Expert Answers: How Can Strength Training Make Me a Better Cyclist?
The benefits of strength training for cycling — plus some beginner moves.
Q | I’m an avid cyclist but don’t do any strength training. What are the benefits of adding it to my routine? What beginner moves can I start with?
A | It’s not uncommon for cyclists to think their weekly mileage is enough to build a strong body. But adding some strength training to your routine will make your time on the bike more comfortable — and help you be a better all-around rider.
“For cycling, as with any endurance sport, approaching it with a holistic mindset of endurance training, strength training, and interval training is important to improving not only performance but overall health and fitness,” says Jeff Rosga, NASM-CPT, NASM-PES, senior director of Life Time Academy in St. Paul, Minn.
“The old-school mentality of using one type of training or simply adding volume is being replaced by more progressive, balanced approaches designed to deliver results,” he says.
Rosga, a competitive cyclist and cycling instructor, offers the following three-pronged approach to balancing endurance and strength training:
Build muscle; improve work efficiency. Work efficiency — also known as work economy or, more specifically in this case, cycling economy — is simply the amount of oxygen needed to perform a certain task, explains Rosga. “Including resistance training can ensure stronger muscles and ligaments to provide more structural support, allowing athletes to use less oxygen during endurance events.”
Subtract distance; add plyometrics. Plyometric training — think jumping and sprinting — also improves economy and lactate processing. By adding plyo moves like jumping lunges and box jumps, you can increase how “explosive” you are in the saddle. You’ll also be able to pull back on overall training distance without sacrificing performance for distance events.
Get results with interval training. “High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is fast becoming an important component of endurance training because of its time-efficient potential,” says Rosga, who recommends HIIT sessions as short as 20 minutes, twice a week.
Rosga recommends incorporating the following exercises with your regular rides. To get started, perform two or three sets, twice per week. (Search the archives for exercise descriptions.)
• Bird Dogs (12–20 reps per side)
• Planks (30 seconds)
• Hip Bridges (15–20 reps with pause at the top)
• Step-Ups (12–20 reps per side)
• Alternating Lunge Jumps (10 reps per side)
• Pushups (12–20 reps)
• Pull-Ups or TRX Rows (12–20 reps)
• Romanian Deadlifts (12–20 reps)