Steve Trew on turbo training – part 3

Mass turbo trainer session

This time Steve Trew presents a complete seven stage turbo plan. Which may seem odd, given that the season is just starting, but remember — not everyone has their main race for months yet, some of the big long distance races are in the Autumn! Turbos are not just for Winter training…


One key point to remember when using these sessions is that you must be realistic about the gearing needed. The gears suggested are only examples! You need to find the correct starting point – perhaps 22 or 18 tooth sprocket rather than the 20 – and work progressively from that starting point.

These sessions have been used with a great deal of success with a number of triathletes of very different standards and abilities, particularly in the latter part of the winter going into the early season (January through April / May). Each stage lasts between two and three weeks and is best used in conjunction with one or more long outdoor rides and the HRM sessions.

The entire philosophy is that of increasing demand. I do not profess that it is in any way new or innovative – at least, not for athletes who have tried these type of sessions before. However, I remain convinced that there are a huge number of triathletes and time trial cyclists who have not touched their potential because they have not, ever, tried these forms of basic interval work. We have discussed the importance of a strictly restricted interval of rest and recovery between efforts and readers will note that for the most part the recovery interval here is one minute, only rarely more. Where it is longer, athletes can be assured that they will have earned that extra recovery time!

Work effort times range from one minute up to eighteen minutes. It is not written in stone that every athlete has to achieve this; nor is it expected that each stage will take the same amount of time before the athlete moves onto the next stage of sessions. Rule one, ‘know the individual well’, applies here. All these training sessions should include a warm up and warm down.

Turbo or road?

There is no reason why all the sessions included in this chapter cannot be done on the road. I am sure that in an ideal situation, most active cyclists and triathletes would so prefer to do. However, the practicalities of real life and the situation existing on all but the most rural of roads means that turbo training is here to stay. I would also caution that with athletes self-monitoring their training efforts, the open roads are perhaps not the place to be looking down and checking heart rates, speed, cadence and power output…

Progressive session plan

Stage 1

Session 1

5 reps of: 52 x 20 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm)

Session 2

7 reps of: 52 x 20 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

10 reps of: 52 x 20 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 4

5 reps of: 52 x 20 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min at (60rpm).

Stage 2

Session 1

5 reps of: 52 x 18 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 18 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 2

10 reps of: 52 x 18 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 18 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

7 reps of: 52 x 18 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 18 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 4

5 reps of: 52 x 20 for 3 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm).

Stage 3

Session 1

7 reps of: 52 x 16 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 16 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 2

15 reps of: 52 x 18 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 18 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

4 reps of: 52 x 20 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 18 for 2 min (100 rpm).
Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm) after each 4 minute effort.

Session 4

3 reps of: 52 x 20 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 18 for 2 min (100rpm) straight into 52 x 16 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm) after each 5 min effort.

Stage 4

Session 1

3 reps of: 52 x 18 for 3 min (100rpm), straight into: 52 x 16 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 15 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min at 60 rpm after each 6 min effort.

Session 2

12 reps of: 52 x 16 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

3 reps of: 52 x 20 for 4 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 18 for 3 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 16 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 20 for 1 min (60rpm) after each 9 min effort.

Session 4

10 reps of 52 x 18 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 18 for 1 min (60rpm).

Stage 5

Session 1

2 reps of: 52 x 22 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 20 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 18 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 16 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 15 for 2 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 14 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm) after first set of 12 mins effort.

Session 2

15 reps of: 52 x 16 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

3 reps of: 52 x 20 for 3 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 18 for 3 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 16 for 3 min (100rpm). Recovery: 42 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm) after each set of 9 mins effort.

Session 4

8 reps of: 52 x 16 for 2 mins, (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Stage 6

Session 1

1 rep of: 52 x 20 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 18 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 17 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 16 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 15 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 14 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 2

15 reps of: 52 x 15 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

3 reps of: 52 x 17 for 4 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 16 for 4 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 15 for 4 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm) after each set of 12 mins.

Session 4

8 reps of: 52 x 15 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Stage 7

Session 1

1 rep of: 52 x 18 for 8 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 17 for 8 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 16 for 8 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 15 for 8 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm).

1 rep of: 52 x 14 for 8 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm).

Session 2

15 reps of: 52 x 14 for 1 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).

Session 3

3 reps of: 52 x 17 for 6 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 16 for 6 min (100rpm), straight into 52 x 15 for 6 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 2 min (60rpm) after each set of 18 mins.

Session 4

10 reps of: 52 x 14 for 2 min (100rpm). Recovery: 52 x 22 for 1 min (60rpm).