Functional Strength Training for Cyclists

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If you want more watts, do more squats!!

As endurance athletes, we love to put in the time…and the miles.  We also love to spend time tracking our data metrics and comparing our results, to others and ourselves.  


               But what happens when our numbers plateau and we ‘hit the wall’?


For the Love of the Ride

As a coach, when I see someone “stuck” in their training, the first thing I look at is what type (if any) of strength training they are doing. 

The downside of endurance training is that it can be catabolic, meaning that it can break down muscle, causing progressive decreases in strength, endurance, and increasing the risk of injury. As endurance cyclists we need to do strength training to build and repair our muscles. 


                     Simply stated…If you want more watts? Do more squats!


Strength Training Made Easy

Strength training does not have to be done at a gym. You can do basic, body weight exercises anywhere, which will greatly impact your overall strength. Take advantage of any stairs you have or monkey bars at your local park. 

You also do not need to spend a ton of time on strength training. Most cyclists utilize the majority of their free time on the bike or trainer, and are ‘hard pressed’ for extra time.  Finding that 15-20 minutes two to three times a week, however, can make a big difference in the results you see.


A Few Key Things to Know Before Starting

There are an abundance of available resources describing functional exercises and proper form.  Here are a few key things to know before starting any strengthening program.

  • Always warm up before strength training- This can consist of active stretches, such as knee hugs & leg swings. 


  • Start simple- For those new to strength training, it can make you sore, so do not do too much too soon.


  • Practice good form- Do exercises in front of a mirror or have someone observe you, if they know the technique, and focus upon proper performance rather than heavy weights.


  • Add a variety of exercises- Work in different planes, such as lateral, horizontal, and rotational movements, and other functional patterns.


  • Keep track of your workouts-You will want to remember what you did and progress accordingly.


  • If you have a pre-existing injury or health condition, or develop pain or other symptoms while performing your strength routine, consult with your Doctor or Physical Therapist first!


Functional Strength Training for Cyclists


Motivation, The Strength We All Have

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I don’t feel like working out today?” All of us have! The most important part of success, in anything, is to be consistent.  You must find ways to enjoy strength training, at least to some degree. 

I see some people do the same exact workout week after week without changing anything up. This type of repetition can become boring quickly and have poor results. If you have access to a gym, use a variety of equipment and work your entire body. 

Functional training is the best for cyclists who usually only train their legs. It allows you to engage multiple muscle groups, including your core, while accelerating your heart rate. 

As a cyclist myself, a few of my favorite functional exercises are: single leg sit stands, lateral band walks, squats, lunges, and planks. Utilizing compound exercises, like medicine ball slams or kettlebell swings, will engage multiple muscles simultaneously while rapidly boosting your heart rate.


Strength Training Improves Fitness in Cyclists


Planning To Be Fit

It takes a little planning to fit strength training into your schedule, and to make it so it does not interfere with your endurance activities or family life. It also requires planning to develop the proper strengthening program to fit your needs.

As a coach, I recommend seeking a certified fitness professional or personal trainer, especially if you are new to any kind of weight training. For those who use weights regularly or have in the past, and want to get back into it, make sure to progress at the proper pace. Keep in mind that you may not be able to lift the same weight you did in your last workout.


As all cyclists know, there is no substitute for time in the saddle. But with a little planning and motivation, the addition of functional strength training to your training routine will increase your stamina, speed, watts, and power. 

In addition, it will also help with repair and recovery of the muscle groups we demand so much of, preventing down time and injury.  No cyclist has time for that!


You make the call!

What do you think would hinder your progress on the bike more? Spending a portion of your training time on strengthening off the bike, or wasting it due to injury?

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