Balyi’s 5 stages of Long Term Athletic Development

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Balyi’s first proposed his stages of long term athlete development in 1998 since this time a lot of time has been put into understanding the importance of progression for young athletes. However many parents and coaches are still too quick to progress young athletes through the ranks. Understanding the stages outlined below are crucial in making the right training and competition decisions for young athletes.

1) FUNdamental (males and females 6-10): The emphasis is on the overall development of a young athletes physical capacities, movement skills and the ABC’s of athleticism. Athletes are encouraged to participate in a broad range of sports with a wide variety of movement patterns and movement challenges. Speed, Power and endurance and developed through exposure to fun games. This is a chance to introduce athletes to the basics of rules and ethics in sport.

2) Training to Train (males 10-14 and females 10-13): As the name suggests this stage is targeted around teaching athletes how to train. Athletes begin to learn the skills of a specific sport. During this stage training starts to become more structured incorporating the elements that will form the essence of training in the years to come including, technical and tactical skills, warm-up/cool-down, stretching, hydration, and recovery, mental preparation and tapering. During competition athletes play to win however the major focus of this stage should be on enhancing their training and learning. A 75:25 training: competition/competitive training ratio is recommended by experts during this stage.

3) Training to Compete (males 14-18 and females 13-17): This stages see a change in the focus of training with an even split between training devoted to technical and tactical skills and training devoted to competition specific training and competition itself. Once an athlete reaches the training to compete stage training is usually provided to an athlete all year round. This stage sees the refinement of both basic and sports specific skills and brings these to bear in a competitive training environment.

4) Training to Win (males 18 and older, females 17 and older): This stage is the culmination of athletic preparation, all of the athlete’s physical, mental, tactical and ancillary capacities are all fully developed. The focus of training becomes about the optimisation of performance, training is high in intensity, frequency and volume and as such periodisation of training becomes of utmost importance. Training vs competitive training/competition ratios are further pushed to bias competition and competitive training at 25:75.

5) Retirement/Retaining: The 5th and final stage is Balyi’s stages of long term athlete development. This stage deals with an athletes post competitive life after an athlete has permanently retired from competition. At this stage some athletes utilize their knowledge gained throughout their career to move into post competition roles including coaching, officiating, sports administration and business.


Long term athletic development is critical for allowing young athletes to achieve their potential, the steps involved outline a clear and well defined path from childhood through the developmental stage and into elite competition. Each phase plays a role in the development of an athletes physical and mental capacities. Athletes who fail to be exposed to a clear developmental path risk being left behind their peers and will usually have gaps in their athletic profile which leave them at a disadvantage later in their career.

Anecdotally many athletes are pushed to quickly through the first 2-3 phases of development in particular the training to train stage is usually overlooked leaving many teenage athletes with very high rates of competitive play with a very low base of athletic skills and movement quality. This can be very hard if not impossible to rectify later in their career due to the congested nature of many playing schedules.

Understanding this pathways allows coaches and parents to take a long term view of athletic development and to focus on the importance of each stage. This allows athletes to development with time and training and to have the best possible chance of reaching their dreams.


Balyi, I. (2001). Sport system building and long-term athlete development in British Columbia. Coaches Report, 8(1), 22–28.


Cycling and Strength Training

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Cyclists have little exposure to differing training modalities. Programs usually focus on time on the bike and varying intensities. This works well for most cyclists and people progress month to month but are they getting the most out of themselves?

The Idea behind this article is to identify areas of scientific research that can be applied to pro’s as well as everyday athletes. It should give you the ability to look at your own training and to ask yourself, how do I stack up?

Traditionally strength training and endurance cycling performance hasn’t been seen as compatible by cyclists and coaches aside from the diehard track sprinting population.

However a growing body of literature is becoming available discussing a range of benefits, these include improved economy, improved TT performance, increase time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power, improved power at VO2 max, and increased power during last 5 min of a 3 hour time trial (Bazyler 1015).

Strength training improves cycling efficiency in master endurance athletes


“The addition of a strength training program for the knee extensor muscles to endurance-only training induced a significant improvement in strength and cycling efficiency in master athletes.”


During their 2011 study Louis et al. found that strength training was able to alleviate all age related differences in Delta Efficiency in cycling and Maximal Voluntary Contraction torque in master level athletes.


Two groups of endurance athletes 9 master (51.5 + or – 5.5 years and 8 young (25.6 + or – 5.9 years). The study tested the effect of a 3-week strength training program, all subjects engaged in a strength training program of the knee extensor muscles consisting of 10 x 10 knee extensions @ 70% with a 3 min rest period between sets with 3 sessions per week.


Prior to the completion of the training protocol maximal voluntary contraction torque (MVC torque), force endurance and delta efficiency were significantly lower in the master athletes. Significant improvements were seen with strength training. MVC torque improved 17.8% in masters and 5.9% young. Prior to training the mean difference in DE when comparing young to masters was +10.7% post intervention the difference was +0.15%.


This is the first study to compare the effect of strength training on endurance parameters in training matched young and master level athletes. The improvements in MVC torque and DE verify the beneficial effect of concurrent strength and endurance training in master athletes.


Strength training improves performance and pedaling characteristics in elite cyclists


“25 weeks of concurrent endurance and strength training resulted in larger improvements in cycling performance and performance-related factors”


9 cyclists performed endurance training and heavy strength training (ES) and 7 performed endurance only (E). The study was included 25 weeks of strength training for ES including 10 weeks of 2x per week followed by 15 weeks of 1 session per week. The exercises performed included half squat, unilateral leg press, standing unilateral hip flexion and calf raises. Weights were performed utilising the RM method subjects progressed from 10RM during the first 3 weeks through to 4RM at the end of 10 weeks. 3 sets of each exercise were always performed with a 2 minute rest period.


  Day 1 Day 2
Week 1-3 3 sets 10RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 6RM with 2 min rest
Weeks 4-6 3 sets 8RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 5RM with 2 min rest
Weeks 7-10 3 sets 6RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 4RM with 2 min rest
Weeks 11-25 3 sets 5 reps at 8RM 2 min rest OFF



Day 1) Measurement of lean lower-body mass

Day 2) Maximal strength test and 30s Wingate test

Day 3) Incremental cycle tests for determination of blood lactate profile followed by a VO2 max test

Day 4) 40 min all-out trial

Tests were conducted before and after the 25 week intervention



Maximal strength: ES increased maximal half squat strength by 20±12%, whereas maximal strength remained unchanged in E.

Lean lower-body mass showed no significant change

30s Wingate: No significant change. ES peak power tended to increase by 2±3% whilst no change occurred in E. No change was observed in mean power.

VO2 Max and Wmax: No significant change in VO2max in either group, Wmax increased in ES 3±3% whilst there was a non-significant reduction of 3±6% in E.

Power output at 4 mmol-L-1: No significant change

40 min all-out trial: Mean power output during the 40 min all-out trial increased in ES 6.5±5.7% whilst no change occurred in E.


25 weeks of concurrent endurance and strength training resulted in larger improvements in cycling performance as well as earlier peak pedal stroke torque.


Strength Training improves cycling performance, fractional utilisation of VO2max and cycling economy in female cyclists


“Heavy strength training improved cycling performance, increased fractional utilisation of VO2max and improved cycling economy”

The Protocol: 19 well trained female cyclists were divided into 2 groups E and E+S, the strength intervention for the E+S group lasted 11 weeks and included 2 strength training sessions per week. No significant differences between total training volumes existed between groups and no difference between the intensity distributions.


Day 1) Muscle biopsies of m. vastus lateralis

Day 2) MRI Cross sectional area of thigh muscles

Day 3) Incremental cycle tests for determination of blood lactate profile followed by a VO2 max test and 1RM leg press

Day 4) Wingate and a 40 min all-out test

Testing was completed pre and post with 3-7 days between test days.


The E+S group completed 4 exercises at each session designed to increase cycling performance. The exercises performed included ½ squat in a smith machine, single legged leg press, single leg hip flexion and ankle plantar flexion. The cyclists were instructed to perform the concentric phase with maximal power an acceleration whilst the eccentric phase was completed slower over 2-3s. The progression of sets and reps over the 11 week period were as follows.

  Day 1 Day 2
Week 1-3 3 sets 10RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 6RM with 2 min rest
Weeks 4-6 3 sets 8RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 5RM with 2 min rest
Weeks 7-11 3 sets 6RM with 2 min rest 3 sets 4RM with 2 min rest



E+S improved 1RM strength in single leg press by 39% and quadriceps CSA by 7.4%.

E+S showed a proportional decrease in type IIx muscle fibers with a concomitant increase in Type IIa. The changes to 40 min all out test performance were correlated both with changes in muscle fiber type and changes to CSA.

40 min all out test: E+S saw a 6.4% improvement in mean power output whilst no change occurred in E. This test also tended to show an increase in fractional utilisation of VO2max in the E+S group.

E+S displayed a decrease in VO2 whilst cycling @ 150w. This showed a significant correlation with the changes in muscle CSA.


This study demonstrates the benefits that concurrent heavy strength and endurance training can have on cycling performance and economy in highly trained female cyclists. In addition this is the first study to demonstrate improvements in fractional utilisation of VO2max the most likely modes for this increase were changes to muscle CSA and a shift towards a Type 11a muscle fiber type.


Further thoughts

The above studies represent some of the most recent papers published on the subject of strength training and cyclist. All three studies show improvements in parameters of cycling performance. Whilst the individual changes vary from study to study the common underlying themes remain.

Cycling efficiency and economy improve with the addition of strength training in masters, elite and female cyclists. Performance improved in both elite and female cyclists after 11 weeks of strength training.

Heavy strength training appears to be an appropriate addition to a cyclists program to improve performance and performance related characteristics independent of the cyclist’s current level of expertise as the changes were see in both elite and masters level athletes.

In conclusion strength training remains an evidenced based addition to cycling training which has been proven to improve performance across a range of populations. Further investigation into the efficacy of strength training for the time crunched cyclist would provide an interesting insight into the mix between low volume endurance and strength training.

If you would like any additional information about the above studies or how this information could be utilized to help improve your performance on the bike please feel free to contact me at


Bazyler, C. D., Abbott, H. A., Bellon, C. R., Taber, C. B., & Stone, M. H. (2015). Strength Training for Endurance Athletes: Theory to Practice. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 37(2), 1–12.

Louis, J., Hausswirth, C., Easthope, C., & Brisswalter, J. (2012). Strength training improves cycling efficiency in master endurance athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(2), 631–640.

Rønnestad, B. R., Hansen, J., Hollan, I., & Ellefsen, S. (2015). Strength training improves performance and pedaling characteristics in elite cyclists: Strength training in elite cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 25(1), e89–e98.

Vikmoen, O., Ellefsen, S., Trøen, ø., Hollan, I., Hanestadhaugen, M., Raastad, T., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2015). Strength training improves cycling performance, fractional utilization of VO 2 max and cycling economy in female cyclists: Strength training and cycling performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, n/a–n/a.

Cycling Training Terms Explained

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Probably the most commonly used term in cycling training. Threshold refers to the line that distinguishes between medium and hard training intensities. Threshold is commonly known by a number of names including “Functional Threshold Power (FTP)”, “Lactate Threshold” and “Anaerobic Threshold”. The variety of terms refer to the differing methods for determining a cyclist’s individual threshold.

Functional Threshold Power: is measured on the road or on a trainer. Usually regarded as a cyclists peak 60 min power output. Most commonly measured through taking 95% of a cyclists 20 min power output.

Lactate Threshold: Determined through the measurement of blood lactate, usually during cycling via a long graded exercise test in a lab. For more detailed see here


VO2 Max

The maximum amount of oxygen that your body can consume during exercise. It is expressed in 2 ways as either and absolute value L/min or a as a relative value ml/kg/min. VO2 max is often viewed as the gold standard for measuring endurance athletes potential due to its correlation to performance.

VO2 max values in sub elite athletic population vary widely, with recreational athletes in the window of 35-65 ml/kg/min, sub elite 60-70 ml/kg/min and elite athletes usually greater than 70 ml/kg/min. elite athletes can be staggeringly high.

Reported values for Cadel Evans from testing at the AIS were 87 ml/kg/min.


Normalised Power (NP)

Power output during most cycling races and training sessions is not a consistent effort. This inconsistency comes at an increased metabolic cost. The calculation of normalised power attempts to predict the power that could have been maintained for the same metabolic cost had this effort been perfectly constant.

NP Graph


Training Stress Score (TSS)

Multiple attempts have been made over the years to objectively quantify rate and compare the cost of training sessions, including Dr Bannister’s TRIMPS and Skiba’s Govss algorithm. TSS utilizes a cyclist’s power meter, FTP and NP to attribute a numerical value to each workout completed. At a 100% of FTP points are accumulated at 100 per hour. As intensity increases or decreases points are accumulated at the corresponding rate.

TSS is also used as part of the performance management chart to calculate both acute and chronic training loads.

Algorithm = IF2 * 100* ride duration in hours

Example: 0.872*100* 2.157 = 163.3

tss graph

Intensity Factor (IF)

Intensity factor is simply the ratio between your normalised power and your FTP.

Example 1) a 60 minute time trial at 100% FTP would be regarded as an FTP of 1.0.

Example 2) A rider with an FTP of 300w currently riding at a normalised power of 150w would be riding at an intensity factor of 0.5.


Watts per Kilogram (W/kg)

An easy way of comparing wattage’s between riders of different weights. Watts per kilogram becomes especially important during climbing numbers vary depending on rider ability and length of effort. An FTP of > 6.0 w/kg is world class.


Variability Index (VI)

Variability index is simply calculated by dividing an athlete’s normalised power by average power (NP/AP). It is designed as a measurement of the consistency of an athlete’s effort. The closer that VI is to 1.0 the more consistent an athlete has been is producing power. Variability index varies considerably between efforts for example a criterium race will have a far large VI then a well pace iron man bike split.

power graph


written by: Hamish Gorman


5 Step Plan for Integrating a Power Meter into Your Training Program.

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My original idea for this article was to write a review on the recent arrival of the stages power meter. However a quick internet search has proven that people much with much bigger reviewing reputations have already done so, see the MTBR review here and DC rainmakers review here. However what these guys fail to do is to go into any sort of details about how to properly make use of it, as such the goal of this article is to present a range of ideas for the proper integration of a power meter into a mountain biking training program.

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