Many cyclists do not know the benefits of strength training to their performance. But that’s not surprising because they are led to believe that they should be training for endurance and not strength. However, strength and endurance go hand in hand when it comes to overall cycling performance. Plus, it is a great way to train in the off season.
When you are a cyclist, you need to have strong upper body, core, and lower body. It seems you are only need your leg muscles, but the truth is you need a full body coordination and balance, which demand work from both your upper body and, especially, your core. Hence, it is vital that you get the right training to be an effective athlete.
The common mistake beginners do is to skip training for strength and head for the road. The thing is you do not develop muscle faster when you start training for endurance on the road. You build stronger muscle for cycling when you train both for endurance and strength. You need that extra muscle strength for demanding tournaments.
In fact, you train not only the lower extremities but your whole body. You are working not only your thigh and leg muscles during cycling but also recruiting your stabilizer muscles to keep you in balance throughout the ride.
Cyclists who include strength training to their overall training program tend to perform better than those who don’t. Contrary to what you might have been told, strength training does not impede or reduce your endurance. There’s a common misconception that athletes should not build muscle because doing so makes them slower in their sports. This is a myth that has no scientific basis.
Fact is you need both muscular strength and endurance to be more effective and more resistant to muscle fatigue. So how do you train for strength?
If you are new to strength training, it’s a bad idea to hit the weights right away. The first thing you have to do is condition your body by prepping up your joints and muscles. You start doing bodyweight exercises, such as air squats and lunges. Core exercises like planks and the different variation of planks are very important. As a cyclist, core strength is basic.
Strength training requires muscle tension that is provided by lifting weights, not just any weight, but one that’s heavy enough for you to lift for no more than 8-10 reps in the right form. If you can go more than 10 reps, increase the weight. Basically, you would be doing certain weight training exercises for different muscle groups using free weights preferably.
The squat is like the king of all strength training exercise because it targets some of the biggest muscle groups in the body. We’re talking about the quads, which are basically doing much of the work when you are pedaling on the road. This exercise also targets the glutes. As mentioned, use weights heavy enough for you to do 8-10 reps. Do 3 sets.
You should also do lunges, dead lifts, calf raises, and leg presses. Again, watch your form! You can’t keep doing these exercises with the wrong form without the risk of sustaining an injury and not training your muscles optimally.
Strength training is better done during the off season, usually in winter, to prepare your body for the next cycling season. Come back to the tracks stronger and better. During cycling season, keep your muscle strength by including strength training once a week when you’re not pushing the pedals on your bike.