I am a strong advocate for weight training to support cycling. Even modest weight training builds muscle, strengthens bones, and helps to build core strength — important because cycling does not do these things. If done properly, it is safe and will help riders avoid injury, rather than risking a chance of it.
Hitting the gym can be a foreign experience to cyclists, but how you lift weights in just your first week of strength training can lead to better results. In a study of rest intervals between exercise sets, researchers found that limiting breaks to 60 seconds during the first week of weight training boosted study participants’ hormonal response to the exercise. —Bicycling Magazine
Strength training may (or may not) be important for professionals; but for recreational cyclists all you need are some inexpensive free weights or a gym membership. The single most important advice for everyone doing weight training is to focus on form, rather than amount of weight lifted. For this reason, you will need some kind of instruction.
There are lots of training programs for cyclists, and if you are going to cycle competitively, they may be useful. As cited above, there is a debate amongst professionals about cycling training and workouts. From this debate, you’ll find many complicated strength training routines on line and in various expensive looking programs. It seems unlikely that any recreational cyclist will need that level of complexity. So instead, find a reliable source and stick with it, so long as it works for you.
I get my training advice from Scooby’s Workshop. A wonderful, free resource with video instructions on nearly every weight training exercise a new weightlifter will need.
Generally, here is a list of tips I’ve gathered over the years:
- Focus on Form: Focusing on form will help you get the most out of the workout and reduce the chance of injury.
- Lower the Weight: Lower weights with high repetition is generally safer than higher weight with low repetition.
- Avoid Real Pain: Listen to your body: not all pain is gain. Pain in joints, pain which is sharp or sudden, pain in the lower back are all bad. The only pain which is beneficial is the almost-pleasant muscular soreness you can get after any energetic activity.
- Stop Before Injury: So, if an exercise feels odd, it could injure you. Stop, check your form, and lower the weight. Or skip that exercise altogether (you may not be ready of it, or it may simply not be for you — we’re not all the same!).
- Swinging Causes Injury: Avoid exercises that have you swinging heavy weights: this could lead to injury.
- Complex Motion Causes Injury: Avoid exercises that have you moving your body in more than one plane at a time (for the same reason).
- Keep Mentally Fit: Don’t compare yourself to others (unless doing so inspires you). You don’t know how long they’ve been training, or how they are training.
- Be Regular: If you train diligently (at least three times per week), you will see results. Be patient.
- Be Patient: Results gained over a long period are more likely to be permanent than those gained quickly.
- Make Life Changes: So — like an improved diet and cycling — make weight training part of your weekly routine.
- Be Routine: Your workout should last about an hour for cycling purposes, but do more if you feel comfortable.
- Be Committed: Don’t chat, fiddle with your iPhone, gawk at the muscle men (much), or nap during your workout. Get in the gym and get it over with. You should be moving nearly constantly during your workout.
- Develop your Core: Ripped abs come from diet and aerobics. A strong core comes from strength training. Do both, but don’t expect that six-pack until you get your diet under control.
- Body Weight: Exercises that use your body weight (pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, hand stands and the like) are excellent strength training exercises that can ultimately be done nearly anywhere without too much special equipment.
- Vary your Program: Sticking with training does not mean sticking with a routine until it becomes so dull your stop doing it. Additionally, your muscles will respond to changes in exercise and intensity.