Strength Training. We’ve all heard about it, we all talk about adding it into our routine. So many of us cyclists aren’t quite sure where to start or what benefits come from this type of training. Our resident fitness expert, Eileen Sheppard walks us through the Benefits Of Strength Training as well as suggesting ways to add this into your routine.
WHY TO STRENGTH TRAIN
The human body has more than 600 muscles making up some 35 to 40 percent of its mass. The strength and flexibility of these muscles contribute immensely to your performance on your bike. Developing the ability to produce great force while maintaining a wide range of motion means greater speed, climbing and reducing the risk of injury. If muscles are even a bit weak, imbalanced, or inflexible, you may not realize your full potential, as power for climbing and handling the bike maybe too low and muscle pull and strains are likely. Fortunately, the converse is also true!
You don’t want to perform strength work to get stronger just for the sake of being stronger. Implementing a specific, progress (periodization) strength training program will improve your performance, assist in avoiding injuries and ultimately allow you to enjoy a stronger ride. Whether stronger rides means powering up hills, improving your TT performance, endurance or being able to ride back to back days, targeted strength training can help you get there.
HOW TO DEVELOP A STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM
A program should focus on strength, mobility, stability, power, and flexibility working on muscles that are tight, weak, not engaging (so getting them to “work”) to improve movements in cycling. You can use your body weight, TRX, Free Weights, Tubes, Bands, BOSU, Step etc.
Here are some points to think about in developing a functional/resistance strength program:
FITT: Frequency (how often), Intensity (difficulty level of the component of your program), Time (how long each component should last and how much rest), Type (choice of exercise or piece of equipment being used)
Core Strengthening: Our foundation. I like to give the analogy of building a house: if the foundation is not strong/stable and level (balance muscles), doesn’t matter how well built the frame is it can have weaknesses. Core needs to be strengthened, this isn’t just abdominals.
Consistency: Incorporate your strength training into your weekly routine of yoga/stretching and riding. It can be done daily, every other day, 3 x a week whatever you can fit into your schedule. As for length of time, your program should be shorter through the riding season (20-30 minutes), longer in the off season (45-75 minutes).
Progression (progression overload): To improve one’s needs by continually challenging their fitness. For example starting off with lighter weights (if you’re a beginner) or even body weight exercises, then progress to heavier weights with lower repetitions or lower weights with higher repetitions.You can also increase the number of sets and repetitions, quantity of exercises etc, This will depend on your goals, experience level, and any injuries or issues you are having with your body. So keep in mind increasing intensity, duration, or complexity is key to progression.
Improving balance/motor control/stability: Adding exercises that challenge your balance, motor control and stability. An example of this type of exercise would be standing on 1 leg while pretending to kick a soccer ball for several minutes. The leg you stand on is working the stabilizing muscles while the kicking leg is challenging your balance as you kick from the hip (not just the knee). Your core is working to keep you balanced and upright.
Developing Speed: Doing speed work, plyometrics, and agility work develops your nervous system to respond quickly, firing the fast twitch muscles. Those fast twitch muscles come into play when powering up hills, during or a sprint, or when required to move quickly from a dog chasing you. Fast twitch muscles are also helpful when you are riding in an echelon or a paceline, needing those quick extra pedal strokes to keep moving smoothly through the group. Speed work improves and increases cadence efficiency.
Stretching: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic (movement based) before you cycle, Static after you cycle. The benefits of adding these stretches into your routine are that they can improve posture, improve and prevent loss of range of motion (ROM), decrease back pain, help prevent injury, and decrease muscle soreness.
Patience: It does take time, but it is really worth it. Your body will thank you, and you’ll be able to enjoy your cycling fitness for longer.