12 week strength program for cyclists

Here is a very effective strength training program for cyclists. The program is based on multi joint exercises with free weights, which indicate that this program is not for beginners. If you are not familiar with lifting free weights, consider training the same exercises in a machine. Ask a fitness instructor in your training gym.

When using this strength program:

• Warm up before lifting
• Never train to failure
• Use as heavy weights as possible (still no failure training)
• Be explosive in the concentric phase
• Rest periods of at least 2 minutes between sets

Week 1 & 2 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 3×12 (technique)
Leg press: 2×12
Leg curl: 2×12
Bench press: 2×12
Chinups: 2×8
Dead lift: 3×5 (technique)

Week 3 & 4 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 4×8
Leg press: 2×8
Leg curl: 2×8
Bench press: 2×8
Chinups: 2×5
Dead lift: 4×4

Week 5 & 6 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 4×6
Leg press: 2×6
Leg curl: 2×6
Bench press: 2×6
Chinups: 3×3
Dead lift: 5×3

Week 7 & 8 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 5×5
Leg press: 3×5
Leg curl: 3×6
Bench press: 3×5
Chinups: 3×3
Dead lift: 5×3

Week 9 & 10 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 2×5 + 5×3
Leg press: 3×5
Leg curl: 3×5
Bench press: 3×3
Chinups: 3×3
Dead lift: 5×3

Week 11 & 12 (Mondays and Thursdays)
Squat: 8×3
Leg press: 3×5
Leg curl: 3×5
Bench press: 3×3
Chinups: 3×3
Dead lift: 5×3

59 comments… add one
  • Steffen

    Hi,

    nice programm cause it targets the maximum power, which is the base to all other forces in cycling. The only thing i am missing is, when you implement biking. I read 2 different things about it. First seperate leg training in the gym from biking or jump on the bike/spinningbike et cetera directly after workout.

    Personaly i am used to hit the bike at the same day or directly after hard workout with weights for the legs. What would you recommend?

    thx
    Steffen

  • I normally recommend to do some cycling directly after weight training. I believe that this helps the muscles in the motor learning phase. A very important factor when we discuss weight training, is how much of the strength we can convert to power on the bike. E.g. Leg extensions are not in the program because they are almost useless when trying to convert them to power on the bike.

  • dean

    Do you think Mondays and Thursdays the best days to integrate this strength program into one of your cycling schedules? What are your thoughts on the recovery aspects of lifting weights on Monday when the cycling schedule calls for a recovery day? Any advice on finding a good balance with simultaneous weight and cycling training would be helpful. Thank you.

  • My choice of Mondays and Thursdays are just to illustrate that you should not train on two following days. Have at least one day without strength training before you enter the gym again.

    I normally recommend strength and cycling on the same days. Make a short warm up, do the strength training and finish your training schedule with some cycling. Then you have enough time for a day off or a recovery day.

    Happy training!

  • Dale

    This is to be done in one workout day? With heavy weights? I have lifted for over thirty years and this to me looks prety dangerous to someone not used to heavy training.

  • Dale,

    It is a 12 week strength program – not a program for one single day.

    /Jesper

  • Kristian

    Great routine! The best one I’ve found on the internet so far! I especially like the fact that all exercises are functional, i.e. mimics moving patterns used on the bike!

    I have two questions though:

    1 – Why no additional core (I’m thinking abs/hip flexors etc.) and calf exercises? I know you work these muscle groups when you squat and deadlift, but is that sufficient?

    2 – Heavy deadlifting twice a week seems like overkill. I have been doing weights for several years, and my experience tells me the once a week is enough if you use heavy weights. Your comments on this?

    Actually, I’m testing your program at the moment (week 5 as we speak), and besides the thing with the deadlift, It’s working excellent. I solved the problem by cutting back the weight drastically and going really explosively into the lift, and now it works just fine!

    Cool site in general btw, really looking forward to the training programs for beginners!

  • Kristian,

    Thanks for commenting.

    1) I believe that squats and deadlifts are sufficient or actually much better than traditional abs. I think it is a question about functionality.

    It is okay to do additional exercise for core, but normally I don’t include it in the programs for my riders.

    2) It’s a myth that you can’t train deadlift more than once a week. Avoid failure training and don’t even get close to failure training. Then there should be no problem and you will still gain a lot of strength.

    Good luck with your training! 🙂

    Jesper

  • Ozgur

    We know that high reps cause hypertrophy and weight gain. But yet you say, in this program, that until week 7, we need 12,8 and 6 reps (which are considered high). Wouldnt this cause hypertrophy?

    Instead of 12 reps, why not 5 or 6 reps with same weight? And why do you advocate so many sets? I heard that Russian trainers do only 2 sets. Remember im just asking to learn; am not questioning you 🙂

  • Diego

    Hi,

    Should you mantain the same weight for each day? In other words, you have squats 3 x 12. Can you increase the weight every time, or you prefer to do all of them with a weight that you can amanage without going into failure mode?

    Regards,

  • Frankie

    Hi I am just wondering what do u mean by 3×12 is it 3 set of 12 reps?? Please help sorry for my ignorance im not that good when it come to this stuff. Thanks

  • janet

    What can I substitute for chin-ups? I cannot even do 1….

  • Janet – Get an assistant to support you. If your assistant lifts just a few kgs it will make a bigg difference for you. Otherwise try lateral pulldowns.

    Frankie – yes, 3 set of 12 reps.

    Diego – you might adjust if necessary. The first couple of weeks are meant as introduction to the lifting technics.

  • Simon

    Hi,

    Is there anything you can do instead of dead lifting?

    Thanks.

  • V45

    This is a really good schematic

    I like how every set and repetition differs from day to day nulling muscle memory.

    Another plus what i like is these exercise are all COMPOUND exercises and not isolate, hell the squat alone is a full body work out. @ Simon Weighted lunges and squats is a good enough substitute. If extremely eager farmers walk would be great.

    I LOVE how every exercise mentions Squat, many people havent even heard or know how to do a squat… and these are the people that are bicep warriors.

    For chin ups lol if you are over 160 (male) doing 1 is pretty still damn amazing if you can pull it off.

  • Simon

    Thanks for you reply.
    How many sets and reps should i do if i do the lunges instead of the dead lift?

  • Shay

    Hi!
    Thank you so much for posting this!!! This is so helpful. You have a really great site! I am a cyclist and a rower and this is great for both.
    I am currently training a 4X15 rep program for 6 weeks and I want to transition to this program because my goal is to inc strength without increasing muscle mass and weight – I am actually trying to decrease weight…So my question is if I switch to this program from my current 5 day a week 4X15 weight training to this will I see weight decrease or have I already messed it all up?
    Thank you!

  • Christian

    Hi,
    a very basic question – what is the difference between leg curls and leg extensions? Thank you.

  • drew

    Does’nt this 2 min rest between sets make for a really long gym session. What I mean is 6 exercises 3 reps each equals 36 min of rest time + all the lifting time.

    Can you superset these? Can you do one set of each excersise all in a row, then rest after that? On my bike for two hours is fun, but I preffer to get out of the gym after 30 to 40 min.

    Also how do you know your lifting correctly and not to failure? I’ve always just lifted till I can’t lift it anymore.

  • Devin

    How do you incorporate a strength training program like this into a winter training schedule, such as the 12 wk one you provide? It probably is counter productive to substitute one of the off days for a day in the gym?

  • Matt

    I’m looking to use a training program like this before track season this/next year, but i would like to bulk up a little bit as well. What would i need to change to help build muscle mass?

    I noticed there is no calf workouts, would it be helpful to add calf exercises or not?

    Also someone was saying about not being able to do chin ups, usually lat pull downs are a good substitute for them, is it the same in this case?

  • Lars

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    I have started the strength training a bit early (normally you would wait for late fall). Is there a recommended way to extend the program? Would you just continue the program for the last weeks 11+12 and maybe do them for another month?
    Another problem: I am already maxed out in my gyms leg press sled – should I just keep the reps low and focus more on the squads or maybe do more reps to keep building strength?

  • @Matt – Pull down is a good substitute exercise for a chin up. Calf exercises can be added but they are not so specific in regard to the cycling move pattern.

    @Lars – If you have no heavier weights available you should focus on explosiveness. If you lift the weight as explosive as possible in the concentric phase (lifting phase) you can improve your performance with weights down to 65% of 1RM. Yet, the most effective exercise for you is squat.

    Having more time for strength training is only an advantage. Make some kind of progression (and periodization) of the extra time available.

  • Marcus

    i think this is a quite interesting program and overall well thought out, but am wondering about the amount of sets towards the end.

    8 sets of 3 reps, is a lot of sets. isn’t this quite different from what even an olympic weight lifter would do? if so, why?

    is the number of sets a way to mimic the amount of times one needs to sprint in a race?

    thanks!

  • mike stearns

    Hi Jesper

    I am starting this program tomorrow 1-10-11, but i have a ?. After the 12 weeks is up, do i start the program all over, or is that it just 12 weeks ?. Thank you Mike Stearns

  • Most cyclists use strength training 3 to 4 months Per season and that’s it. If you want to continue for a longer periode you can use the principles mentioned in this training program for inspiration.

  • mike stearns

    Hi Jesper

    Thank you for your reply. I have another ? for you. Do i only Strength train Two days a week , like you have listed, or should i Train more days with the weights ?. Thank you Mike

  • Dustin

    Hi there, Just wondering if doing the workouts Monday and Friday would be okay or if they should be a little closer?

    Thanks

  • Stallone

    Very cool training plan..

  • Michael

    I just started this program today. I ride my bike a lot (road & cross country) and work out during the week. I was looking for a work out program that concentrates more on putting energy and strength into my cycling. This one seems like it will benefit me lots.

  • Nick

    I’m currently doing something similar but you’re suggestions will make a nice enhancement to my program …

    One question though.

    I have traded my normal cycling interval training during the weekdays for my two weights sessions (plus one run to maintain some cardio), I still do a long hills ride on Saturday morning (120km plus). So far I am finding mixed results with the Saturday ride. Sometimes I feel stronger but mostly I feel like it’s much much harder. I am assuming this is due to recovery time after working the large leg muscles … but last week I did not have any gym time and my ride was a killer (and only 85km) what would be the full recovery time after doing heavy squats and leg press? Once I finish this weights program how long would it take for my legs to fully recover and be at their best for the bike?

  • thomas

    Tomorrow I’ll start the program !

  • Daniel

    Hi,

    Just wondering why you haven’t included power cleans? They’re a great compound exercise, which take the standard deadlift to another level. Could you perform one day with deadlifts and one day with power cleans?

    I was also wondering why leg curls were listed vs an exercise like rigid-legged deadlifts, as the leg curls seem like an exercise which isolates the hamstrings too much. I know that leg curls mimic the pedalstroke moreso than RLD’s, but if you’re jumping on an exercise bike for active recovery at the end of the workout, does it really matter? I just find that with RLD’s i can work my hamstrings alot harder than with leg curls.

    Would love your opinion on these points!

  • thomas

    first training was good
    How much kg should a good cyclist have to squat?

  • thomas

    Now just done first week
    also trained twice this week
    exactly as the scheme, i only didn’t do BP en chin-ups
    because i train my core twice a week…

    after training full 30′ recovery ride @ high rpm
    and done soms short 10″ powersprint; for translate the neural power even more to the bike

    felt great!!

    I think i will follow the whole program but only once a week
    i’ll do a neural power training on the bike, some short sprints…

  • Setarkos

    As far as I’m informed more than 4 repitions cause hypertrophy thus muscle growth and capillary as well as mitochondria damage. Hence it is counter productive for cyclists.
    Only maximal force-training MIGHT be useful. Although max force is just a side effect, improving neuro-pathways is what helps a cyclist.

    All this does of course NOT apply to core/stability workouts.

  • thomas

    yes but it’s difficult to begin immediately with lifting weights more dan 85-90% of you maximum
    after the 8-12 reps, the reps decreases also to 6 en less which the best for neural power

  • Setarkos

    Debatable but okay.
    I would suggest progressing to even fewer reps (1-2) at whatever you can lift.
    Also you can start with few reps at medium intensity and only increase intensity to not risk injury in the beginning.
    I think anything over 5 reps is counter productive.

  • thomas

    ok, i’ll do this week still with 8 reps( squat en leg press) en 4 reps (deadlift)

    i think i won’t do the weeks with 6 reps en go to less reps (4 tot 1-2 ass you say)

  • thomas

    AS you say , sorry :p

  • daniel

    when you have to race on May (big cyclist event-road race) when it is appropriate to stop weight lifting? Usually most cyclists stop february, if you dont have many races until May what do you do ? you stil training in the gym?

    thank you 🙂

  • Jonathan Dunlop

    This is great, as an elite cyclist for several years and a greeny in the field of Peronal Training, i have been trying to workout the best routines for cyclists (as im focussing on sports specific PT’ing). I agree that aslong as you dont reach failure, heavy weights is fine twice or more a week, aslong as you are recovering between workouts and cardio after weight training really does the trick 🙂

    So guys, this guy is a professional, he has willingly submitted this on the internet, and he deserves the credit!!

    Thanks for the help and advice, Jesper 🙂

    only problem is that a lot of endurance athletes dont believe in gym work until they realise that all the pro’s do it 😉

    – Jon

  • Can any of this be achieved using dumbbells? It seems that I can do the squats with dumbbells but not sure how to incorporate Leg press/curls without equipment or a gym membership.

    Any alternatives to Leg press/curls without machines or benches?

  • Maurice Bellert

    Hi,
    I have a question regarding on the bike strength training. As a cyclist I know that doing hill repeats on a 10-12 min climb with a gradient of 3-4% using a gear that allows a cadence of between 60-70 rpm is a good form of strength-endurance training.

    What are your thoughts of doing it in aero-bars with the saddle only 6-7 cm behind the BB like a TT position. Is it too much stress on the knee? Given it will fall 2-3 cm ahead of the ball of the foot in the 3 o’clock 9 o’clock position.

  • Glen

    These all maybe dumb questions but I have never lifted before.

    What does “Be explosive in the concentric phase” mean?

    Also “heavy weights”, is that a weight that I can easily do all the sets/reps or something that is difficult but yet I can still do all the sets/reps? What is the best way to find the right weight to start with?

    What is the proper form or a dead lift?

    Thanks, I am looking forward to getting stronger.
    I will typically not have someone to spot me would that be an issue?

    Can you

  • Glen

    I had another question:

    My lower right back gets really sore when I ride hard, what can I do to hel[p get rid of that or at least delay the pain as long as possible. Besides spinning and easier gear 🙂

Leave a Comment