Should cyclists do weights?

June 25, 2019 4 min read

Should cyclists do weights?

When it comes to gaining the performance edge over the cycling field, do you stick to your endurance aerobic training, or should you be mixing it up?

So far, everything we know hints that lifting weights isn’t on the cards for cycling performance. We already know that you can achieve fitness, endurance and weight loss from training that involves moderate intensity mixed with high intensity intervals on the bike. It’s the perfect balance for the lactate threshold, giving your body the oxygen it needs to perform at a high level, without overtaxing and wasting energy.

Off the track, pro cyclists are very rarely beefy, in fact, some of the world’s best climbers look like a slight breeze would bowl them over. It stands to reason then that a lighter, less muscle packed frame will serve you well on the bike.

Is that everything though, are you achieving your very best that way? You don’t exactly want to turn your body into a live test facility, especially when you have a race result on the line. Therefore, the best way to determine what actually works is to check in with the experts and look at the recent case study results.

A recent research study on strength training published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance in 2018 has a different idea on the best training method for cyclists, which can also be applied to other endurance sports like running, swimming and skiing.

The study showed that there was an improvement to performance across all levels of athletes, from amateur to elite, when two sessions of specific weight training were added to regular aerodynamic exercise, i.e. going for a nice steady ride. The important factor is that weight exercises take place alongside your regular cycling training to give you a balanced effect, rather than just weight training, which will add significant muscle mass, or just cycling training, which won’t give you the explosive power and drive you to achieve brilliant results.

While the improvements from the test results were only measured as ‘moderate’ rather than significant, if you have been looking to cross that gap to the next level and seem to fall short on your regular workout, no matter how dedicated you are, weight training might just be the missing link to get you over the performance hump.

What two sessions a week of weight training was able to improve in cyclists

  • Ability to conserve energy at maximum power
  • More downward force
  • More flexible muscle fibre types
  • Increased neural function
  • Positive changes to energy storage

One aspect that remained unchanged was lung capacity VO2Max.

The study identified the optimal weight exercises as, Maximal Force Strength Training, to show distinction and help cyclists and other endurance athletes select the right regime out of the many resistance-training styles available. Maximal Force Strength Training has targeted results and is designed to improve cycling strength, power and economy without increasing a rider’s weight or muscle mass.

Making it work

Maximal Force Strength Training uses a selection of compound leg exercises with resistance (weights). Look to create a circuit with squats, leg presses and, deadlifts.

Go with low weights and minimum reps to get you started then gradually increase the resistance, although you still want to keep your reps relatively low, even as you improve. For example complete a circuit of exercises 3-4 times, doing each exercise 2-4 times each. By keeping the reps and sets low and weight high, you keep the muscle off and still get the training and strength you need to power forward. 

The most important thing to get right here is technique. If you have never completed weight training before go slowly and get someone (preferably a professional) to spot you and make sure you are positioned correctly. At the very least perform these weight exercises in front of a mirror with get high quality instructions and pictures to compare. Above all, engage your core so your spine is not taking on the added weight. 

Do your Maximal Force Strength Training exercises twice a week, preferably early in the day, or at least not too late at night. 

Increase your resistance to significant weights as you feel more confident with the exercises and your stance, for example, it’s okay to deadlift even as much as twice, or three times your body weight (just get there slowly and surely). 

Because you are not doing a lot of exercise it only takes 10 minutes or less to complete, making it easy to slot into your day, so take the time to make sure you’re technique is perfect.

Whether you’re amateur or elite, you are increasing your performance for a personal best or a win, consider Maximal Force Strength Training as part of your cycling workout to get the most out of your time on the bike. 

Hitting the weights to hit the climbs even harder? That’s freedom!

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