Many experts, including Exercise Physiologist and Cycling Coaches, agree that adding a strength training program during the offseason can be advantageous for both male and female cyclists. While Sprinting and Mountain Biking may require different physical demands than endurance based road cycling, all cyclists can benefit from sport specific weight training. The overall strength can result in a boost in performance by building additional muscle mass which can correlate to generating more power while on the bike. Because muscle is more metabolically active than other tissues in the body, a leaner, more muscular, body will burn more calories throughout the day. This increase in metabolism can aid in maintaing ideal body weight. Additionally lifting weights can counter balance the negative effects of non-weight bearing activities, such as cycling. This is even more imperative with Vet Riders (45+) whose muscle mass, strength and bone density decrease with age.
Cycling is deep rooted in tradition. Whether referring to crank length or tyre selection and even training theory, many times the only explanation for why things are done a certain way is because that is how it has always been done. Traditionally, most cyclist drop their weight program after they have finished their preparation phase of training or once they get into the heart, or competition phase, of their season. However, over the last ten years, science has begun to play a much larger roll in cycling than ever before. Training theory is being imported from other sports, such as rowing, and being implemented with great success. A recent study conducted by a group of Norwegian sports scientists looked at the effects of continuing a strength training program into the competition phase for road cyclists. The results showed an increase in peak power output in the 30-second sprint test, their output at threshold, their power output at VO2max, and their mean power output in the 40-min all-out time trial when compared to an endurance-only group.
So, How Often?
The key when creating a Strength Training program is to be as specific as possible while trying to incorporate the correct muscle groups and multi-joint actions when choosing the exercises to perform. With cycling the main focus is on the lower extremities without neglecting the importance of upper body and core strength. It is imperative to first assess your goals. An endurance rider is going to train differently than an explosive BMX rider. Determine these goals and structure your workouts accordingly. For the athletes that I work with, I incorporate two or three days of gym workouts per week during the preparation phase and one to two days per week as they progress into the competition phase. Generally, exercises are done in sets of three at a challenging weight that allows for 10-15 reps. Proper form and patience is the effective recipe for success in the weight room. It is important to be careful not to sacrifice form or technique during any exercise in order to push a heavier weight or get out sets.