Why Strength Training Is Essential For Cycling
You might already do some form of strength training. You may have cobbled together a routine based on the latest re-hashed version of '10 best strength exercises for cyclists' in Cycling Weekly? But is it really working?
Are those renegade rows, lunges and planks really delivering any form of carry over to your performance on the bike?
For 99% of you, the answer is likely ‘no’.
What is the problem?
Guidance on strength training for cyclists is either disparate, or just plain wrong in most cases. Even the most experienced cycling coach wouldn’t profess to being an expert in strength training, and would most likely refer you to a strength coach (or the above article)!
Subsequently, committed cyclists either; ignore strength training altogether, or they end up cobbling together random exercises - resulting in zero carryover to performance on the bike and, in some cases, injury.
No progression. No periodisation. NO RESULTS.
Why is strength training for cycling SO important?
Firstly, those of you who genuinely believe that ‘you get enough strength training just riding up hills’, stop reading now. ; )
Riding does deliver a strength component, of course. But it is predominantly strength endurance and speed-focussed.
If you want to improve your absolute strength and generate the maximum amount of force possible, cycling alone (even churning up hills) cannot provide adequate stimulus.
Put simply, you have to spend some time in the gym to increase your capacity for maximum strength
Will strength training affect my weight (and subsequent power output)?
No. Strength, particularly in the context of sports performance, is a neuromuscular function (i.e. it’s not about how much muscle mass you have, but how many muscles fibres your can recruit to perform a certain movement).
A good strength training programme does include a period of adaptation / accumulation in the off-season / winter months, where you will gain some muscle mass as you adapt to the training.
From thereon in though, the focus is purely on efficiency and maximising force development for your preferred body weight.
What’s wrong with just using the ‘Top 10’ exercises?
Nothing, provided they are part of a structured plan. Strength training, like any other element of your training plan, must be periodized to align with your training needs and crucially your goal(s).
In winter, you need to adapt and develop absolute strength. Those lunges you’ve been doing with the purple 2kg dumbbells from John Lewis serve as a very useful accessory exercise, but they’re just not going to cut the mustard when it comes to maximal force development.
During the business end of the season, you need to maintain the strength gains made over the winter, without being sore and compromising your riding.
Just like your on the bike training, failure to consider the exercise type, intensity, volume and frequency at the right points in your season - will fail to deliver any meaningful results.
How can I help you?
Local To Manchester?
For all my local readers, you are entitled to a FREE Trial Strength Training Session with me at Rx Gym, West Didsbury. The session will be 1 hour long and will:
Assess weaknesses in force development and mobility that are prevalent amongst riders
Be discipline specific
Introduce riders to the concept of incorporating strength training within their year round training plan (i.e. what to focus on and when)
Include a warm up and example session for the riders to take away.
Beyond that, if you wish to adopt strength training, I can provide a mixture of 1:1 sessions and remote coaching / training plans to suit any rider (and budget).
If not, at least you’re armed with some valuable and relevant information to incorporate into your own training plans.
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