If you want to be a great cyclist, you have to ride your bike. But it's what you do off the bike that could give you a competitive edge.
We interviewed strength and conditioning expert Mike Schultz on our podcast. Mike, also a cycling coach, said proper strength training could add 7-10 watts to your FTP in one season.
Don't Have A Weak Link
As you ride, small assistance muscles support major muscle groups like the quads. If you neglect training assistance muscles, they'll fatigue before major muscle groups. The result is a loss of efficiency that forces major muscle groups to work harder. All this slows you down.
The best cyclists recognize the body is a system and train all muscles from head to toe.
What Exercises Should You Be Doing?
Aerobic sports like cycling use fuel and oxygen to power your muscles. Well trained cyclists can produce aerobic power for hours.
In contrast, anaerobic sports like sprinting use cellular reactions in the body as a primary source of power. Athletes can produce roughly two minutes of anaerobic power before needing to recover.
Knowing this, cyclists should perform exercises that focus on strengthening their aerobic system. Coach Mike recommends circuit training and 20-25 reps per exercise. This type of training increases your aerobic capacity and helps you clear lactic acid faster. Note: Lactic acid is what causes your muscles to burn while exercising.
To ensure you address all muscles, coach Mike recommends explosive full body exercises. Squats, overhead presses, split jumps, and kettlebell swings are his favorite exercises.
Coach Mike suggests strength training two days per week—one hard day and one easy day. You can add more strength days in the off-season, but know four to five days per week will likely slow you down on the bike.
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Are You Over 40?
Men's testosterone levels drop with age. Because testosterone level rise after exercise, strength training can help regulate this loss.
Both men and women lose bone mass as they age. Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones giving you another reason to strength train.
What About Injury Prevention?
Athletes who do not train their entire body may develop muscle imbalances. These imbalances can alter your movement patterns and in turn, lead to injury. A good strength training program improves muscle balance and movement patterns—preventing injury.
Don't Forget Flexibility
To have proper movement patterns you'll also need a full range of motion throughout your body. As an example, tight hip flexors alter the position of your pelvis and increase your chance of injury.
To remain limber, coach Mike recommends 20 minutes of yoga or general stretching a few times per week.