Sit-Stand Efforts: the best way to build functional bike strength?

A mix of seated and standing efforts will boost functional power and oxigenation to your muscles

Sit-Stand Efforts (SSEs) increase strength and boost oxygen-carrying capacity. Integrate them into a 2-hour ride to get the best results.

These intervals are best performed once a base of general fitness has been developed over a six-to-eight-week period. Then, an extra couple of weeks of SE intervals will lay a solid foundation for this functional form of strength training.


Sit-Stand Efforts (SSEs) are an evolutionary step-up from traditional strength-effort (SE) intervals that many riders use to build strength. SSEs bridge the gap between SE, low-cadence work, and higher-cadence intervals that develop power and speed. As SSEs are in the same family as SE intervals, you can expect the same type of adaptations to occur. These are the development of type-1 slow-twitch muscle fibres and an increase in your capacity to transport oxygen to working muscles at all points of the VO2 continuum. VO2 is simply the volume of oxygen, so SSEs increase your ability to deliver oxygen at any intensity. In other words, how much oxygen you can take from the atmosphere and deliver to mitochondria (the energy-producing units within exercising muscles). 


Here’s a 2 hour SSE session to boost strength and stamina.

0-30mins Warm-up

30-42mins 1 x 12min SSE. This is broken down as 2 mins seated @ Z2/Z3 but @ 50-60 rpm, plus 1 min standing @ Z2/Z3 @ 70-80 rpm

42-60mins 18 mins easy recovery

60-72mins 1 x 12min SSE. This is broken down as 2 mins seated @ Z2/Z3 but @ 50-60 rpm, plus 1 min standing @ Z2/Z3 @ 70-80 rpm

72-90mins 18 mins easy recovery

90-102mins 1 x 12min SSE. This is broken down as 2 mins seated @ Z2/Z3 but @ 50-60 rpm, plus 1 min standing @ Z2/Z3 @ 70-80 rpm

102-120mins Easy riding until the end of the ride


SSEs are shorter, low-cadence SEs that are disrupted by higher-cadence standing intervals. In the example above, 2 mins of seated big-gear work are followed by 1 min out-of-the-saddle efforts (up to 12-minute reps). The main objective is to keep watts relatively consistent across the seated and standing. Of course, this is easier said than done. The temptation is to hit the pedals so hard that you drift into higher power zones – zones that are not relevant for your current state of development. So, the number one coaching point with SSE is to hold the SE watt target (Z2/Z3) steady across the seated and standing component of these intervals.

The technique for the seated effort has been described previouslyHowever, while standing and maintaining even power, feel free to throw the bike from left to right. The standing element is included to improve your neural firing rate; that is, your ability to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible (in the shortest time) to launch an attack or respond rapidly to sudden accelerations from other riders. Motor-neuron recruitment speed coupled with motor-unit discharge rate largely determines a rider’s ability to generate force rapidly. Motor-unit recruitment and discharge can be trained, and it starts here with higher rpm for the standing component of each SSE training session.