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Strength Training for Cyclists

Strength training is beneficial to cyclists!

Remove the stigma, debunk the myths, and eliminate the fear of lifting. Strength training will not make you bulky, adding unnecessary muscle to a light and aerodynamic frame. Strength training can not only make you a faster cyclist, but it can also make you a stronger, healthier, and more robust person in general.

This is how.

Let’s get the scientific jargon out of the way first. When strength and endurance training are combined, the following physiological adaptations can occur, leading to increased power production on the bike:

  • Increased force potential of type I (slow-twitch) muscle fibres, which saves type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibres for later. As a result, cycling efficiency improves.
  • An increased proportion of type IIA (fatigue-resistant) muscle fibres to type IIX fibres. Can result in better endurance performance
  • Increased maximal force and blood flow to the exercising muscles, which can lead to a reduction in relative exercise intensity
  • Increasing muscle mass can result in a higher fractional utilisation of VO2max, more mitochondria, and a lower metabolic strain at a given exercise load.

Strength training can not only make you a faster cyclist, but it can also make you a stronger, healthier, and more robust person in general.

That was a low point for big words. To summarise, strength training can stimulate physiological pathways and adaptations that endurance training cannot. These activations can directly result in increased muscle force production and efficiency, which leads to improved cycling performance.

Strength training is an excellent tool for endurance athletes because it has both positive and negative effects on our bodies – keep in mind that not all “negatives” are bad!

Strength training, as we’ve seen, can improve muscle recruitment and lead to improved cycling performance; however, it can also be an important tool in injury prevention and increasing athletic longevity.

Cycling (a low-impact activity) has been shown to reduce bone density, particularly in the lower back. We are more likely to suffer from bone fractures, chronic back pain, stooped posture, and osteoporosis if we have low bone density.

That’s not good.

But don’t worry, Strength Training is here! Strength training and weight lifting have been shown in studies to help increase bone density. A well-rounded strength training programme will focus on the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the most likely areas to fracture in a fall. The programme should also emphasise power and balance to increase overall strength and stability, making us more confident as we age or fall.

Strength Training for Cyclists

Strength training is effective!

That’s all well and good, but what do I actually do? Do I simply go to the gym once or twice a week and lift weights for an hour and call it a day? It’s a little more complicated than that, to be sure.

What exactly is strength training?

Strength training is a type of physical exercise done on purpose to improve strength or endurance. Cycling is, by definition, a strength training exercise.

However, for the purposes of this article, we will define strength training as what is commonly referred to as weight lifting. There are far too many aspects of strength training to cover in a single article, so we will concentrate on strength training for cyclists.

When you first begin strength training, you should do some light weight training to prepare your body for the heavy loads ahead. This adaptation period usually lasts 6 weeks, which is how long it takes your body to make the mind-to-muscle connection. Muscle contraction, you see, is about the brain as much as it is about the size of individual muscle fibres.

Muscle Activation Crash Course

A message must be sent from the brain to the muscle in order for it to flex. This is known as a neurological signal.

We don’t always flex our muscles to their full potential. Consider flexing your biceps to pick up a phone or a pen. Consider how your biceps would flex if you were attempting to curl a 100lb dumbbell. The same muscle, vastly different.

It now takes time to teach your muscles how to flex all of their fibres. If you aren’t used to fully flexing them (for example, if you’ve never done strength training before), they have hundreds or thousands of unused muscle fibres that need to be activated.

Most, if not all, of your strength gains during the first 6 weeks of strength training will be due to neurological activation rather than muscle hypertrophy. Lift light weights and learn how to lift with perfect form in the first few weeks.

This will teach your brain and muscles the proper activation patterns, allowing you to progress to heavier weights. You will be using your entire muscle and making the most of each lift. If you skip this adaptation period, you will not only fail to lift properly, but you will also be at a much higher risk of injury.

Cycling Strength Training

Cycling-specific muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calf), hip flexors, and gluteus maximus should be targeted by a number of key exercises. All of these muscles are directly involved in the pedal stroke, either pushing or pulling.

Strength training should be done for 8 to 12 weeks. The minimum amount of time required for cyclists to achieve strength gains is 2-3 times per week. 2 to 3 sets of 6-10 reps per exercise, with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. Find a weight that is difficult to lift by the second set and extremely difficult to lift by the third set for each weighted exercise. If finishing the first set is difficult, the weight is too heavy and you should reduce it by a few pounds.

Let’s get you to the gym!

A Cyclist Strength Training Session Example

This workout was divided into two parts. The first is for the lower body, while the second is for the core and upper body.

Before you begin the heavy lifting, it is recommended that you warm up for 5-10 minutes before beginning the main exercises of the session. Walking, jogging, rowing, or even cycling can serve as a general cardio warm-up.

Some coaches recommend a more thorough warm-up routine that includes dynamic exercises movements like squats and lunges to prime your muscles for the upcoming movements. This is especially important for those of you lifting heavy weights or attempting a 1R; in other words, not most cyclists.

After warming up, proceed to the main set of exercises.


Part One: Lower Body Exercises

  • Squats: 3×8. Keep your chin up and your knees bent no more than 90 degrees.
  • Step-ups: Each side 3×10. Step up as hard as you can with each rep, holding dumbbells in each hand.
  • Split squats in Bulgarian: Each side 3×10. Maintain a straight back, front knee over leading toe, and slowly lower your knee towards the ground with each rep while holding dumbbells in each hand.
  • Lunges to the side: Each side 3×10. Starting without weights, carefully lunge down to your side and then explode back up towards the centre.
  • Calf raises: 3×10. Begin with both legs and work your way up to single-leg calf raises.
  • Single-leg leg press: 3×8. Begin with both legs, then progress to a single-leg press.
  • 5 minutes of rest
  • Push-ups: 3 × times your maximum effort. Perform as many reps as you can in each set.
  • Planks: 3×30-second holds. Maintain a flat back and squeeze those core muscles!
  • Rotations on the side plank: Each side gets 3×5 rotations. Maintain good balance by squeezing your arms and core.
  • Russian slants: 3×20 revolutions. To increase the intensity, hold a dumbbell or medicine ball.
  • (With assistance) Pull-ups: 3×5. Begin with assisted pull-ups and progress to 5 reps without assistance.

Other excellent cycling exercises include deadlifts, (walking) lunges, bent over rows, rowing machines, and the adductor/abductor machine.

Increase your workload every 2-3 sessions by increasing the number of reps, sets, or weight. If you increase two or three of these factors in the same workout, you risk injury and overtraining.

A good strength training programme will target the core as well as the upper and lower body. The abdominals, pectorals, obliques, lower back, and trapezius muscles are all part of the ‘core,’ which is the area between the shoulders and hips. These muscles aid in lumbar stabilisation, balance, and breathing, and are the source of all body movement. We have nothing without the core.

Training the core is especially important for performance and injury prevention.

Shara Evans

Shara Evans has been a cyclist from childhood. I live in the city but regularly cycle around the city area and faraway city areas. I use my vacation to cycle the world's most famous cycle routes. On, I will write about Cycling for Beginners, Always and Forever. When I see beginner cyclists, I always try to help them with their journey. I helped a lot of my friends start cycling. And this inspired me to write on the internet about cycling for beginners. How to start cycling? Which type of cycle should you buy? Where to go for cycling in Beijing All of this will be covered in this section.  I will also write beautiful cycling journals of mine and my friends here, so you can also plan those routes.

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