While many cyclists & triathletes need some kind of strength training, did you know there is a big difference between strength training for performance, and to improve your general well being?
The last 5 years or so there has been a huge explosion of cycling coaches and triathlon coaches writing strength training workouts. While this marks a huge turn in the acceptance and usage of strength training to keep us as cyclists and triathletes healthier for longer, it also has a dark lining.
The "Pseudo Science" of Strength Training
Coaches “writing programs” for their teams/ athletes in strength training is not a problem only plaguing cycling or triathlon. No, this problem has been allowed to run rampant in the fitness world the last 20+ years, with the advent of social media and “influencers” (usually very attractive human beings doing cool stuff or telling you they’ll show you how to get “my arms/chest/glutes/figure/power numbers…all you need to do is follow me and buy my program”).
Unfortunately, this has seemed to accelerate faster in our given sports, than in general fitness, and we need to have a serious conversation about this, before it turns ugly.
What is Strength Training, exactly?
Strength training, at its foundations, is the use of external resistance in order to gain adaptations of the body and its various systems in order to better be able to deal with those forces.
Beyond this, it can get pretty confusing, as there are a multitude of ways to accomplish this:
Shock training- also known as plyometrics, where gravity is overcome in a short, explosive manner
Weight Training- where use of a number of tools such as barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells can be used
There’s even strength training using water or wind (i.e. running with a parachute tied to you) as the resistance.
General Physical Preparation (GPP)
What many in the cycling and triathlon world believe to be “strength training for cycling” or “strength training for triathlon” actually falls under the umbrella of GPP.
General Physical Preparation is indeed a necessary part of any persons journey through strength training. This stage is marked by anywhere from 6-18 months of learning different body parts, how they work alone, and together with other body parts/muscles. The individual will begin to learn how things in the gym work, as well as how their body responds to the different kinds of stresses that strength training places on them.
This is a fun and exciting time for those just starting out in strength training, as you begin to learn about a whole new world, and different ways to help your body get stronger, change shape, and learning new tricks and tips that can help you achieve your goals.
One of the BEST parts of GPP, especially as a beginner, is that you generally will see progress without too high of a structured workout program.
So long as you are CONSISTENT in:
- Eating enough to support your training
- Getting enough QUALITY sleep to as to support the hormonal and neuromuscular changes
- Strength Training 2-4 days a week, even in small doses
But General Physical Preparation has its limitations as well:
You may see some short-term performance gains, but these are generally “easy wins” for areas of the body that are very weak in proportion to where they need to be for the demands you’re placing on them. So long as you are sleeping, eating, and training enough to support your training, oftentimes a decrease in fat mass may also be seen. However, the longer term and steady improvements in your performance will not be seen.
Well, to put it simply, it’s kinda like changing the oil in your car for the first time in 2 years to see a performance increase in how the car drives, and convincing yourself that if you just change the oil regularly and add a little air to your tires, that you ‘94 Honda Accord will magically become a Formula 1 race car.
Next week, we’ll look at what Strength Training for PERFORMANCE is, and how it differs from GPP, and how you as a cyclist or triathlete should look at these 2 different approaches to your strength training.