3 Reasons Cyclists Should Strength Train

Whether you’re a serious cyclist or a purely recreational rider, you might want to think about adding a strength training component to your training plan. I know, it’s a tough ask—with all those hours you invest on the bike, it doesn’t leave much free time for cross-training. But strength training is taking a firm hold in the endurance community—just ask U.S. marathoner Ryan Hall, who picked up strength training after retiring and feels better than ever. This just goes to show that the weight room may just prove to be your most valuable tool in your cycling fitness arsenal.

Here are 3 big reasons why strength training can help you take your cycling to the next level—wherever that level may be.

1. Increase Power

Lower-body exercises like squats help develop muscular strength and power that translates onto the bike.

Lower-body exercises like squats help develop muscular strength and power that translates onto the bike.

If there’s one thing all cyclists want, it’s more leg power. To sprint up steep hills or make a final push at the end of a race, you’ve got to have muscular power. And while cycling is great for improving your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health in general, it doesn’t do a lot for your muscular strength and power. That’s why a strength training program designed for cyclists will include specific exercises to improve lower-body strength (like squats and lunges) and power (like hang cleans and box jumps). A good program will strategically develop your muscles’ ability to express higher levels of force first—that’s strength—and then teach the muscle to produce force quickly—that’s power—giving you a bigger, stronger engine for climbing, sprinting, and passing opponents without emptying your tank.

2. Prevent Injuries

"Prehab" exercises like the Band Hip Bridge help correct quad-dominant cycling and prevent injuries.

"Prehab" exercises like the Band Hip Bridge help correct quad-dominant cycling and prevent injuries.

With all that time spent with your shoulders hunched over the handlebars and your hips in prolonged flexion—not to mention the beating your quads and hip flexors take during thousands of pedal strokes—you might end up with some muscular imbalances. Cycling will develop your quads and glutes, for example, but not your hamstrings or hip stabilizers. This overuse of certain muscles groups can lead to chronic aches and pains or nagging injuries over time—but strength training can help. A cycling-specific strength training program will target your underused and underdeveloped muscles to correct imbalances and make your body more balanced and durable.



3. Improve Stamina

Strength training improves your work capacity (the amount of force you can exert in a given time), increasing your ability to resist fatigue during long rides.

Strength training improves your work capacity (the amount of force you can exert in a given time), increasing your ability to resist fatigue during long rides.

While strength training doesn’t make a big impact on your aerobic endurance (although it doesn’t hurt it, either), improving your overall strength and correcting muscular imbalances can make a huge difference when it comes to stamina on the bike. A good strength training program for cyclists will develop strength within cycling-specific movement patterns, in order to help you exert and maintain high force production—delaying the onset of fatigue. If your core and back musculature are stronger, it means you can maintain better posture on the bike for longer. If your quads and hamstrings are balanced and strong, you can improve your work capacity and ability to resist fatigue during long rides. In short, strength training helps you produce more force for longer periods of time and sustain a faster pace through the finish.

The Takeaway

If you think cycling is the only training that'll make you a better cyclist, think again: strength training can help you increase your power production on the bike, correct injury-causing muscle imbalances, and help you sustain faster speeds for longer rides. A stronger body and better form also mean that you can continue to enjoy cycling for years to come. What could be better? 

 

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Christye Estes, CSCS, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is an NSCA-certified strength coach and a Sport Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye