Strength is a key factor in the world of cycling. Many believe you have to lose weight to perform better, but without adequate strength training, it will be impossible to respond to changes in pace and be the fastest.
Cyclists tend to put strength training on the back burner. They often train in the pre-season and then quit, forgetting that working on your strength, especially in the legs, is critical to enhance performance. This factor affects each pedal stroke, so it becomes a key element in our training, to be better equipped for endurance racing or to reach our rivals at crucial moments.
Why do cyclists avoid strength training?
There are several reasons that lead cyclists to forgo strength training. Many believe they will gain muscle mass and that this will be a burden on the bike, but there are many ways to strengthen our muscles without excess muscle mass gain. This is why it’s important to train properly.
Other reasons are lack of time or fear of injury. But working on our strength in the right way will prevent damage during exercise, since strengthening our muscles increases joint stability. You also don’t have to dedicate hours to strength training, since going through series of 3-4 exercises would be enough and only takes about 40 minutes.
The benefits of strength training
The objective in this type of training is to enhance the time that we can hold weight. When training to work with heavier weights than normal, we won’t be working at maximum effort, which will result in an increase in muscular endurance and in more efficient pedalling.
In short, we can improve our maximum output at different levels, gain efficiency in pedalling and improve resistance for long rides. We will also be taking measures to avoid injuries and compensating for muscle imbalances, since cyclists are often regarded as highly able as far the legs are concerned, while the upper body lags behind.
As mentioned, it’s important to understand what kind of training suits us best. We don’t want to gain excess muscle, since it can add dead weight to our bike. Therefore, we will choose exercises that resemble pedalling but are also comprehensive so as to prevent muscle imbalances.
With this in mind, we will opt for short exercises using only one leg, which will allow us to develop strength in both of them evenly, correct possible imbalances and improve coordination. The speed of the exercises should be as high as our body allows. Some examples are squats, presses or lunges.
For a cyclist, pedalling is the easiest and most direct way to increase power and strength on the bike. If you want to set real and attainable goals, we recommend that you have a power meter to help you control and monitor your results. We’ve recently talked about the benefits of using power meters.
On-bike strength training works similarly to gym workouts, so if it has worked for you, you can apply the same principles to the bike. That is, do maximum output exercises, brief and with long recovery breaks, which can be either sitting or standing. As mentioned throughout the article, these exercises will improve output and endurance. We should mention that better results can be achieved if we complement our training with oval chainrings such as the Q RINGS which already provide performance benefits and have been used in all the main national and international competitions. Oval chainrings improve power delivery, optimise pedalling, are better for the knees and can be adjusted thanks to the OCP technology. Learn about the advantages of oval rings here.
Common mistakes in strength training
Failure in this type of training is usually due to poor execution and planning. Athletes often train excessively thinking that it can never be counter-productive, which is a mistake. We have to let our body adapt to the new exercise and cut back on the hours we dedicate to this kind of workout if necessary.
Another common mistake is not to train strength and endurance separately. It’s recommended to do the two types of training in different sessions, as they can influence each other negatively and not provide adequate results.