Whether you’re a competitive or recreational cyclist you can benefit from regular resistance/strength training sessions at the gym. Cycling is an endurance activity, while resistance training is an anaerobic activity, that is, periods of work interspersed with periods of rest. But regular resistance training can improve your strength, help you maintain bone mass and aid in injury prevention.
I’ve been doing a weekly resistance training session for about seven years which is longer than I’ve been cycling. I believe it plays an important part in my exercise program which also includes jogging. My focus has always been on general resistance training to keep me strong and to help with bone density rather than improving my cycling. Perhaps if I was a more serious cyclist then I would focus solely on improving my performance on the bike. For the purposes of this post I will concentrate on resistance training to complement cycling.
Now I’m not suggesting you need to undertake Anna Meares’ regular weights sessions. Anna’s gym workouts are very specific and aimed at making her the awesome sprinter that she is, but we can learn from her efforts.
Strength or resistance training will not only make you a faster, stronger cyclist but it has many other benefits. My research tells me that it will:
- Increase your metabolism, so you burn more calories, which helps you maintain a healthy weight
- Stave off osteoporosis by increasing your bone density
- Improve your mood and boost your self-esteem
- Enhance your cardiovascular fitness
- Firm and tone your core, legs, hips and arms, making you more shapely so you’ll look better in lycra.
Here’s a few tips I picked up in researching for this article:
When performing strength workouts in the gym, focus on higher weight and less reps rather than low weight and high reps. Cycling already trains muscular endurance and you want to improve your strength and power on the bike, or perhaps just to tone up your physique. Aim for two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise.
Strong back muscles are important for maintaining great posture while on the bike. Incorporate a rowing exercise such as a dumbbell row or a barbell row into your gym routine. This will strengthen your upper back for proper form on the bike.
Hold a barbell with an overhand grip a little wider than shoulder width. Lean forward at your hips, keeping your spine straight and allowing the bar to dangle below your chest. Pull the bar up toward your chest, leading with your elbows to the ceiling. Slowly lower the bar back to the start position for one complete repetition.
While cycling is great for muscle tone and development, doing single-leg exercises will help to develop the legs individually. It isn’t too unusual for one leg to be more dominant than the other, therefore doing individual exercises allows for the weaker leg to gain strength and stabilisation.
For your lower body perform squats and step-ups. Place a barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees, lowering your body as if you were sitting in a chair. Stop when you can go no lower or your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press back up for one repetition of squats.
Perform a step-up on a bench or platform. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and place your right foot on the platform. Your knee should be bent no more than 90 degrees. Push through your right foot, raising your body off the floor. Slowly lower back down for one complete step-up. Repeat on your left leg.
A strong core will help you maintain proper position on the bike.
Start with a bridge by lying on the floor on a mat with your knees bent, feet flat. Press through your heels and lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes. Lower back down for one complete repetition.
Perform a plank by holding a pushup position and pulling your abs in tight. Hold for up to 60 seconds and repeat two to four times.
Of course, there are plenty of other great exercises for your back, lower body and core, these are just a few examples.
To ensure you are undertaking the right kind of exercises in the correct way, I would recommend you find a personal trainer who has experience working with cyclists and ask them to write you a program. If you can afford it, then work with them on regular supervised sessions. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far then get a tailored program written and have it updated regularly.