If you’re a cyclist looking to improve performance, preventing injury, or simply wanting to become stronger, incorporating weight lifting into your training regimen can have tremendous benefits. Many cyclists shy away from strength training because they believe it will cause muscle growth that adds unnecessary weight. However, when performed correctly, weight lifting will make you a faster, more powerful rider without adding bulk. Let’s look at why strength training is key for cyclists, the best exercises to include, how to structure an effective program, mistakes to avoid, and a sample weekly lifting schedule.
Benefits of Weight Lifting for Cyclists
Improved Power and Speed Targeted strength training with weights builds greater muscular power in the legs and core, resulting in more force applied to the pedals. This directly translates into increased speed and higher power output over varied terrain. Squatting, deadlifting, and lunging strengthen the glutes and quads used for pedaling.
Injury Prevention Many common cycling overuse injuries like knee pain, IT band issues, and back problems can be prevented with balanced strength training. Building stability and resistance in muscles, tendons, and connective tissues keeps joints aligned and supported. This reduces injury risk from imbalances or weaknesses.
Correct Muscle Imbalances Cyclists often have overdeveloped quads but weaker glutes and hamstrings. Weight training evens out these imbalances that impact pedaling efficiency and technique. Multi-joint exercises also build core and upper body strength often neglected in cycling.
Types of Exercises for Cyclists
Incorporating moves that target your hips, legs, and midsection offer the biggest performance benefits.
Squats develop total lower body strength while engaging the core. Front and back variations target different muscles. Choose a weight that allows you to complete 3 sets of 8-10 reps with proper form.
Deadlifts build posterior chain strength through the hamstrings, glutes, and back – key for powerful pedaling. Use double overhand or mixed grip to complete 3-4 sets of 5 reps.
Lunges in forward, diagonal and lateral patterns strengthen quads and glutes while enhancing balance and stability. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.
Core Exercises like planks, Paloff presses, bicycle crunches and Russian twists promote stability through the midsection during riding. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of various moves.
Creating a Weight Training Program
Crafting an effective strength training program allows you to maximize benefits while preventing fatigue or hindering cycling performance.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity Lift with full control, proper form, and through a complete range of motion on each exercise. Master technique before increasing weight. Prevent injury and experience fuller muscle activation.
Train Opposing Muscle Groups Train quad-focused exercises like squats and lunges in one workout, then hamstring-centric deadlifts and glute bridges the next time. This prevents overtraining specific muscles while allowing 48 hours for recovery between working the same movements.
Allow For Adequate Rest and Recovery Weight training tears down muscles which then rebuild stronger, so rest days are key. Avoid lifting 2 days back-to-back or doing long/hard rides following intense resistance training days. Get plenty of sleep and eat a muscle-repairing protein-rich diet.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
It’s easy to mess up your program if you’re not careful! Stay aware of these pitfalls:
Overtraining can happen when you lift too often, do too many sets, don’t allow for recovery, or combine hard cycling and lifting days. This leads to exhaustion, lack of progress, and potential injury.
Poor Form and Technique means you’ll engrain bad movement patterns that set you up for problems down the road. Always use proper form for maximum muscle activation with lower risk.
Imbalanced Routine only working your “vanity” muscles like quads or biceps can exacerbate strength deficits and lead to problems. Make sure to train posterior chain too – lower back, glutes, hamstrings.
Sample Weekly Schedule
Successfully adding weight lifting into your program is all about finding the right balance and synergy between cycling and gym days. Here’s an example week:
Monday: Legs and Core
- Back Squats
- Walking Lunges
- Leg Extensions
- Russian Twists
Tuesday: Upper Body
- Bench Press
- Pull Ups
- Shoulder Press
- Bicep Curls
Wednesday: Active Recovery Ride Go for an easy spin to promote blood flow and recovery from hard training days. Keep intensity low.
- Front Squats
- Step Ups
- Hip Thrusts
- Calf Raises
Friday: Upper Body and Core
- Bent Over Row
- Tricep Extensions
- Paloff Press
Saturday: Long Endurance Ride Spend extended time in the saddle after lighter training week to build endurance.
Sunday: Rest Day Let your body fully recover with no structured training. Stretch, hydrate, eat well.
Adding weight lifting provides undeniable benefits for cyclists from increased speed and power to injury prevention if performed correctly. Choose compound exercises that target your legs, glutes, core, and upper body for 2-4 sets of 5-15 reps, allowing for adequate rest between sessions. Schedule lifts strategically around rides to stimulate strength and muscular adaptation without hindering on-bike performance.
- Use squats, deadlifts and lunges to build cycling power
- Prevent injury through joint stability training
- Focus on technique over weight
- Balance hard training days with easier ones
With some planning and consistency, a proper resistance program helps any cyclist ride faster while staying healthy. Ultimately by building total body strength, you improve sustainable power over long distances.
How many times per week should I lift weights?
Aim for 2 full body sessions, taking 1-2 rest days in between to allow proper muscular recovery and prevent overtraining.
Will weights make me “bulky” and slower on my bike?
No – when combined properly with cycling, strength training builds lean muscle without unnecessary mass. Increased power more than offsets minimal weight gain.
What if I already have an injury?
Talk with your physical therapist or doctor before beginning to create a tailored program that works around existing limitations to support safe recovery.
Should I do cardio or ride on lifting days?
Avoid long rides or separate cardio sessions on the same days. Warm up and cool down rides of 30-60 mins max can aid recovery on strength days.
How can I avoid a plateau?
Add small amounts of weight each strength phase, modify rest periods, superset opposing muscle exercises, change your rep speed or range, and use advanced lifting methods like dropsets, pyramids and partials.