A big part of what we do at the gym is integrating strength work into the training of our clients. Many of them will alternate days between cycling and strength training. Often our clients are very surprised at what the strength training does for them.
To be clear, when we talk about strength training at the gym we are actually talking about classic strength workouts and circuit training. They serve different purposes. What we typically find is that people need to do a good deal of classic strength training, for instance 5sets of 10reps goblet squatting to start off. They need the classic strength training to first regain their range of motion, and get stronger and resilient enough before beginning to do circuit training. Once our clients are ready we can then begin circuit training and take people outside of their comfort zone for range of motion, and push them aerobically as well.
What is it that we get out of strength training that benefits us as riders?
Stronger: better motor control and the ability to fire more muscle fibers when activating a muscle: it’s not a bigger muscle but you can use more of it
Greater athleticism: making us better bike handlers with the ability to maneuver the bike over/around obstacles. Think of the tight switchback on the mountain bike ride and lifting that front wheel ever so slightly to tighten your turning radius. Of the crack in the pavement that you need to move your front wheel away from when out on the road bike and in the middle of the peloton.
Injury resistance: this is a big one in terms of getting better. If you can stay injury free you will train more, and be consistent, which over time will make you better than the rider who is always taking time off to recover from that sore knee.
Fatigue resistance: when you are working through a grinder circuit workout, something like 20min during which you do three exercises for a circuit, your perception of effort starts to change and your ability to sustain the work starts to develop.
Power transmission: the strength increases the ability to co-ordinate movement between the shoulders and hips. Stand up on the bike and feel the shoulder, hips and legs working together through your midsection without a weak link to drive the bike up a hill.
Respiration: improving your breathing mechanics is a great way to get better on the bike – deliver more oxygen efficiently and the body can do more work. With better control of the body through strength and circuit training you will develop better respiration.
Health benefits: such as maintaining your muscle mass and bone health increase as we age. The bike doesn’t offer much in the way of impact to maintain our bones so it is important to supplement with the strength training. And as we age we start to lose our muscle mass, strength can help you maintain it.
Is our strength training cycling specific?
We wouldn’t say that strength training has to be cycling specific. We would even ask what a cycling specific strength movement would look like? If you said leg press we would disagree as it is an isolated hip down movement, which cycling is definitely not always integrating interaction through the abdomen and up into the shoulders. A single leg deadlift? There are not many people who can kick straight into that movement without first doing some real strength work, as we talked about with the circuit training prerequisites above.
Will doing the strength training mean I’ll put on weight?
In most cases we don’t see people put on more muscle/weight when they include strength training in the gym. This is because they are also doing their cycling workouts. It seems that if you do strength work and aerobic training at the same time there isn’t the tendency to bulk up. You get stronger because the body learns to recruit more of the muscle that it is using, not because the muscles get bigger.
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