Competitive cyclists may want to learn how to strength train so they can improve their performance in the coming season. A weight training program specifically designed for a cyclist will be different from those for other purposes. The exercises are done largely with free weights and come in 5 phases. These phases are done in a specific order: transitional, hypertrophy, basic strength, power and finally the maintenance phase. The first 4 phases will last 4 to 6 weeks and the final phase is done throughout the regular cycling season. Read on to learn about how to strength train for cyclists.
This is the phase that helps the muscles and ligaments prepare for the new stress of weight training. This type of exercise is different than cycling and involves different stresses. Any athlete who skips this phase is more likely to sustain an injury because the muscles are not prepared to lift a lot of weight yet. During the transition phase the athlete will lift weights 3 times a week with at least one day of rest between each session. This will allow the body to repair any minor muscle injuries that occur during training.
Cyclists should start with a weight that allows them to perform 15 to 20 repetitions of the exercise for one or two sets. Different exercises may have very different weights and each session should include exercises for both the upper and lower body. This stage is to help the body prepare for more weight later. For the first week each exercise is performed for only one or two sets. During the second week the same exercises are performed for three or four repetitions. Once the athlete is able to perform the exercise for four sets of 15 or 20 the weight is increased slightly and the pattern is repeated. This will create a transition phase of 6 weeks.
This phase is designed to begin to build muscle. Each session should have exercises that work both the upper and lower body. Begin the phase with the weight increased by 25% over the ending weight of the transitional phase. For example, if a 12 pound weight was used during a specific exercise in the transitional phase, a 15 pound weight will be used in this phase. Start the phase with 8 to 12 repetitions for two sets. Perform the weight training three times a week. The second week, add one set to each exercise. Continue to add one set each week until four sets of 12 repetitions are performed for a week. The body is now ready to move on to the basic strength stage.
This phase will require four sessions each week. Two sessions will focus on the upper body and two sessions will focus on the lower body. The weight being used should be slightly heavier than the weigh used at the end of the hypertrophy phase. Exercises should be performed with only five reps, but repeat them five times. Each week increase the number of reps until 10 reps, then increase the weight and go back to five reps. This phase should last four to six weeks.
The power phase is much like the hypertrophy phase in the amount of weight being lifted. The difference is in the way each exercise is done. The emphasis now is on speed. Do three or four sets of each exercise with 10 to 15 repetitions for each set. Each repetition is done with an emphasis on speed, while maintaining proper form. Lower body exercises that mimic natural biking positions should be used so that the legs are forced to practice quick movements with the weights. This will translate into faster movements on a bike.
This is the final phase of strength training before cycling season begins and should continue through the entire cycling season. Using the same weights as used during the transitional phase, the cyclists should continue weight training once or twice a week to maintain the muscle strength that was achieved during the off season.
Cyclists should consult with a weight training professional to learn how to do specific exercises properly. Using the correct form will decrease the likelihood of injury. Some exercises that will help the lower body include leg extensions, leg curls, squats, lunges and calf raises. Exercises for the upper body include the bench press, one arm row, shoulder press, pull up, tricep press and concentrated curls. Exercises for the torso or core muscles include back extensions, roman chair leg raises and crunches. A combination of several of each of these exercises will create a well-rounded strength training program for any cyclist.