The missing piece, when it comes to strength training, for most athletes, is the understanding that strength training (and cross training for that matter) should be focused on strengthening the body in movements that are NOT done in their sport, and which will lead to better stability and strength through the sports movements. ESPECIALLY when we are talking about strength training for cyclists and triathletes.
Designing a proper Strength Program
Proper Strength Training for any sport begins and ends by looking at the demands the given sport places on the body:
-The movements and ranges of motion at the different joints necessary to achieve success
-Very importantly, the imbalances that said sport causes in the joints
-And the adaptations that the body makes in order to "get strong & efficient" in that sport.
While posture and shoulder health have a huge impact on our overall well-being and can have significant and far-reaching effects, those effects are not always felt before it’s too late in the game.
This is especially true for Road Cyclists, runners, and triathletes, as their sport, by design, requires the body to work for long periods of time, preferably as energy efficiently as possible.
CrossFit has opened the eyes of the Endurance sports community that Strength Training MUST be a part of their training....but WHY does it work?
Are you guys as stoked about the TrainerRoad video on Strength training as much as I am?
I doubt it!
Not only is TrainerRoad a great tool to help Cyclists and Triathletes who aren't ready for 1 on 1 coaching to get some solid fitness, but it also has a great reach into the endurance community.
While I've been talking about strength training for cyclists for the last 9 years, knowing deep down that the time for change is ALMOST here.....this video with currently 69,000+ views, tells me the time IS here.
Today we hit on the TOP 3 RULES when it comes to Strength Training that you MUST keep in mind!
There are some rules to Strength Training for cyclists...
While the blog post that goes along with the video says there are no "hard and fast rules when it comes to strength training for cyclists", there are quite a few rules that apply to strength training in general that we MUST keep in mind. These are the top 3.
1. Specific Adaptations to imposed Demand
Whatever you program the body to do, is what it will do. This is super important as we get into strength training, as when we start off coming from loads of time on the bike, we must make sure that we work to find a happy balance for our joints, so they can perform on the bike, and stay healthy off the bike.
If you're looking to improve your strength for riding, or anything for that matter, you must impose that demand (do strength training) at LEAST 3 days a week in order to see results and progress. This means finding the right balance for YOU and YOUR needs for the different times of year. Simply hitting the gym 2x a week for a 2 hours strength session may be enough to help you see some small increases for a short time, but it won't be enough to stimulate the changes you're seeking!
For true beginners in the weight room, 2x a week for 60-75 min quality sessions may prove to be enough, however for the vast majority of us we will require 3 days a week regularly in the gym, in order to see results. More is not always better, and we must also keep in balance your riding,. Many riders with whom I've worked have found that a 60 minute gym session with a good 10-15 minute warm-up has allowed them to have absolutely fantastic results, and to maintain their abilities on the bike.
Find what works for you, and stick to it. You should see progress regularly and consistently, and be feeling better after your strength work, not worse.
2. Training is useless if your recovery sucks
We don't get stronger from the workouts we do, in fact, we are actually in a weakened state afterwards. We get stronger by getting the nutrients and rest we need after a workouts, so that the body can repair and adapt.
Strength training 4x a week PLUS riding 12 hours PLUS working 40 hours PLUS.... if you're not getting your sleep and nutrition on point, you'll see poor (if any) results.
3. Progression, progression, progression!
Many of the exercises shown in the video are very advanced, and require large amounts of range of motion, stability, and strength to perform properly. Specifically the Pistol Squats and Spiderman Pushups require an immense amount of core strength AND mobility at the hips.
While the mobility at the hips is a long post in and of itself, the core strength is a big issue for many of us, as we tend to have poor connection of the ribs and pelvis, leading us to perform these exercises with poor technique which can lead to pain,discomfort, and loss of time on the bike- something we very much want to avoid.
4. (BONUS) Work within the Range of Motion you have, SetTing yourself up for success, not injury
This is something many athletes, regardless of sport, tend to miss. While it is really good to go through a full range of motion for an exercise, pushing beyond YOUR range of motion to where you lose technique or proper alignment of the joints and body parts is only going to make your risk of injury increase.
There are a large number of Triathletes and Time Trials in particular with whom I've coached (after they hurt themselves), and seen in the weight room trying to "mimic my position on the TT bars".
There is a time and a place for being as "sport-specific" as possible, but with weight lifting exercises, especially ones such as the deadlift and bent over reverse flies, are not them.
Strength training should be done in the ranges of motion you have, and IN POSITIONS THAT SET YOU UP TO SUCCEED. This is something that Loren Landow really impressed upon me during the week or so I spent with him back in 2014. It's something that many cyclists and athletes as a whole, struggle with.
Simply: If you cannot maintain a good posture and alignment for an exercises, set yourself up for success by either staying within the positioning and range of motion you CAN safely work through....or change the exercise. When it comes to exercises, just as with scotch & wine, there are many different "flavors" and within those flavors, many different variations from which to choose from.
For example, If you cannot keep your spine straight for a barbell deadlift from the floor, raise the bar up off the floor using plates or risers to a point where you can keep your spine straight, abs & lats tight, and use your glutes and hamstrings, NOT your back.
Set yourself up to win, and you'll reap benefits.
Try to go outside of your abilities, and you'll find yourself injured or in pain.
You have tons to gain and tons to lose (pun intended), set yourself up to win.
The Trainer Road video is a testament to the work that coaches who have been teaching the immense value and necessity of Strength Training for cyclists carries with it, like Harvey Newton and myself, which has helped to push the world of cycling forward in it's realization that proper strength training for cycling is a MUST.
We are finally entering the time where the average athlete is ready and willing to take heed, and finally hit the weights. This video is a fantastic step forward to getting the message out to the masses, and to get riders EXCITED about lifting. I just want to try to ensure that many folks won't try these exercises and wind up putting themselves into positions they can get hurt.
ALWAYS start at the lowest level of an exercise, and work your way up. If you're not sure about an exercise, start small, and slowly work your way up. Remember, being injured only sets you back, "Keep the money on the field".
If you want to learn more about Strength Training for Cycling and Triathlon, sign up for the Human Vortex Training Newsletter to receive expert tips and advice.
"Just any trainer" and "Just any strength coach" will NOT do it for endurance athletes, as you have a very unique blend of demands on the body- especially triathletes. Simply because someone holds a credential and passed a test, does NOT mean they have the right skillset and knowledge that YOU need, in order to have the strength training match your needs.
We must begin to think beyond the label of an athlete being injured, and recognize the fact that THIS is the time where we can truly MAKE the athletes will and determination infallible. It is an incredibly vulnerable time for the athlete, one in which they will often have negative self-thoughts, bouts of depression, and even "go to a dark place" which can totally derail them from their pre-injury optimistic and positive character.... and this can have a massively negative lifelong effect.