Are You Doing Strength Training This Winter?

There has been debate on this topic for as long as I can remember. There are arguments on why you should and why you shouldn’t strength train, but even though scientists and top coaches have spend time on this topic for years, there is still no agreement on what is the most optimal winter training for a road cyclist.

The keywords in this discussion are ‘lack of evidence’. This is due to small study groups in the scientific projects. When the medical industry develops new medicine to prevent heart attacks, they can make large randomized trials to show even small, but still significant, differences between different medications. They include thousands of persons in the study and follow them through several years. Thus, the statistical power is much, much higher.

Unfortunately that is simply not possibly with trained cyclists and that is why we will never see any randomized trials that conclude whether strength training makes us better cyclists or not.

Btw. Are you visiting the gym this winter?

11 comments… add one
  • I subscribe to the view that my training for road races and time trials needs to be specific, and that weight training isn’t very specific. It may help me lift my bike on and off the car! However, at the age of 50, it is good for core strength, bones and connective tissue development especially as cycling is a non-load bearing sport. I will start lifting again in November.

  • Thanks for responding to the post.

    In a health perspective, I think most people can benefit from strength training (longer life, better life quality).

  • Diego Link

    I have plans to do my weight lifting, but I intent to follow your advise and do it just for improvement my overall strength. However, I will stay biking during the off-season a lot and do some of the strength exervises in the bike.


  • Gene Link

    Yes, I will be hitting the gym this winter. I am 58, and have been racing/chasing for about 4 years now. I am confident that a weight training program with cycling with increase my overall strength and, coupled with a weight reduction, it should increase my weight-to-power ratio.


  • On the recommendation of a cycling buddy, i decided to switch bikes for the winter time instead of hitting the gym. I’m switching to a track bike for strength training. It also makes my commuting a bit more simple, be it that track bikes require less maintance.


  • Daddy Link

    Hello Jesper!

    Is your 12 week strenght program ok for a 16 yrs old cyclist. Ended season was 22 race days with stage racing too. He trains with powermeter on his bike and has done free weight training in 2 earlier training seasons (mostly easy to medium weights, technique training).

    Are sets with 3-5 reps too hard for 16 yrs old? What would be good level to target to in squat? 8 x 3 x own weight? More than own weight?

    Thanks for your excellent site.

  • Daddy,

    If he has learned proper squatting style, there is no problem in heavy lifts with 3 to 5 reps.

    It is difficult to say what is a realistic goal since I don’t know the rider. Doing squats with 1 x own weight should be realistic for most athetes and I have athetes lifting more than 1½ x own weight, but don’t focus too much on the absolute values. Personally I tell my riders to focus on explosiveness in the lifting phase.

  • Daddy Link

    I think his lifting style is ok and core strenght (abs, obliques and lower back) is good. Mostly I am thinking if his backbone and bones overall are hard enough to do strenght training in bigger loads.

    Thanks for response.

  • patrick Link

    I’m going to lift more this winter. I’ve lifted quite a bit in the past, and I really believe it has helped my sprint in the past as well. Last year, I didn’t lift and I feel like I lacked some explosive power.

    Also, I’ve been racing for 21 years. I think that cycling is both wonderful and horrible for the body after many years. Cycling, by itself, makes one weak and injury prone as we age. Weight lifting can help that. I feel less neck, back, and shoulder pain when I’m physically strong.

    Lastly, I race in the midwest and it’s nearly all crits. I’d much rather be physically strong than super light in this region. I also think it may help one be a bit more robust throughout a long season.

    Just my opinions. Thanks!

  • mike heit Link

    Im 65, ride about 7000-8000 kms/year.I weight lift in the off season plus do water exercises with foam dumbells. My strength is sprints and weakness is boredom after 60 to 80 km rides. I can ride 100-120km rides but do not enjoy them. Im 6 feet 175-180. My goal is be a good roadee from May to October 30 and perhaps a great roadee on 3-4 one week tours of 600 to 800 km tours a year. Mentally, I cannot ride long and hard all year. I need 4 months of nontraing recreation riding in the October to Feb span. This is probably more mind then physical need.

    My routine is 21 lifts of 10 reps then into the pool for 30 minutes. I get my pulse up to 100 before I pump iron. My logic is the body gets damaged with repetive motion issues after a many kms. Riding is all one dimension and over use of quads. We lack lateral strength. I stress building the lower body (from abs down) using leg extension, calf raise, hamstring curls, 45 degree leg machine and the hip machine. My lower body routine empsizing moving the power to parts above the overused lower quads I avoid squats and lunges cause I tend to injure myself. I’m old school -free weight/machine– but the new school of lifting/exercising on the ball etc makes more logic– but at 65, Im not comfortable lifting/straining with an unstable base.

    My upper body isweighted rows, lat pull downs and bench presses (level, decline, incline).
    I use the pool to achievea bit of flexabilty. I never try to achieve aerobobics in a gym as the open road is so much more fun.
    This plan helps my power up hills and 1-2 km sprints. I suspect it helps me if/when I crash. My biking friends ride all year whereas for 4 months im down to 50-100kms/week.

    How do I compare? Subjectivly they can out perform me from Feb to April in 60-80 km rides but I can out sprint/out climb them. Yes, my long rides are very tuff after in Jan-Feb. By May, we are even at 60-80 kms rides but I keep my sprint/climb advantage.


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