If you have decided to enter the weight lifting gym this winter, implementing squats in your training program is difficult to avoid. This exercise is the best way to increase your leg strength in a very functional way. If only have the time to do one exercise, please make some good squats. In a cyclist’s strength training program, squatting should be the bread and butter. Actually squat is often mentioned as ”˜the king of exercises’.
Heavy weights matters
Well, first of all you have to reconsider how you can make your muscles stronger. The short answer is that you have to lift heavy weights frequently. If the weights aren’t heavy enough, they will not force the muscles to make neural adaptations nor hypertrophy. You can read more about neural adaptations in the post: How a muscle develops force. The good thing about squats is that it is possible to work with heavy weights, which put an enormous stress on legs, calves, hamstrings, gluteus, abdominal and back muscles. As you can see most of your body is working in coordination to manage to lift the weight. Can you imagine what this exercise will do to your overall strength? You will get a great boost not only for your leg extensors (m. quadriceps) but also several other important muscles at the same time.
As I previously described in a post about typical mistakes, non-functional exercises are very difficult to convert to something useful in your cycling. This is because strength training is a kind of teaching for your nervous system. I will give an example: If you compare an elite tennis player with a pro golfer: Who will win the match if these elite sport people play badminton? That would probably be the tennis player, because tennis is a racket sport that has similar movements like badminton. Thus, the tennis player gets an advantage because his nervous system is optimized for movements that are similar to the ones in badminton. It is easier for him to convert his skills from tennis to badminton, than it is for the golfer to start playing a racket sport.
Squatting is a lifting style that is close related to pedalling and therefore gives you the best opportunities to convert strength gains made in the weight lifting gym to a better cycling performance. On the other hand, commonly used exercises as leg extensions (or even worse leg adductions or abductions) are single joint movements that are very difficult to convert to cycling power. Leg extensions should be used only by cyclists with injuries and otherwise left available for regular people that don’t know the power of squats.