I have seen a lot of strength training programs for cyclists on the internet, but most of them are of a very poor quality. It is obvious that many coaches are good at endurance training, but lack experience and knowledge about strength training.
I have a feeling that many of these coaches do not know how the neuromuscular system works and how it adapts to the weight lifting.
Common mistakes in strength training programs
1. Non-functional exercise
It is important to know that neuromuscular adaptations are closely related to the specific exercises you do. You should try to do exercises that have a movement similar to pedal strokes. Avoid leg extensions and do some quality squats instead.
To be honest, if you are not injured it is a waste of time to do leg extensions.
2. Too many exercises
If you do the right exercises you can train the whole body with only a few different lifts.
When you get familiar with strength training, I recommend you start learning the techniques for lifting free weights. I want you to lift free weights because you train more balance and are able to train more explosive.
My favourite exercise for cyclists is definitely squat. I agree when other cyclists tell me that squat is king. That exercise will make a difference in your view of strength training.
Before you do some heavy squats you should let an instructor introduce you to the correct technique. It is good to be supervised in the first couple of training sessions.
3. Too few sets
When you were 4 years old and tried to ride your bike for the very first time, you did not try only once to master the discipline. You tried over and over again. What you did was to learn your neuromuscular system how to ride a bike.
When you lift weights you want to adapt your neuromuscular system to lift heavy iron. Just as you needed many attempts to manage your bike, you will take advantage of many sets in the weight lifting gym.
4. Too many reps
When you are a cyclist you are interested in strength gains, not weight gains. I will recommend you use a rep range of 3-6. With this rep range you will develop strength without gaining extra body weight. I have seen a lot of programs that would be better for body builders training for hypertrophy, using a rep range of 8-15.
There are also some coaches that believe that it is possible to build strength endurance in the gym. They recommend sets of up to 100 reps. I do not agree with these coaches.
If you want to train for strength endurance, you should do it on your bike. Again we are talking about specificity.
5. Train to failure too often
Many cyclists believe in the ‘No Pain, No Gain’ attitude. I like the spirit too, but it is not the best way to increase performance in strength training. Your neuromuscular system does not like failure training and if you keep doing it, your strength gains will end at a plateau.
I recommend you finish your sets at least 1 or 2 reps from failure.