Thighs: Go big or go home (psyche). Weight training for endurance cyclists.

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I have 23 inch thighs based on my non-scientific tape-measure-only measurement. I’m proud of my thighs. I developed them over years of cycling and I’d say they were my best feature. But they’re not at all like these muscle puppies:

Andre Greipel and Robert  Förstemann
This is the famous “quad-off” image where two track cyclists compare their lower guns. Förstemann’s thighs are an astounding 34 inches in diameter at the thickest point. That’s 11 inches larger than mine, and larger than his waist! Thighs of no shorter than 23.6 inches are necessary for track cyclists:

“The picture is definitely real,” said Benjamin Sharp, the high-performance endurance director for USA Cycling. “[Track c]yclists have strange shapes: big quads, small waists and big butts. It’s hard to find pants.”

                                                *                 *                 *

Athletes tabbed the baseline measurement for an acceptable sprint cyclist’s thigh at 60 centimeters, or 23.6 inches. Newell cited the American cyclist Jennie Reed as someone she envied in that regard.

[Source, New York Times, August 6, 2012; see my prior entry for another picture of the great Mr. Förstemann.]
Fortunately for us mere mortals — and for endurance riding, which is what we do on the AIDS/LifeCycle and on your average century ride— thighs of that proportion are unnecessary. Developing nut-crunching quads is probably going to be counter productive for most of us anyway.
Still, weight training is important to help improve endurance and stamina. Focus on helper body parts. This is what I’ve experienced, though its, again, not entirely scientific. (Here are some generalized tips for weight training and endurance cycling; let me know if you find other sites.)
  1. Developing arms, chest, and shoulders will give you strength to hold your body in equally between the seat and the bars, improving balance and technical skills.
  2. Developing your “core” — abs and lower back — will give you more power in the saddle and will reduce back pain, allowing you to ride for longer.
  3. Developing your gluts will give you power and balance out the pressure on your quads.
  4. Developing your calves will strengthen your up stroke and give you better control over the bike.
Of these, developing your core is probably the most important. Having a strong torso will allow you to more readily maneuver the bike and that should improve reaction time to obstacles, making you a more confident rider.
Also, larger muscles mean more fat burning during aerobic exercise; and being generally lighter means there is less to push up Quad-Buster or Cardiac.

Ginger Brewlay atop Quad-Buster:

This video makes me remember how every time we reached a new point on the ride there was some wonderful, inspirational person waiting to cheer us on. I’m crying as I type. Thanks Ginger. Thanks to every single person who smiled and waived at me as we rode by.

Your Bear


One thought on “Thighs: Go big or go home (psyche). Weight training for endurance cyclists.

    Early Season Training « Bear's ALC Page said:
    January 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    […] By abandoning a more-sedentary lifestyle to pedal for others, you are as much an athlete as any professional and cycling is as much your sport as it is theirs. Own […]

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