The Strength Cycle, Phase One

I’ve been following a thread on a mailing list regarding whether or not a strength program benefits a cyclist. There have been many well-reasoned, passionate arguments from both sides, but it seems the consensus is either it depends on the person, or we simply don’t know. Some rider friends have told me that weights can actually hurt rather than help, while others say the opposite.

Last year I put together a rudimentary program inspired by Joe Friel that I think worked for me. There was an initial setback on the bike, which probably had more to do sore legs than anything else. Once I was back into riding shape, I found myself stronger than ever. However, a lot of my results probably had to do with the weakened state of my muscles. I simply hadn’t experienced enough in the sport, so any program would have made a difference.

Things are different now. This last year was phenomenal, and I’m now in significantly better shape than ever in my life. That may mean that my gains will be less drastic, but I am trusting that my coach knows what he’s doing. Even if it doesn’t help, I doubt it will hurt.

That’s Bobby’s visual example of how to leg press.

The first phase is a lot of easy leg and core exercises. To my surprise, he does not have me doing squats, at least not yet. The workout now is more well-rounded, not just working the quadriceps, but also the calf, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and other neglected muscles.

I found that my quads were in pretty good shape going in. That was a pleasant surprise, given that the only maintenance I had done was hill climbing. That bodes well for next year.

The other muscles, eh … not so much. The hamstrings weren’t so bad. Calves were rough; lower back was painful. I still have not been able to complete the prescribed back exercises.

Speaking of neglected muscles, my abdominals have not been worked out in about a year. That’s the muscle group I always mean to work out, but the most I get done is a crunch or two.

Bobby’s core workout rocked my world. He has me on a series of complex exercises, some of which make me feel like I want to throw up. After the first two routines, my abs were killing me. What’s worse is they seemed to feel worse every day afterward. After a couple weeks, the soreness has finally abated, but the workouts are still tough. I have made progress, and that’s all I can ask for.

Will this routine work for me? I think so. The power gains may not be substantial, but the peripheral gains should be noteworthy. A stronger core and lower back should give me a better pedal stroke. Even if I gain nothing, this should reduce the chance of injury, which is worth all the suffering.

I also know that eventually a rest week will be coming. Soon?


6 responses to “The Strength Cycle, Phase One

  • stickyjumper

    Neil Browne had Selene Yeager as a guest on Tour Chats this past Sunday. The interview really motivated me to get the core muscles in better shape. My primary motivation is to avoid back problems, something with which Neil is currently struggling. The most interesting thing she said was how people focus on abs as core muscles, but neglect the importance of a strong back.

    Even if the weight program doesn’t increase your speed, it will help you prevent injury.

    • aaronwest

      Agreed. I really noticed a difference last night during the night ride. My form was a lot better, and pedaling required less effort. My lower back is probably my weakest, as evident by how I struggle with the exercises, but working it out will get me stronger in the future.

  • Gerry Patterson

    Yet more motivation for me to get my butt in gear and start my season, Aaron – ‘thanks’!

  • bgddyjim

    I have a feeling the relationship will probably be akin to upper body strength training and running – it’s huge, but you barely notice it before you get to the last two or three miles where you used to have to muscle through it, now you’re one cruise control. Great post, brother.

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, man. Yes, the gains are probably very similar. I noticed last night that I had a lot more after difficult sections, and this is only the beginning. Probably won’t be doing a lot of upper body except for lats, but we don’t need them as much for riding.

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