Strength training for Cyclists

I remember 1996 as the year that my cycling took a major career hit when my left knee packed in.

Slight scoliosis resulted in pelvic rotation while sitting on the bike and left me with my left knee driving out to the left and right knee almost banging off the top tube! End story – bye bye cartilage in both knees and knee caps.

Whilst undergoing physio for the knees I had to keep moving to stop myself going crazy. I remember telling myself it was a huge gamble to start training with weights and risk getting heavier! I know, crazy mentality but atypical of most cyclists. Already I was a 69kg heavy cyclist (hard to avoid at 6ft 2!) and the thought of being heavier kind of scared me considering the climbs in some races. I wasn’t sure what else I could do to stay fit but I knew the resistance training would help me stay strong on the bike, whenever that was going to be again.

This ‘anti-weights training’ rational is a common thought most cyclists will agree to and along with taking time away from the bike, it’s a hard sell. But, timing the inclusion of strength training will benefit every cyclist. Let’s just list the benefits of including strength training pre and post racing reason (if you race) or as a weekly plan for recreational cyclists.

Benefits:

  1. A stronger body has better tolerance to fatigue
  2. Strength training will help resolve muscular imbalances in the limbs and torso
  3. A stronger midsection will reduce the likelihood of back pain on the bike
  4. A stronger body overall improves efficiency out of the saddle during sprints and climbs

Whilst it may be tempting to focus on squats and leg press etc for cyclists leg strength, there are better options that in turn present much lower risk of injury.

Fatigue is the cyclists greatest enemy on the bike, well, in addition to big hills, crazy drivers and mad dogs. Fatigue hits especially hard after short efforts, like hills, sprinting and tackling a headwind. During these higher efforts the muscles need to recruit as many motor units to get as much of the muscles working as possible. Strength training in its simplest form acts as neurological switch. Muscles won’t necessarily grow to become stronger, the brain learns to adapt to the stress of strength training by recruiting a greater number of muscle fibres per contraction – hopefully that read as simple as I see it!!

To bring upon this adaptation, frequent strength training should be practiced with sub maximum efforts with short sets of specific specific movements proven to help cyclists. The volume you’ll be glad to read, should also be low. We want adaptation but not at the expense of feeling battered and sore heading out on the bike. So a minimum effective dose is applied to acquire a beneficial outcome. Let’s round this off to two 20 – 30 minute weights sessions a week – not much you’ll agree.

In this post I want to share a few exercises that may form a starting point. They focus on tying together your bodies core – everything from shoulders to hips and I’ll include a great leg exercise. Why the focus on the core? Your core or let’s just refer to the torso, is the centre of what ties your body together. A strong torso will allow you to transfer more power throughout your body when needed. Imagine trying to sprint without use of the upper body and arms – pretty useless you’ll agree. The body works as a complete unit to deliver power to the pedals.

The following are of course just examples of what is included in a more complete program. These three movements don’t address individual weaknesses (impossible to do on a blog post!) so if concerned, just check out the videos for reference only.

Oh, and yes, after a year of weight training I came back so much stronger than before, and yep, the extra few kilos on my frame didn’t hinder anything…. go figure!

The Birddog

 

Rocking Push Ups

 

The Single Leg Deadlift  

 

A New Program for Cyclists 

This post and the previous are a brief glimpse into a new program for fellow cyclists that will be released this year.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can often be lost with large numbers of participants.

The program will provide more personalised routines that will develop great on the bike strengths whilst addressing personal weaknesses and limitations.

The program will include the best warm ups, recovery routines and of course the periodised strength plan. Each and every exercise will be taught with detail, not just following demonstrations. The plan can be personalised further by taking into consideration frequency and time available to the individual.

If you are interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this form too to get put onto the early registration list… no financial commitment is required at this time of course.

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Send off the wee form below.

Mobility Moves for Cyclists

Cycling can be a liberating experience. The wind through your hair, the freedom to roam the countryside and the unquestionably healthy exercise that it provides, makes it an easy addiction. However, nothing takes all the pros away like aches and pains.

Many cyclists will report how their best plans were irritated or cut short by back, knee or neck pain. 

Yes, cycling is great for you but let’s be honest, the cycling posture probably isn’t helping you.

In early 2018 I’ll be opening up sessions for cyclists who want to nip this irritation in the butt with a simple but effective program that targets both mobility and strength specific to what a cyclist needs.

Cycling will do wonders for your waist line and cardiovascular health but to get the most out of your time on the bike, keeping your body mobile, flexible and free from localised tension is vital. On top of that, developing crucial strengths will help you master your bike on the road and trails and help prevent fatigue.

In this first of two posts I am sharing my top THREE mobility moves to help cyclists stay ache free.

In a follow up post I’ll cover the essential top THREE strength moves. Yes, there are more than three mobility and strength activities to optimise your cycling time, but start with the basics.

 

 

A New Program for Cyclists

This post and the follow up are a brief glimpse of a new program for fellow cyclists that will be released in 2018.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can often be sacrificed with large numbers of participants.

If you are interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this form too to get put onto the early registration list… no commitment is required of course.

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Send off the wee form below.

 

 

Do Cyclists really need a strength program?

‘Investing in your health and the future of your body is one of the most powerful commitments you can make with yourself.’

Whist this a great mantra to live by generally, it is also incredibly important to keep in mind when you’re a specialist. Like cyclists for example.

I was once upon a time an immensely dedicated cyclist. It became my career for a while until an untimely injury took me out of action. To some degree, looking after the health of my body may have prolonged my career but, oh if only I knew then what I know now… sigh!

Cyclist may spend anywhere from a few hours per week to up to 25+ hours per week on the bike. This specialisation is what get us addicted to our shiny steeds but specialisation also results in imbalanced physiology. Essentially, whilst some muscles become awesome

IMG_1519

That’s me at the front 🙂

at their task, other muscles become overworked and underworked. Addressing this latter point forms the bulk of the overarching intentions of an intervention strength and mobility plan.

Now, a strength program to a cyclist may invoke mental images of Arnie in his hay-day, all lumpy and swole and spending hours in the gym pumping iron. Maybe a slight exaggeration but to the inexperienced it’s an assumption that to get stronger, it will require quite an investment of time.

Actually, the kind of program a cyclist may need to help maintain the balance in their physiology can start to offer benefits with as little as two 30 minute session per week, or less. So no, you don’t need to become a protein drink swilling meathead. ‘Phew, you can relax’!

An effective program for a cyclist would start off addressing the torso. The torso or what some may refer to as the core is what ties together our hips and our shoulders. Pictures those long bike rides, a hill climb or a dreaded head-wind… it’s no longer our legs that are doing all the hard work. The upper body all of a sudden has to join in the party. But if the torso is unconditioned or fatigued, it’s not going to play ball and then that’s when we realise our shortcomings as the lower back and arms get tired. Watch an experienced and well rounded cyclist take on a hill, a climb or any stressful situation and it’s a thing of grace or beauty almost. The whole body moves fluidly to get the job done.  Compare that to an unconditioned cyclist who seems to wobbling, ducking and diving to wrestle their bike along the road…. not very graceful looking is it?

If we were to take a minimalist effective strength program for a cyclist, what would it look like?

Without going into too much information or specifics (we’re all special snowflakes so that’s hard to write anyway for the masses) here’s a list of what would need to be considered.

Mobility:

The rather crunched up posture of a cyclist is a necessity for a bike ride, but can leave the body feeling a bit stiff in all the wrong places. An effective training session would kick-off addressing this. The movements in particular would offer a ‘reset’ of sorts to unwind all the tight corners of the torso, hips, upper back and neck in particular. The Original Strength program designed by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert is a fantastic solution in this case. The system they promote uses the fundamental movements of a developing baby to toddler to child to address what we as adults should have retained and maintained over the years. The rolling, rocking and crawling moves prove a real gem at both loosening what up tightens you and switching on what needs to be activated.

Yes I am biased as we use this daily in the gym but only because it works and it’s so easy it looks like it shouldn’t work, but it does, so there!

Stability:

Strength training for the most part is a process of getting the grey matter in your head communicating better with the body to recruit more muscle to do a task with more ease. It’s not the process of growing muscle although that can happen (if you’re not careful haha). When the brain muscle communication is swifter the body reacts better and hence reacts to instability more readily. You want a wobbly body on the bike or a stable power-house?

What movements would be used in a routine?

This very much is a personal thing but here goes, a generalised list (with links too):

  • a full body mobility routine as discussed above (Original Strength)
  • single leg knee, hip dominant moves like a lunge or a step up
  • single leg hip, knee dominant moves like a single leg deadlift variation
  • explosive hip dominant movement like a properly taught kettlebell swing or a deadlift
  • abdominal dominant movements like a dead bug, plank variations and loaded carries like farmers walks.
  • Upper body pushing an pulling strength moves but not the bench press! Let’s move on from that.

 

Okay, yes, this is very vague but the specifics of what to choose depends on the individuals level of ability, aches, pains and what is available to use.

Any particular movements don’t need to be taken to maximum efforts, but sustained technique with a moderate level of exertion for as few as 5-10 repetitions for a few sets.

Routines could be laid on over a leisurely 60 mins or could be packaged up into a circuit or into a fun complex to get the session over in as little as 15 mins!!

It may seem a little confusing, I know. I’ve just told you how important it is to get stronger and more mobile yet I’ve not given an exact plan to follow.

Here’s an offer for you

In the new year 2018 I am launching a program just for cyclists that will focus on all that I’ve spoke of here. The intention is to offer options of simple one-to-one sessions or small group training sessions for times that suit the busy lives of cyclists. I certainly don’t want to take away from precious bike times, that’s for sure.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can be sacrificed with large numbers.

If you are at all interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this too to get put onto the early registration list… no commitment is required of course.

 

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Let me know using the contact form above.