It is known that I'm a Personal Trainer in a gym. I love my job training people, and I believe that strength training is for everyone. Over the years I've been a Personal Trainer, I have worked with many different people. With my background in Ultra Cycling, you would think I would only be working with Cyclists when it comes to strength workouts, but this is the complete opposite. I work with a vast range of people, and the experience I have gained over time has been incredible.
The more my career goes on, the more I find myself working with more cyclists, which is exciting because it is something I love. I always get asked what the benefits of Strength and Conditioning are in cycling and ultra cycling. In this article, I want to run through what I think, in my opinion, are the most beneficial outcomes you get from having a strength and conditioning program for your cycling.
Before we start, we need to talk about what strength and conditioning is. Many people assume strength and conditioning is Olympic weight lifting and getting as muscular as possible, but it isn't. It's very different. It's about building strength and conditioning the body for a particular task. In this case, the task would be to become better at cycling. Conditioning the body doesn't always mean just making the muscles you use to cycle stronger. It all comes down to efficiency, so we work on other parts like mobility, flexibility and compensate for the negative effects cycling can have on the body.
You get Stronger
Yeah, quite simply, you get a lot stronger. By doing resistance training, our muscles get much more efficient, and they work much more effectively. The body is fantastic at adapting to these changes, and the more resistance we give it, the stronger it will become to overcome the obstacles we challenge it with. I have been weight training for years on and off, and when I don't weight train, I physically can see a considerable change in my cycling. Studies have seen cycling strength training gains from 5% all the way up to 20% in cyclists who start consistently hitting the gym. Strength training gives you more muscle mass, more power and a better pedal stroke.
With many of my clients, I work on improving mobility. It's not always about strength and power. This means it's much easier to get in the aerodynamic positions and also to be able to maintain a higher level of comfort when they ride longer distances. It also helps with injury prevention, and a massive part of being fit is being mobile. I find the vast majority of endurance training programs and training plans even from a conditioning specialist wont focus on mobility or even feature single leg exercises. We don’t always focus on muscle mass we need to maintain good posture too.
Injury prevention is very overlooked in long distance sports. The longer you are cycling, the chances of injuries can become higher. One of the most significant benefits of strength training is that you can preload your body to extremes in the gym, so when race day comes around, it's going to be ready to handle the hit it's going to get.
Correct Muscle Imbalances
Although you probably don't want to admit it, there's a very good chance you probably have muscle imbalances. It's common in most people. As a trainer, I see it all the time, and it can take a while to work people through these. Riding long distances Imbalanced can have huge implications on your body. These are easily fixed in a gym and challenging to improve via a bike fit or road riding. When the training load get bigger many cyclists find themselves injured because of muscle imbalances.
This goes without saying that on an Ultra Race, it's going to hurt at some point. You can work on this quickly with Strength and Conditioning. Take, for example, lower back pain. You can solve this problem fairly easily by doing specific exercises. I tailor programs for my clients to stop them from getting pain from riding, and it's a massive benefit for very little of your time.
How do I start Cycling Strength Training?
There are several different routes you can go when it comes to strength training for cyclists and improving training load in your program. In this section, I want to run through what I believe are the bests ways to go when getting into weight training.
Personal Trainer Route
I would highly advise going to an excellent personal trainer either online or in person. I wouldn't recommend a personal trainer who hasn't worked with cyclists before or who isn't a cyclist themselves. I say this because fresh out of the box personal trainers think that just working the legs makes you a great cyclist when there is so much more to it than that. Strength training for cyclists requires you to be working on more than just leg strength, especially when it comes to endurance training and improving pedal stroke. You need to work the whole body in a particular way. Primary focus for new personal trainers is big muscles, more force and power production and this isn’t what we always want. Personal trainers are excellent for making sure you are safe, and they also make you accountable, so you get the right workouts in. Another great thing about using Personal Trainers is that if you have any issues like back issues, they can make sure you stay safe and recommend the right exercises for you. The only drawback is they do cost more than the other routes. I would recommend using Personal Training to anyone new to strength training.
Form Checking and Expert Advice
Know you will get results
Learning lots of information
Generic Plan Route
Generic cycling strength programs are good to help you along your way. I am currently in the process of creating some for online sales. I think if you are looking for strength training on a budget, I would highly recommend it. They do come with drawbacks. You will not always have the equipment they require, and sometimes purchasing what is needed can be expensive. Secondly, if you have any previous injuries from other sports or accidents, you might be hurting yourself by doing some exercises. I would recommend a program like this for someone who has experience in strength training but needs a little guidance.
Good Value for money
Easy to get hold of and access
Not at all personal
It might not suit the user
YouTube Videos and Blogs
I am a blog writer professionally and advertise my services on the internet as an expert in cycling and Strength Training programs. The amount of companies who ask me to write blogs for them about stuff I don't believe to be true is quite unfortunate. I refuse to do this, but they will find someone who will say yes and give out some pretty awful information. The same goes for YouTube. I have lost count of the number of cycling Strength programs I have seen and just found them disgusting. Then again, some are pretty good. It's a minefield, and this is a route I wouldn't recommend unless you have already done some strength training before.
Free Strength Training
Easy to Access
Not always a reliable source
There's a lot of ways you can go with Strength training, and honestly, most of them will benefit you when it comes to your cycling. I would take a good think about which route to go down before you start. In my opinion, if you are new to strength training, you really should get a Personal Trainer or Online Personal Trainer. The same goes if you feel the need for results. If you have experience in strength training already, then something generic will hopefully work. Blogs and YouTube aren't always good advice, but if you are savvy and have the experience to know the difference between right and wrong, you should be ok.
Where's the best place for Cycling Strength Training
Cycling strength and conditioning can be done anywhere, with or without equipment. I talk about environments a lot to my clients as I believe it is one of the most important things. Everybody is different, and some benefit more from other environments. In this next section, I want to speak about what environments I think are best and the people they will suit.
A gym is a fantastic place for strength training. I love doing my weight training there for many reasons. The first reason is it's lovely to be around a lot of other people. Having others around makes me work much harder and dig into what I'm doing. The next thing I love about the gym is the amount of equipment most gyms have. Not only will these machines keep me safer, but they can produce a much better result compared to working out at home. When I make an effort to go to the gym, I make sure I'm there pushing on and getting the most out of it. The drawbacks of going to a gym are the travel and the cost. The people the gym suits are social. They love to train around others, don't have any equipment at home, and looking for significant improvements.
Although I am a Personal Trainer and love the gym, I find myself working out at home quite often. I am very good at motivating myself to train and have converted my garage into a gym and cycling studio. It's very peaceful, and if I ever want to try anything new, it's nice to be able to have no eyes on me. It is a lot of fun, but it's not for everyone. I would highly recommend working out at home for people who have the space, can self motivate, or struggle for time. You don't need much equipment for a strength training program at home. A lot can be done with just bodyweight exercises. You need to have the ability to work hard alone.
Some of the Best Exercises for Strength Training for Cyclists
This is a question I get asked all the time, and honestly, there are so many exercises that I highly rate it's tough to pick my favorites. I have to say before I recommend anything. It's important to understand that not all exercises suit all people. These exercises fit me and are my personal favorites. The movements below will come with examples. Please make sure you are safe in yourself and your environment to do these before attempting them.
I love lateral lunges. They are an excellent exercise for beginners to gain strength but also for experts to harness it. It works the legs well, mainly the quadriceps, but pulls in through the abductors and pressure the core. They also promote flexibility and are very safe to do and require no equipment, but equipment can be added to make them more challenging. Click the link below for a video on how to do them.
You knew Squats would come up on this list. I have always been a fan of a squat, and most of my clients see them weekly. They are such an excellent exercise that works the majority of the legs and works the core well. They can be done with or without equipment and are simple to get the hang of. They are great for the lower body and will feature in many training programs. Click the video below to see home to do a squat.
The last exercise I want to recommend is one they call a Good Morning. The Good Morning targets the glutes and hamstrings. Not only does this exercise strengthen and your muscles, but it also helps with flexibility. It can vastly improve your ability to hinge your hips, giving you better form on other exercises. It does require equipment but only a barbell, and it doesn't need to be too heavy. Great for not only the lower body but the upper body. Click the link below for the video.
This exercise targets the core and in a unique way. The Bicycle kick is an exercise where you lay flat on your back and use your core to move your arms and legs toward and away from each other. I love this exercise because it works your core in a rotation, not just straight. This is a very valuable movement for cycling, and very few core exercises offer this plane of motion. Another great thing about bicycle kicks is they support your back in the process and get the whole body moving. They are great for the lower body and upper body. If you want to know how to do a bicycle kick, click the link below.
Does cycling count as resistance training?
Not really it’s more cardiovascular.
What are examples of resistance training?
For a cyclist resistance training could be using a machine at the gym. It could be doing a squat, or even using a kettlebell for kettlebell swings.
How often should cyclists train for strength?
It’s differs for everyone. I feel if improving your cycling is your primary focus then twice a week is good for most people.
Can you cycle and lift weights in the same day?
Of course, I personally try not to do them back to back. I normally take a break in between and the harder workout I will do first.
Is cycling bad for muscle gain?
That’s a very complex question and requires its own blog. If done correctly no. Cycling can improve muscle gain quite dramatically.
A Final Note
Strength training is precious for cyclists should be a part of everyone's cycling training. Unfortunately, many cyclists don't incorporate strength training. The benefits are enormous, and strength training is excellent for the entire body. Doing a strength workout each week can hugely improve core strength, the ability of the hip flexors, and a cyclist's pedal stroke. Strength training for cyclists can create more power, more force, and much better cycling performance. A certified personal trainer will completely change your efficiency on the bike and should be a part of your cycling training.