Though you may want to read that title as “Strength Training for Triathletes, which may be selectively applied to Cyclists.” My background is in triathlon, which is only 1/3rd cycling,* so I am by no means a cycling strength training expert. (*Not true – in terms of total time spent in each discipline, cycling usually takes up 40% – 60% of each race.) Nor am I a triathlon strength training expert. However, after several years of working with various coaches (each with differing opinions regarding strength training period), four years of education in exercise science, a full PubMed subscription and countless research articles, and training a few newbie-tri clients of my own, I feel at least semi-qualified to lay out a base plan.
So lets not waste any time… these are the five upper/lower body exercises I think should be included in any base strength plan. The starred exercises, as upper body exercises, have more obvious applications to a triathlete (ie swimming). It’s important to remember though that the upper body is used in handling your bike and in transferring power from the pull on your handle bars to the force applied to the pedals. OK enough chit chat. The Five:
- Lat pull-down*
- Side Lunge
- Push-up (/ chest press)*
- Seated Row
Each of these exercises can be tailored to the experience level of the individual athlete. For someone new to strength training, simply using body weight and resistance bands will be enough to produce noticeable results. For the veteran athlete, all exercises should/could be weighted (with the possible exception of push-ups). One can use free weights, machines, body weight, adaptations to increase the difficulty of the exercises, and a combination of all of the above.
Please note that these five exercises do NOT include core strength. Coming from a cross-country running background, I’ve been
brainwashed trained to be under the assumption that core work just happens. It’s not “optional.” And truthfully, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of core strength – injury prevention, balance, form, fatigue, power transfer, I could go on and on. The core is the “kinetic link” between the upper and lower body, and if you don’t have a strong core, you are not optimizing your athletic performance. End of story.
To be fair and include all sides of the story, not all research shows performance enhancement with strength training. (But many do.) There are many endurance athletes who feel like strength training = increased muscle mass = increased weight = increase weight to CARRY = decreased performance. Typically however, the couple of pounds you might gain with strength training are greatly offset by the increases in strength and power.
If you’re new to strength training, I hope these five exercises can give you a place to start. This is a topic I’ll be coving much more in detail on my blog, but don’t have all of the information quite wrapped up into a coherent post. Yet.
Reader Qs: Do you lift weights or do any sort of resistance training as part of your routine? If not, what in particular is holding you back? Time? Don’t know where to start? Available equipment? If you do strength train, what keeps you coming back for more?