the muscles, tendons and ligaments adjust to the new motions and stresses and end up being sore as hell for the first month after starting in the gym. Being that you should only be working legs hard 2 times per week, this AA phase should last at least 4 weeks. This time frame should be adequate in helping in a smoother physiological weight room adaptation and prevent a too hard too fast injury.

Once the AA period is finished you may begin the max strength (MS) phase. This phase is the super heavy weights at about 3-6 reps. This phase also lasts about 4-6 weeks and is nothing more than pure strength building. Power Endurance (PE) follows MS and involves lifting loads slightly less heavy than the MS phase for 6-10 reps but with much more explosive movements during lifting. Once again, this phase should last 4-6 weeks. The last phase for the off season focuses on Muscular Endurance (ME). ME involves lifting much lighter loads than the MS and PE phases, but you lift those loads for 40-60 reps. As you might expect, it takes much longer to build muscular endurance than strength or power, so this phase is much longer at 6-8 weeks.

So, based on these time frames set forth by Friel, the off season weight training program will take you approximately 14 to 20 weeks. That's 3 ½ to 5 months. That would work great if our off-season started after the Hotter n Hell Hundred (ed. -a/k/a "HHH”). But the Texas race schedule reality is that there are only 4 ½ months between the State Road Racing Championships and Walburg. Also keep in mind that your mileage on the bike is minimal or constant during the AA, MS and PE phases. A very common mistake by amateur cyclists is that they try to lift heavy weights while also trying to race cross, increase their base mileage or even begin on the bike workouts for next season! Your mileage on the bike should not increase until you begin the ME phase. Otherwise you will not be able to get 100% out of each workout because you're trying to give 100% effort in the gym and then turn around and give even more by building base at the same time on the bike. And some people wonder why they don't get any better year after year.

So, in summary, if you're truly trying to build strength for 2012, you did the Championships at the end of September and you want to have a good result at Walburg or Lago Vista, weight training, in my opinion, should not be part of your workouts. Four months is NOT enough time to benefit significantly from a properly planned AA, MS, SE and ME phases weight training program.

... to be continued (maybe).