Strength Training On The Bike?

“Would it not be more beneficial to simply pushing a large gear (if on a trainer) or doing steep hills. I personally have gotten more out of doing 28% grade repeats for 2 hours then doing any sort of lifting…
Andrew Coggan / Ric Stern seem to think weight training is useless / determintal compared to cycle strength training specificity.”

Definitely an interesting question!

Strength training for cyclists is a controversial topic which I have tried to describe in

“Strength training is a controversial topic when we discuss optimizing of training programs for cyclists. There is no definitive answer to whether cyclists should include weight lifting in their winter training plans. There have been made several studies which have not yet proved that cyclists can benefit from strength training.

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. ”

This article about squat is primary an article to show why you should squat IF you decide to strength train. Not to discuss whether you should strength train or not.

Strength endurance training should always be performed ON the bike

2 hours of 28% grade repeats does not sound as max strength training to me, rather like strength endurance, which I always recommend should be done on a bike. That is why I don’t recommend long strength endurance sets with 12, 20 or even 100´s of reps. That is better done on the bike.

But when we are talking max strength, squat gets important, because you activate almost every single motor neuron in your quadriceps (and a lot of helper-muscles) in a heavy lift. It is very difficult to activate the same percentage of motor neurons on a bike, and especially if you are doing steep hills that take more than 5 revolutions in the pedals. When you train for neural adaptations it is important to activate as many motor neurons as possible. Also there some discussion whether a better neural control will help you to be more efficient when recruiting muscle fibres.

Still, I recommend doing ‘power sprints’ on the bike. These sprints are accelerations for about 8seconds in a heavy gearing e.g. 53/16.

3 comments… add one
  • Whilst I work hard to be fit enough to win the occasional race, as a 50 year old cyclist I also feel that it is important to supplement with some load bearing exercise. Maintenance of core stability and and bone density is supported by using weights. It might not improve my cycling but I believe that it is an important component in “looking after” myself. If you don’t use it you loose it.

  • I drink heavily from the cup of strength training. And finding where it fits in with cycling is becoming more and more difficult. Im in my 2nd year of riding and my first for programming as a cyclist. So far Ive found it very hard to fing any related material on mixing weight training and spinning. I really like the information provided on your blog and wish you the best of luck. Im experimenting using oly lifts and heavy front squats to build power on the bike, if I find and revelations I will be sure to stop by and let you know

  • Dale Link

    I think it depends on body composition. I used to be a bigger guy from powerlifting my body naturally wants to grow. I bought a fixed gear single speed bike and I ride it in the winter and twice a week during season and it really helps with my strength.

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