Steve Trew on turbo training – part 4

Mass turbo trainer session

Steve Trew’s digging a little deeper into the ‘hurt box’ this time around with seven turbo sessions for those who are a little more confident (or experienced) and need to boost their training programme.


In addition to the turbo trainer sessions set out previously, there are a number of ‘exploratory/advanced’ sessions which have proved successful with experienced triathletes. I have used these sessions particularly when:

  • Triathletes have been invited to compete out of season and have been unable to get in sufficient quantity and quality work outside on the road due to bad weather.
  • Triathletes have been unable – however hard they think they are working – to raise their heart rates to those which they think are commensurate to the amount of work they are putting in.
  • With experienced, good standard triathletes only; when they have been away from training for whatever reason, but need to get back to a good standard of fitness very quickly to fulfill racing commitments.

Health warning!

The following sessions are not recommended for inexperienced triathletes: they are not a short cut to success and as with any aspect of training, trying to do too much quality work too soon without sufficient base work can lead to injury. However, they can and do add variety to training sessions. They have also been used when the time of year and appalling weather has meant that outside road riding has been dangerous or impossible for a significant amount of time.

Session 1

  1. Warm up going through gears progressively for two minutes each; start in the small chain ring with a 22 sprocket for 2 mins, then change up to 20, then 18 through to the 13 and then change into the big ring and start again with the 20 sprocket and work back up to the 13. This in itself is a good hard session for many triathletes!
  2. Spin out the legs for 5 minutes.
  3. Now do 7 repeats of the following set in the big chain ring; start on the 13 sprocket for 1 minute followed by 2 minutes on the 14 sprocket and then a 1 minute recovery.
  4. Spin out the legs for 10 minutes.

Session 2

  1. Warm up with 10 minute spin.
  2. Ten repeats in the big chain ring and 13 sprocket for 1 minute with a 1 minute recovery followed by a 3 minute spin. After the ten repeats spin out for 3 minutes and then do a 10 minute effort in the 15 sprocket. Spin out for 3 minutes and do 1 minute in the 13, recover for 1 minute, 2 minutes in the 13, recover for a minute and then 3 minutes in the 13 with a 3 minute recovery spin.
  3. Repeat b) above!
  4. Spin out the legs for 10 minutes.

Session 3

  1. Warm up with a 10 minute spin, then do 5 sets of; 1 minute right leg only, 1 minute both legs, 1 minute left leg only, 1 minute both legs.
  2. Now do 4 sets of in the big chain ring of 1 minute in the 15, 2 minutes in the 14 and 3 minutes in the 13 (total 6 minutes). Allow 2 minutes for recovery between each 6 minutes effort.
  3. Spin out the legs for 10 minutes.

Session 4

  1. Warm up by going through the gears progressively for two minutes each;
  2. Spin for 5 minutes.
  3. Prolonged hill session, all done in hardest gear that can be handled (usually the big chain ring on a 13 sprocket) or, if using a turbo trainer with % hill resistance, use it accordingly. Start with:
    • 1 minute out of the saddle followed by 1 minute sitting,
    • 2 minutes out of the saddle followed by 2 minutes sitting,
    • 3 minutes out of the saddle followed by 3 minutes sitting,
    • 4 minutes out of the saddle followed by 4 minutes sitting,
    • 5 minutes out of the saddle followed by 5 minutes sitting,
  4. Spin out the legs for 10 minutes.

Session 5

  1. Warm up by going through gears progressively for two minutes each, using the small chain ring only.
  2. Using the big chain ring throughout and with a 1 minute recovery between each stage (use the 22 sprocket) work through the following:
    • 22 for 1 minute
    • 20 for 1 minute
    • 18 for 2 minutes
    • 16 for 3 minutes
    • 15 for 4 minutes
    • 14 for 5 minutes
    • 13 for 6 minutes
    • 13 for 1 minute
    • 14 for 2 minutes
    • 15 for 3 minutes
    • 16 for 4 minutes
    • 18 for 5 minutes
    • 20 for 6 minutes
  3. Spin for 10 minutes

Session 6

Both this session and session 7 have been used to try and adapt experienced triathletes to pushing big gears, while trying to maintain a reasonable cadence so that they are still able to run efficiently off of the bike.

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes @ 100rpm
  2. Using the big chain ring and the 13 sprocket throughout, pedal for 1 minute at 27/28 mph or max HR less 20 beats and go straight into 1 minute at 110 rpm in whatever gear is needed to maintain speed or HR. Go straight into:
  3. 2 minutes at 27/28 mph or max HR less 20 beats and straight into 2 minute at 110 rpm in whatever gear needed to maintain speed or HR. Go straight into:
  4. 3 minutes at 27/28 mph or max HR less 20 beats and straight into 3 minutes at 110 rpm in whatever gear needed to maintain speed or HR.
  5. Recover for 2 minutes and repeat steps b-d once or twice.

Session 7

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes @ 100rpm
  2. Using the big chain ring and the 13 sprocket throughout, do 5 minutes @ 27/28 mph (or max HR less 20 beats), going straight into 1 minute @ 110 rpm in whatever gear is needed to maintain same intensity.
  3. Recover 2-3 minutes then,
  4. 5 minutes @ 110 rpm @ 27/28 mph (or max HR less 20 beats),  straight into the 13 for 1 minute at same intensity.
  5. Recover 2-3 minutes, then,
  6. Repeat steps b-d.

Obviously there are literally hundreds of different combinations that can be used to make up turbo sessions. The above are just examples of some that have proved successful. This does not mean that they are not very demanding both physically and mentally.