Reader Question: Why Should Cyclists Train Like Weight Lifters?

Should Cyclists Train Like Weight Lifters? - Image by Eric McGregor

Why do you recommend cyclists to to train like weight lifters (few reps)? Wouldn’t be better to train for strength endurance with 8, 12 or more reps?

Maintaining a low body weight is essential in both road cycling and mountain bike (Watts per Kilogram), since carrying extra pounds (dead weight) decrease your performance. That is same situation for a weight lifter competing in a weight class. If the weight class is

It is correct that the rep range is often used in powersports, but the people who are really interested in additional body mass (body builders) work much more in the rep range from 5 to 12.

Sets of few reps apply very little damage to the muscle fibres (protein degradation). This damage is normally one of the parameters responsible for stimulating the muscle fibres to grow. By avoiding this protein degradation we can minimize the stimulus to hypertrophy. Also there is a couple of other ways to minimize or completely avoid additional body mass but still getting stronger.

If you decide to strength train this winter, I will highly recommend you to read my series about how you can get stronger without adding additional muscle mass.

Ps. It’s not certain that cyclists have to lift weights at all. Most riders will benefit more from extra bike training.

5 comments… add one
  • ” It’s not certain that cyclists have to lift weights at all. Most riders will benefit more from extra bike training.”
    Doesn’t it seem reasonable that increasing one’s strength and power would contribute to better sprinting and improved ability to tolerate multiple high tempo attacks? Furthermore, time away from the bike in the off season might be a welcomed change.
    Just this weekend one of my athletes took 4th place out of forty in a local cyclocross race. He lapped 20 riders. He hadn’t been on a bike since last fall. His only training was strength and metabolic conditioning workouts and twice weekly runs. And no, he didn’t gain weight.

  • Peter – If you have read some of my previous posts about strength training you would know that I normally recommend cyclists to lift weights in the off-season. Still, there is no evidence for (or against) this recommendation.

    In theory it’s easy to argument that strength training is a great solution for cyclists in the off season. The major problem is that it’s not proven in scientific studies that you actually get better results than endurance training only.

    One of the biggest problems for these scientific studies is that they are done at untrained people and the study group is usually small. That makes it rather difficult to prove a significant difference between endurance training only versus endurance training combined with weight lifting. My best guess is that strength training does make a difference and it is, at least in theory, possible to prove it with a larger study group. But the difference between including strength training or not, is obviously not the most important factor when it comes to overall performance in road races. Thus, it is very difficult to recommend you to either go to the gym or spend an extra hour on the bike. In both cases you will probably improve your overall performance level. It is important to notice that even though studies about strength training does not produce significant gains in overall cycling performance, it is very likely that there is a difference.

    Your story with the rider who finished 4th illustrates the above. He would probably have done at least the same result if he had spend the same time training on his bike as he had spend time weight lifting. πŸ™‚

  • Jesper,

    I would venture that time off the bike post season would provide a welcomed mental and physical respite. It is not possible to develop a balanced body if all one does is ride. Sooner or later those imbalances gained from chronic performance of one motion will cause the body to break down and performance to suffer.

    Also, I don’t think the number of reps is the issue. More important than rep number is exercise selection, technique, and intensity. Thus competent coaching and supervision is crucial.

  • “Also, I don’t think the number of reps is the issue”

    Nevertheless that was the question… πŸ˜‰

  • Hi,

    Here is the proof πŸ™‚

    Bent’s phd research.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19960350

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