Combining zone 2 and strength training?

Are there any downsides to doing a strength workout in the morning (squats, lunges …) and a zone 2 ride in the evening? I would presume doing a SUF HIIT session on the bike while being flogged by the Minions isn’t the smartest thing to do after a leg day at the gym, but since the adaptations from zone 2 riding are completely different there might be less of an issue?

Trying to optimise the schedule here to get everything fitted in one week. I’m currently doing:

  • 2 upper body strength workouts
  • 2 leg day strength workouts
  • 1 core workout
  • 2 interval SYSTM workouts (I think 3 is too much considering the rest of the schedule?)
  • as many Z2 1h indoor rides as I can fit (longer should be better, but I just can’t do it indoors)

in a weekly schedule, so you imagine I have to do 2 trainings per day on some days.

All strength workouts are hypertrophic.

Right now it looks something like this:

  • Monday: legs strength
  • Tuesday: core workout + z2 ride
  • Wednesday: interval SYSTM workout
  • Thursday: upper body strength + z2 ride
  • Friday: legs strength
  • Saturday: …
  • Sunday: upper body strength + interval SYSTM workout

So I could fit in another z2 ride on Saturday (losing my rest day), or I combine it with leg strength days, giving me 2 extra 1h z2 rides in the week.

Any ideas?

I don’t want to decrease my strength training as I have no ambition to look like Michael Rasmussen on my bike :smiley:


I do my two strength workouts on my Z2 days (or rest days if I have any!) strength always comes before any ride

I’m currently training for a marathon. I’ve been supplementing my running with at least one interval and one zone II ride on the bike each week. Typically, one lifting day is also a riding day (sometimes both lifting days are also riding days). I would say from a practical perspective, zone II aerobic training is fine after lifting. I would just keep several hours between the two if possible (ex: lift in the morning, ride in the evening) to make sure you get the best adaptations out of each session!

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Strength training is always around 10am. Evening sessions on the bike are 8 or 9pm.

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If you’re primarily a cyclist and the strength training is to keep up your bone density, broader athleticism, maximizE the chance of being a fast old guy when the time comes, and get some enhanced neural drive to help above FTP, then this’ll work just fine.

But if you’re really trying to pack on muscle mass, you’re better off deferring the ride to the next day. The cellular signaling from aerobic training cuts off the cellular signaling for muscle growth so you’d want to avoid anything harder than a 20 minute recovery ride.


Hi @TheBelgian !

You’ve got a pretty good schedule there, though there’s always a potential for interference for optimal adaptations to strength training AND endurance training that is occurring simultaneously. By separating your training sessions by greater than 4 hours and by ensuring that you’re taking in adequate macronutrients (specifically both carbohydrate and protein) to support your training, then you can expect reasonable adaptations to be occurring in both. Though neither will be truly optimized. If cycling performance is your primary goal, then I would encourage to perform your hardest/most intense sessions when you are carrying the least fatigue. In many cases, I will have athletes perform both a hard cycling session and then relatively heavy strength training later in the day (at least 4 hours later), then the following day would be either more Zone 2/general endurance riding or active recovery. I find that trying to separate intense cycling training and heavy strength days means that you can do fewer of both. For most athletes with cycling as their primary goal to improve - then I would only have them do one heavier strength session per week and a second day that is lighter/more mobility/stability and maintenance based along with two high intensity cycling sessions. There’s no absolutely perfect schedule that works best for everyone. Experiment, and see how you’re adapting to the schedule that you’re doing and then make adjustments based on your goals. Happy training! Neal


Thanks for replying.
So what you’re saying is to make the hard days for the legs really hard so they have more days to recover, if I get it correctly. From a practical point of view it’s easier for me to do strength in the morning and bike training in the evening. There is at least 8 hours between both, and protein and carb intake is taken care of in my diet.

I could do 2 strength training sessions for the legs + 2 interval sessions on the same days without issues, and fill the rest of the days with Z2 rides. Physically I can pull this off, I just want to be sure that I’m not doing something counterproductive.

Research really is not conclusive about mixing both. I think (but who am I) that it will work, but be “less optimal”. Then again, what % of difference does it make, especially compared to training less? Maybe I lose 20% “gains” in strength/hypertrophy in my legs by combining both on the same day, but if it’s that or doing removing sessions due to lack of time I might lose 50% gains because I can fit less weekly volume, if this makes sense.
e.g. Doing strength + interval on the same day twice a week might be not optimal, but will be better than doing 1 time strength and 1 time interval in one week, on separate days.

At least that’s what I think.

Research is not conclusive about this. There are a lot of factors that play a role.

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Sure, it’s pretty much always true that impacts are multi-factorial and many things play a role. But if you care deeply about building muscle, you’re going to want to pay closer attention to peeling back on the onion on even the more marginal pieces.


Thank you sir. Helpful insight.


@TheBelgian This is what I have been doing since December. I started with weights on the lighter side just to get things dialed in and let my body adjust to the balance between strength and cycling. Things felt a bit wonky for a week or two but now I am feeling really good and have gradually increased the weight.

Be sure to de-load during your rest weeks on weights as well. I also mixed in some rowing - usually a 2k or repeats of 500m to prep the legs.

Also I would recommend not skipping your rest day for extra volume.


I’m going to try combining intervals and strength work on the same day and see how it goes. Already noticed that doing it the next day isn’t too bad either, because it takes a bit longer for DOMS to set in. Just wondering what the fatigue will do.
Only one way to find out :slight_smile:

I presume the stimulus to our muscles when doing intervals above FTP is different compared to pure Z2 riding.

That’s also something that is missing from research. Most studies where they combine cardio and strength only look at “normal” cardio for 20-30 minutes, aka steady state running or cycling. Not going all out with Laser Goats chasing you, for one hour.

Tbh I would take heart from coach Neal’s reco. Often the coaches know things long before the exercise scientists do. Decades of not centuries of combined experience, plus experiments that are both controlled and reasonably applicable to how real Athletes train are hard to do

@TheBelgian Great question, thanks for posting it. I too am interested in strength training for hypertrophy, and how best to combine this with still making gains on the bike, so really interesting to see the responses.

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yeah, i 'll be curious to hear how you both get on, too.

I find personally, i can do heavy strength work alongside hard workouts (e.g., heavy squats in the morning, my intervals sometimes feel paradoxically easier, and vice versa) but cannot support hypertrophy. I get way too tired and run down

btw, check out this podcast if you’re interested, it’s a good listen on this topic. Sounds like it’s not entirely true that the research has focused only on endurance training for “normals”. The Hicks study that’s discussed and linked in the show notes involved strenght training legs five days a week for the strength group, 3xweek vo2max and 3xweek easy jogging for the Endurance group, and the Concurrent group did both on top of each other! Very sufferlandrian.

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Ok, I tried it a couple of times.

One day it was legs in the morning, but not a very heavy session, and I did “Butter” in the evening. Went ok. No issues.

A few weeks later I did a really heavy leg strength session in the morning (squats, RDL, adductors, leg extensions and leg curls, 3x 10 reps all taken close to failure for the first 2 and to failure for the last 2 exercises) , and I did “14 Vice Grips” in the evening. 14 Vice Grips isn’t new to me as I already did that workout 3 or 4 times so I knew what to expect.
Well, that turned in to a complete disaster. When I did this workout for the very first time 1.5 years ago I blew up in the 90 seconds of the second interval block AFTER the 2 minute interval. This time I blew up in the 2 minute interval of the FIRST interval block, so in my 4th interval of that training. What I did was pause the training, get my muscles back in working order and continue the interval + the rest of the intervals. It happened again in the 2nd block.

So, now my question is: obviously my cycling workout has suffered tremendously from my strength workout in the morning, but is that really a problem?
To give some arbitrary values: imagine that if I am well rested I can complete all those intervals at 300W without having to stop. Now I have tired legs from a morning workout so imagine I would only be able to complete them at 250W, yet I do the workout at 300W, fail, pause, resume, but pull through the entire thing, eating my stem and falling off the bike at the end. Is that a bad thing?

I mean, in the context of the training you seem to have regressed because of fatigue, but won’t this cumulative fatigue lead to better adaptations in the end? So, yes, the workout suffers, but it’s not a race, and what doesn’t count is how easy it is to finish, but if our body adapts to the training stimulus.

What do you think?

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Don’t confuse strength with hypertrophy training. 5 days a week of training legs is just too much.
Also strength training is working with high loads, low reps and very long rest periods between sets. 4 sets of 4 reps with 5 minutes between each set for instance.
For hypertrophy (what I do) we train with more reps, less weight and shorter rest. I do 3 sets of 10-15 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets.

I think these are the right questions but unfortunately the answer is likely going to be that it depends.

WHen you do the strength training–whether it’s heavy (strength focus) or less heavy (hypertrophy), you’re kicking off the mTOR signaling that drives muscle growth. In both cases, as long as you’re getting close to failure, you’re also training the neural drive that recruits more motor units, meaning more power above FTP (awesome!) When you do the hypertrophy, you are getting more metabolic stress (i read that as glycogen depletion) from the working muscles.

Then a couple hours later, you do the hard on-bike workout. I can see these possible impacts:
i. mTOR signaling is interfered with by AMPK. For the heavy day, this might not be the worst thing: you get the neural drive improvement but you cut off the muscle growth, but if you want to stay strong without getting bigger, this isn’t bad. but for Hyp, this might be cross-purposes to your goals.
ii. You have trouble executing the on-bike workout with your usual level of quality. This as you note, maybe could go either way. with more intense workouts (i.e. more intense = higher power), you are moving up the size chain of motor units (as the force demands increase, more of the bigger motor units are recruited), which means you are just absolutely nailing the same big motor units – which btw recover slower because they are used and trained less – as you trained during the strength session. If you are able to recover from the combined impact, then all good, although you’re still trading away abit of the aerobic gains (necessarily true, because if you CAN recover from the combined stress, that means you also could have dropped the strength training in favor of more intervals, which might be the right thing to do at other parts of your season).

but if you’re not able to recover from it, then you’re digging a hole.

Only way to really find out is to try it and see because the proof is in hte pudding.

How’s it been going? Are you getting faster and stronger?

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I don’t think i’m confusing them. From a 10,000 foot view, those are both considered “strength training”. They both build strength, they both build muscle, the differences are on the margins. Super important (when they’re important) but high level, similar.

I think for your purpose, the important piece is the signaling, it’d be the same cellular signaling protein in both cases (MTOR i think). The difference would be (i) for the heavy lifting (what folks call the strength rep range) you get more CNS fatigue, whereas (ii) for the hypertrotphy, you get less of that CNS fatigue but MORE metabolic stress.

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