Strength Training the Cyclist

Me: How is your sprint so awesome?!
Sprinter: More time in the gym!
Me: Oh yeah that….

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Most endurance athletes have had this conversation. There’s an understanding that those with strong, powerful muscles earn them in the weight room. Yet to the endurance focused cyclist, it’s difficult to devote time away from riding to spend it in the gym.

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Personally, I was one of these who shunned serious weight training. I get that strength training is part of the athletic picture, but I’m an endurance athlete! I want to climb faster and be lighter and go further! Except that in the pro races, you must be able to do all those things AND do it stronger, faster and still sprint for the win at the end. To take my performance to the next level, I enlisted the help of a personal trainer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in the gym before and even have a pretty nice home gym set up. However, my training off the bike (stretching, strength) is erratic and random. I’d see something on IG or YouTube and do that workout and just cherry pick some moves that looked good. My training was not focused. It was also sporadic. Three times a week, once a week, when was the last time I held a weight… you get the idea, I was not committed.  Now I am committed, because I pay for $ for the expert service of someone else (same as enlisting nutrition support guys, paying for expert assistance works!) and schedule my time with Mary twice a month (sometimes once if I’m traveling for the full month). In our 30-60 minute sessions, Mary does nothing less than kick my butt into shape. She also listens to my travels, training, aches, pains, and goals which is nice to have someone involved and interested in my athletic progress & success. These conversations are communicated in breathless gasps as I perform the sets and reps that Mary tasks me with. Back when I solely did strength training at home, it never hurt like this. I was never out of breath or shaking or pushing my limits. Mary does that for me. She gives me routines to help muscles specific to cycling performance as well as to prevent general injury and keep my entire body strong. My sessions focus mostly on core and legs with a bit of upper body & back thrown in for overall balance. When not in session, I take the moves I’m given on the road with me and get the work in when I can. During race season, the amount of strength training I do decreases, but the gains I’ve seen this year keep me motivated to continue this part of my athletic training. The benefits I believe this type of training has given me is pure power; I’ve increased short burst power output and power up to 10 minutes this season. My body also feels strong. My weight is a couple pounds heavier than last year but it hasn’t slowed me down. My clothes fit better, I am more toned. I’ve been riding & racing harder than ever and my body is keeping up with the demands without any chronic pains or injury and I truly believe this is due to including overall body work and strength to my training. I’m excited to keep this going, upping my sessions in the off season, and seeing how much further it can push me for next season.

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Favorite Moves:
These moves hurt. They challenge my physical limits and translate well to bike needs.

- Split Lunge
- Weighted Bosu Squats
- Resistance Band Shuffle
- Balance Ball Pikes
- Box Jumps
- Planks (any & all)

Moves that I absolutely hate doing, but know they help: Single Leg Deadlift, Sled Push & Lateral Leg Lifts w/ Resistance Bands
 

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Words from the expert:

My trainer Mary shares her input on how cyclists can benefit from strength training.

-Why should cyclists add strength training to their fitness routine?

Strength training is an important component in a cyclist’s regimen as it not only improves a cyclist’s overall strength, but it will enhance their performance and help prevent injury.  Avoiding strength training will result in uneven development in muscle mass which will put strain on joints and can lead to pain or injury. 

-How often should a cyclist be strength training? 

Cyclists should spend 2-3 nonconsecutive days each week strength training during the off season.  During the season, a maintenance phase of once per week is sufficient to maintain strength. If it is a heavy or busy race season, strength training may be suspended to avoid fatigue and burnout.

-What muscles (muscle groups/areas) are in danger of atrophy/injury for cyclists who only ride?

Cyclists generally have strong quadriceps and calves and those muscles should still be trained to improve performance.   To increase power and avoid nagging pains and injury, cyclists should also strengthen their posterior muscle groups including the glutes, hamstrings and hips.  In addition, because cyclists spend a generous amount of time in the hunched over position, it is important to strengthen the core, back and shoulder muscles.

  -Advice for getting started? 

Contact a personal trainer and they can get you started...the benefits will be priceless!  I would be happy to help anyone who is interested!  Feel free to contact me at mchestolowski@racmn.com or call me at (507) 287-9335 X 346 and I can get you started.