Fitness Oct / Nov 2019 – Strength and conditioning for cycling

If you want to improve on your riding, be it on the road or the mountain, you need to do more than just ride your bike.

Many cyclists enlist the assistance of a cycling coach, who designs the athlete’s riding schedule specifically for the races or type of cycling they are doing. This is also structured to meet the athlete’s abilities by using information such as your FTP or VO2 max and heart rate to tell you what zones you need to train in.

In addition to properly structuring an athlete’s riding,there are other areas that can be modified to improve performance such as bike set-up, racing strategies, nutrition and gym work or resistance training. The concept of resistance training may be an intimidating one for riders who may not have previous experience in the gym, due to the fact that there are so many options and differing opinions out there.

Working out in the gym should be no different from the way you would structure your training on a bike. A gym programme should be a well-structured and planned process that follows the same principles of periodisation that you would follow on the bike to improve on strength, power and overall endurance. There is no need to get involved in complex workouts, initially, and pricey equipment, especially when starting out. The ultimate goal should be that the gym is there to supplement and improve your riding and general wellbeing. This is supported by research that has shown there is an improvement in short and long term endurance as well as a positive effect on lactate threshold. In addition to the performance benefits, resistance training could assist in reducing the risk of injury when falling off the bike by strengthening the soft tissues that support the joints as well as building bone density.

Cycling specific resistance training should always start with the basics. If you are not familiar with the gym it is vitally important for you to teach your body how to perform the correct movements to ensure that the correct muscles are activated and thus the goal of the exercises is achieved. A novice in the gym should stay away from the weights to begin with, and do exercises that do not demand as much load on the skeletal structure, but rather require you to concentrate on creating the right movement pattern using body weight resistance or resistance bands. The programme should always ensure adequate progression building on the movement patterns that had been worked on previously.


Here is an example of a basic exercise:

  1. Start with a small step that may
    come to the height of halfway up you
  2. Place one foot on the step and one
    foot off the step while keeping your
    hips even.
  3. Slowly lower the non-weight
    bearing foot down to the ground while
    keeping the heel of the weight bearing
    foot on the step at all times.
  4. As you go down you should get
    the sensation that you are sitting on a
    chair behind you, this means that your
    hips will be traveling backwards and
    that your weight is over your heels.
  5. Make sure that the contact made
    between the ground and the foot that
    is not on the step is very light. Once
    you have made contact you can start
    moving up again, straightening the
    weight baring knee.
  6. It should take three seconds to go
    down and two seconds to come up.

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