Have you stopped your strength training or turned to a “maintenance program” for the season?
This mistake can cost you all of your gains from this past winter and keep you from seeing improved performances this season.
While many in the sport of cycling have moved to embrace strength training as a part of their training program, the vast majority are making one big mistake in their approach which is costing them valuable time and gains:
They cut strength training out of their weekly program from April to September (and some even more!).
While this may seem “commonsensical” given that we strength train to boost our on-bike performance so we “should” focus on cycling during the season.
This, in fact, is wrong.
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should continue strength training during the season:
1. You lose the strength gains within 4-6 weeks
It’s funny, if any sportsmen and women in the world should truly understand the ‘use it or lose it’ rule of conditioning & performance it’s endurance athletes. Yet cyclists (and triathletes) break this rule as they drop true strength training in favor of more and more and more of their sport.
While new strength gains stick around longer than the 7-10 days of top-end fitness, they won’t stay forever. If you don’t challenge your strength, and continue to stress the system, much (if not all) of your strength gains will be lost within 4-6 weeks.
2. Strength training helps keep the hormonal balance in the body favorable to building
As current research has shown that seeking big gains in strength and endurance simultaneously is a practice in futility, looking to keep enough strength training in your weekly program can help you better maintain a more anabolic (building) hormonal environment. This is really important for those of us not racing 3, 4, 5, and 21 day races, as it allows our bodies to build better general fitness & abilities.
Follow the recommendations laid out in this article, to maintain your strength, while building incredible riding. Of course, you’ll need to be sure to get 7-9 hours of solid, high quality sleep a night, and be sure to eat 1.6-2.0g per kilogram of protein per day along with 10-12 servings of colorful vegetables each day. . . If you’re not, then you’re missing the linchpins to performance.
3. Maintaining strength through full range of motion enables performance
Maximal strength, aka how much weight you have on the bar, doesn’t actually matter. However, maintaining your neuromuscular capabilities to fire in a synchronous and advantageous manner, does. And having great strength through a full range of motion matters much more than just being more flexible.
The last part is what gets most cyclists, as they move to passive stretching instead of strength training. Many spend up to 3x a week for 30 full minutes of passive stretching, when their time would be much better spent strength training.
Working on your strength training movements through the full range of motion that you have control over can significantly counteract the hours spent in the saddle hunched over. . . ahem, back pain anyone?
4. You’ll continue to improve coordination and power
As you increase your hours in the saddle and work on your on-bike skills, including braking, cornering, climbing, and sprinting, you’ll need to tap into more of the motor units within your body, to allow you do each skill with less effort.
Much of this comes from performing strength training movements that have nothing to do with your sport, and challenge the body & brain to work together to keep great postures and positions. But these movements need to be consistently practiced and refined, in order to keep them working well, and thus helping to boost your performance.
5. Without regular, consistent strength training you lose everything and start all over again next fall
EVERYONE and their Aunt Betty claim that they don’t want to “waste their time with strength training’…. Yet that’s exactly what they do each and every fall and winter, when they drop their bike riding volume way down, hit the gym in ways that make themselves so sore that they cannot ride with high quality, and then drop strength training in the spring completely (or switch to 7-9 months of “maintenance”).
Avoid this massive mistake, and be a performance contrarian- strength train year round using at least 4 of the 5 stages of strength training periodization, and let those around you marvel at your strength and performance gains on the bike, while your body reinvents itself to be fast, fit, lean, and strong ALL year long….it just happens to be super strong in summer- when you want it most.
“Common sense is neither common, nor sensical” someone once said.
This is especially true when it comes to strength training- especially strength training for performance. It is not the flashy, super crazy looking exercises and workouts you see on instagram and facebook ads…. but rather the fundamentals hammered home and practiced over and over until they become incredibly refined, and smooth.
But they need to be done consistently, and with the focus on the right things, at the right times… otherwise you truly are wasting your time, energy, and effort with strength training.
You can learn how to build an in-season strength training program in my TrainingPeaks University course Strength Training for Cycling Success. The course counts for CEU’s from USA Cycling, USA Triathlon, NSCA, NASM, AFAA, and has also been accepted by ACE. The course is built for coaches and athletes alike, who are looking to get the most possible out of their time in the weight room.