FEBRUARY 7, 2019 · BY ARKADIUSZ KOGUT
Most of us think of pumping iron (usually for aesthetic reasons) when we think of working out in a gym. It doesn’t have to be this way! For road cyclists, an appropriately planned strength program can help increase power, prevent injuries, improve overall fitness and give you a more balanced body.
How Strength Training Counteracts the Side-Effects of Cycling
Performing only cycling workouts is fine, but there are some significant negative side-effects that can limit your performance when not properly addressed.
The range of motion required for riding is not only highly repetitive, but unnatural from the point of view of human anatomy. Road cyclists tend to have strong quadriceps and gluteus muscles, but the muscles of the back, abdomen, shoulders, and biceps femoris are rarely as developed. By supplementing your cycling workouts in the gym, you will improve your muscle balance.
You might have heard that riding will also reduce your bone density over time, due to its relative lack of impact on the skeletal system. Lifting weights can help mitigate this process due to increased mineralization under the influence of the force stimulus.
Cyclic movement repeated during pedaling also causes the accumulation of microdamage in soft tissues. While you might think that stretching is the best way to reverse this damage, the research actually shows that stretching alone is less effective for preventing injuries than strength training in specific ranges of motion.
RECOVERY AND ADAPTATION
Finally, working with weights results in exercise-induced anabolic hormone discharge, especially of testosterone and growth hormone. In the case of riders with high volumes of exercise causing an increase of cortisol (a catabolic hormone), adequate strength training will help in the recovery process and adaptation to high loads. This is especially relevant for amateur athletes over 35 years of age, whose anabolic hormone levels are typically lower.
In my opinion, when training we should strive for balanced development. Even professional riders, who aim at strict specialization, pay close attention to the overall development of their body. They know that balance will bring long-term effects, in form of better results at races. Here’s how to get started.
If your prefer to do your gym workouts at home, make sure to have some basic equipment from the list below:
- Training Bench
- Dumbbell Set
- Barbell Set
- Kettlebell Set
- Pull-up Frame and Bar
- Fitness Ball
- Stationary Bicycle or indoor trainer
- Treadmill or/and rowing machine
Set Your Starting Point
For an amateur road cyclist, the basic goal strength-development wise should be, in my opinion, to achieve muscle balance, improve the body posture and rebuild the deep sensibility, or proprioception. All this should be aimed at improving the strength of core and specialist muscles (biceps femoris, quadriceps, glutes, calves, erector spinae).
A good starting point could be the Functional Movement Screen test. This tool assesses the fundamental movement patterns that are the basis of any physical activity. This assessment is the same whether you’re doing a recreational sport or a physical effort at the highest level of intensity.
The assessment will identify possible asymmetries and limitations in your body. Disruption of these basic patterns will adversely affects your economy of movement, increases your risk of injury or overload, and change proprioceptive sensations. You can do the test on your own or with the help of a specialist to set your baseline mobility and strength. It’s a good idea to measure your progress every few months.
When And How To Strength Train
In an ideal world, you would go to the gym (or use your own set of equipment at home) two times a week, 45-60 minutes per session, year round. If this is not possible, once a week is better than nothing. In weight training the principle is the same as in endurance training: the most important factor is the frequency of training, followed by volume and intensity.
A good time to do a strength workout is in the morning when levels of testosterone and growth hormone are highest and most available for adaptation. We are also more focused, and the innervation obtained by working with weights will keep us in a good mood and full of energy for the rest of the day.
For your first workouts, it’s best to enlist the help of a personal trainer. An experienced outside perspective will notice your mistakes (there will be mistakes!) and will correct them. It’s like any skill — if you catch bad habits early, then it’s easier to get rid of them. And in the case of strength workout, incorrect performance can lead to an injury.
Start out easy
During the first few months of training, always place the number of repetitions over the weight you exercise with. Focus on diversity and engage all major muscle groups by performing multi-joint exercises. This will enable you to achieve comprehensive development, you will quickly feel the first effects and obtain a good basis for progress in the future.
You should work out at the gym on days off of cycling training or in the morning — on these days you can do your bike workouts in the afternoon. Remember not to use massage, electrostimulation or stretching for a few hours after the gym, as these recovery tools may weaken the adaptive effects in the muscles after a strength workout.
To view the workouts, go to the TrainingPeaks website for information and support videos.