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

56 comments… add one
  • Glen Link

    Another question, what about upper body, arms for example, is there strengthening I should do there too? Obviously it does not directly help spin the peddles, but just wondering.


  • Henry Link

    Hi there,

    Before I get to the point of my questions, I’d like to give a run-down regarding myself. Without the boring bits, I’m in my mid-30s and initially started off being morbid obese at 130 kg and then reduced to around 97 after I started cycling from 2008 on-wards. Obviously, my overall aim is to lose weight and get back to a normal desired BMI range.

    I ride approximately 3 or so days a week commuting to and fro to work at medium to high intensity (20 km @ 40 to 50 minutes per ride) with 70 to 95 cadence and HR Zone 1 to 2 (110-140 bpm) and during the last 8 months or so I have slowly started to incorporate some strength training exercises and especially squats with a home gym set up. Having to spend at least 45-60 minutes up to 3 times a week doing upper and lower body exercises to tone such as:

    – 4x 12-15 reps (Flat position Bench press – 20 kg)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Inverted Row)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Dumbbell Shoulder press – 10 kg each)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Tricep Dips with Chair)
    – 4x 30 reps (Seated Calve Raises – 1x 20 Kg weight plate on knees)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Bicep Curl Bar – 20 kg)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Bent over Curl Bar – 20 kg)
    – 4x 30 reps (Kettlebell Calve Raises – 30 kg)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Deadlifts – 20 kg)
    – 4x 12-15 reps (Squats – 25 kg, not ATG version)

    These exercises are normally done in this order, sometimes it may vary but generally after my rides, after of which I take a 5mg teaspoon of micronised creatine for a quick recovery. I would not consider myself to be an elite cyclist, but I guess to a certain extent I am looking at toning and developing my lower leg muscles, particularly the calves and the quadroceps. Am I doing too much, not enough?

    My weight has stayed about the same, but I believe I have put on some muscle and increased strength. To a certain point, I feel a lot better than before; but is this the wrong way if my aim is to achieve my BMI goals?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Andy Link

    Hi Jesper,

    Thank you for sharing such a usefull program. I have a few questions if you don’t mind. You recommend to do some cycling directly after weight training, which will help the muscles in the motor learning phase. Which is the better way to ride, spinning lightly or push a considerably heavier gear? And what is the best duration to do so?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Louis Tate Link

    Hi there, I just started this workout today (I’m doing tuesday thursday instead of monday thursday) i have added in some flexibility and core stuff and am also spinning twice a week aswell as club riding at the weekend, i should also mention that i cycle to and from work. I like the workout but wondering about a few things: firstly what effect would it have if i did all the freeweight stuff first (squat, bench, dead)? (just for practicalities and machine availability) also can i replace the deadlift with a powerclean as i want to get more upper body stuff in there. What would you reccommend for weight progression, should i find a challenging weight and stick with it or should I constantly be pushing to lift a higher weight? One last thing, i want to do an upper body session on sunday so my legs get rested but so i can work on upper body strength a bit more, what sort of exercises would you advise?

    thanks, LT

  • Sebastiano Link

    I have noticed that Louis’ question is still unanswered.
    My two cents, if I may:

    – if you stick with the plan and actually squat and deadlift, the back side of your torso will get good stimulus. Additionally, chin ups complete the top/side part. Caution with chin ups as, believe it or not, they may negatively affect your aerodynamics.
    – moving to the flip side (front), again the lower part will be poked for good by squat and DL. But if you want to throw in something more, then bench and press (standing military press, FRONT press 😉 ). Same criteria as top of the page.

    I trust this helps!


  • jill Link

    I don’t race bikes. I just love to ride a lot. If I incorporate this plan into my week, how should I adjust my riding? (Days per week, duration, hilly vs flat, etc)

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