We offer a 24-week Off-Season Base Build Program to our local athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym and trainer sessions. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.
The following blog series will share some specifics of what each block of training is made up of and how we progress through our 6-month long base build to reach serious fitness by Spring and ready to dive into more specific Race Prep training for your goal events. The same progression occurs in our truncated 12-week version of the plan; however progression occurs at a much faster pace. This plan is ideal for the more experienced athletes with years of base in their legs or for those that don’t have the time or patience to spend 6 months building a killer base of fitness for the upcoming season.
The first of six blocks comprising our Base Building Program focuses on returning to structured training, finding your rhythm, and adapting to the movements.
There are three basic categories of sessions that make up our regular training week:
Gym Sessions (strength/mobility)
Trainer Sessions (structured/intensity)
Outdoor Sessions (endurance)
Ideally for most, you can fit two of each into your weekly routine, comprising of six sessions a week. Depending on your time available for training, you may be able to include additional sessions within the week for added volume. Additional sessions would typically be recovery or easy endurance in nature, as opposed to intensity. Rarely would a third intensity session be beneficial for an endurance athlete.
Overall training program volume can also be adjusted by the duration of the outdoor endurance session(s). More experienced athletes, and those with more time availability, can choose to increase their long rides to higher durations as appropriate for their current training progression. Increasing the long rides needs to be done methodically and progressively over time, rather than randomly or haphazardly. Being accustomed to 3-hour endurance rides and then throwing in a 6-hour epic ride one week is typically too much and leads to several days of sub-par (or missed) training due to the extra fatigue and need for recovery following such a big ride that you have not built up to appropriately.
Training consistency is the key: days of training lead to weeks, which lead to months, which lead to years.
The early blocks of training in our Off-Season Base Building Program are relatively “easy” as we are gradually adapting to the workload. Be patient, as things will get “harder” in time, but we must take these first steps is establishing a base of movement patterns and technique before we increase resistance or move more powerfully.
Becoming too over zealous, or impatient, with your training is counter productive. It results in needing more recovery above and beyond the norm. The goal with training is to apply just enough stress to your physiology that requires a small amount of recovery time on a daily basis. You want to be able to recover from training with relative ease day-to-day. Occasionally, maybe once a week, you might have a single stretch session, or the accumulation of several solid days in a row, that requires an extra easy day to recover from. This is normal and good. Doing too much, too soon leads to unnecessary soreness and fatigue that will cause you to lose daily consistency and lack of progression. In other words, you want to do just enough training to elicit the response you’re after; doing more than necessary results in a reduced training response due to the need for more recovery.
1. BLOCK 1: Gym Sessions
Goal number one is to learn the exercise movements and session structure. In-house, we focus heavily on proper technique and creating effective (and safe) movement patterns over the first 4 weeks of training. Every gym session is structured the same in Blocks 1-3 as:
- 5:00 Movement Prep
- 10:00 Warm-Up
- 20:00 Strength Set
- 8:00 Pull/Push Set
- 8:00 Core Stability
- 9:00 Mobility
The primary focus of blocks 1-3 is developing strength in two key movements: the Back Squat and Deadlift. Using our spreadsheet load calculator you can see your specific loads for every set and rep for every session throughout the 3 month build. The specific movements/exercises and set possibilities for the other segments of the sessions are presented on our Sessions:6 YouTube Channel.
Specifically for Block 1 of our program, the back squat and deadlift Strength Progression begins with lighter loads and higher rep counts to allow for learning and adapting to the movements, and building a strength base. Achieving proper form and full depth of movement is essential for both safety and effective muscle recruitment. Each session gradually builds the load scheme to a high point in the first session of week 3, with a final set of 4 reps done at 85% of an known or estimated 1 rep max rep. Week 4 returns to lighter loads for a bit of recovery and more time to focus on form and full range of motion. If training on your own and you’re unsure of your form, consider working with a personal training for a few sessions to assist in your learning and execution.
2. BLOCK 1: Trainer Sessions
Our trainer sessions in Block 1 focus on two elements: neuromuscular training & aerobic conditioning. The neuromuscular piece is often very difficult from a muscle recruitment standpoint for athletes that are not accustomed to higher cadence pedaling. On the flip side, the aerobic intervals typically feel “too easy” for athletes that are used to pushing themselves too hard on a regular basis.
- The neuromuscular training consists of low-gear, high cadence pedaling. We achieve this through the Spin-Ups as a warm-up exercise, again in the ILT (isolated leg training) intervals, and yet again in the high-cadence Spins at the end of the sessions.
- Spin-Ups: rpm progressions from 80-90 as a low and building at different intervals up to 115-145 as a high. All performed in easiest gear with light resistance and as smoothly as possible.
- ILTs: single-legged pedaling. Little gear for smoothness and big gear for strength development. Beginning with just 1:00 durations and increasing to 3:00 per leg over the first block.
- Spins: training to hold higher than normal cadences over extended periods of time. Performed in easiest gear, light resistance to remove any muscular assistance and reduce the cardiac demand.
- The aerobic conditioning comes in the form of AeT (aerobic threshold) Intervals. We start with 3×5:00 of these in the first sessions and increase to 5×5:00, then 3×8:00 and finally 2×12:00 by the last session of the block. Targeting your aerobic threshold HR (as determined from testing effort, learn more HERE), in normal gearing/cadence for the 5:00-12:00 intervals.
3. BLOCK 1: Outdoor Sessions
Getting outside in this block consists of basic, low-intensity riding. Nothing too special here. Just good ‘ol easy base miles. Generally speaking, the more time you can spend on your bike at these low intensities the better. You can ride on the road or the trails. Whatever makes you happy and feels good. If you’re struggling to loose some weight, it’s more important to keep the HRs low so you stay aerobic and build that fat-burning energy system over anything else. This may mean sticking to flatter roads, and either riding by yourself or your “slower” friends. If you’re a bit more experienced and/or already near your ideal body composition, you can ride some more challenging rides and/or faster paced group rides that get you HR up just a bit more. Just keep the high-intensity to a minimum and keep it fun. Lastly, you can also opt for cross-training outlets like nordic skiing, snowshoeing, uphill hiking, etc. for building aerobic endurance off the bike as weather and interests dictate.
Focus on finding your training routine and establishing a schedule that you will be able to sustain for many weeks to come.
Consistency is king and starting things off light and fun will help to ensure you look forward to each days training session and build the confidence in regular daily training. Once you get the ball rolling in Block 1 you ‘ll be ready to increase the load (slightly, be patient) in Block 2.
Interested in giving it a try yourself?
Download our complete 24-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.
Download our more condensed 12-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.
- All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability.
- Full Testing Protocol and Training Zone Calculator to identify HR and Power zones and track progress.
- Structured training sessions uploadable to your app of choice (Zwift, Wahoo, Garmin, Trainer Road, etc.)
- Bonus weekend training ride suggestions for either indoors or out.
Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.