Training Tip : Strength Training for Cyclists

Training Tip : Strength Training for Cyclists

Monday, April 17, 2023

Strength training is often overlooked or ignored by us cyclists, and may be one of the biggest limiters to our performance.

It is important for us to be able to generate force on the pedals and hence maintain speed, especially when the road tips up. It is also important that we have sufficient resilience to reduce the risk of injury by strengthening muscles and tendons around the joints.

A common misconception is that strength training will make us heavier, however if approached in the right way for cyclists, we will see that strength actually driven by the neuromuscular system, not muscle size.

Strength work for cyclists is totally different than for bodybuilders, it needs to be based on increasing the ability to fire/contract muscles when they are stimulated and not on building muscle strength training the right way and you will build power not bulging muscles.

Another misconception is that you should be crawling out of the gym. In fact it simply needs to be just challenging enough to create physiological adaptions that increase myofibrillar density and interconnections.   

Okay, so hopefully you now see why it is important. But before jumping into it, I strongly recommend that you start without use weights, ie use your own body weight to develop the correct range of movement and technique. This is especially important for the use of free weights and kettle bells for example. Once you are comfortable that you have the technique nailed then it is time to begin to use weights.

However not all weights are the same. It is essential that we train to muscular fatigue, anything less and you are wasting your time, anything more and you risk muscle damage which can take several days if not more to recover from.

In an ideal world, and under the supervision of a personal trainer, aim to lift a weight that you can only manage (with full range of movement) about 5 times, very slowly, called your repetition max (in this case 5RM). A ideal number of sets would be about 3, with a safe but progressive increase in the weight as you get stronger.

To dispel a couple of myths, quick movements or low weights with 20 or 30 reps will not stimulate muscle growth. It is also essential that you give yourself time to recover between sets otherwise you will fatigue too quickly and compromise the ability to complete the final sets.

Finally, do not training ride before a strength training workout as this will compromise your ability to do the gym work. A typical strength workout might include the following exercises: * Squats * Lunges * Deadlifts * Bench presses We should aim to do strength workouts at least 2-3 times per week at the beginning of your season. A typical strength programme would include the following five stages:

  1. Anatomical adaptation - foundation workouts
  2. Hypertrophy - increase load threshold
  3. Max Strength - 3 or 5 Rep max, needs to be explosive and heavy
  4. Conversion to specific training - functional on-bike work such as overgeared climbing
  5. Maintenance - a must to continue to build strength

There are a number of benefits of strength and conditioning workouts for cyclists, including

  1. Improved performance
  2. Reduced risk of injury
  3. Increased mental toughness
  4. Increased cardiovascular fitness
  5. Increased endurance

If you are interested in getting started with strength workouts, there are a few things you need to do.

First, you need to find a gym or fitness centre that has the equipment you need to do the exercises.

Second, you need to find a qualified trainer or coach who can help you create a safe and effective strength programme.

Third, you need to be patient and consistent with your workouts. It takes time to see results from strength workouts, but if you are consistent, you will eventually see improvement in your performance.

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