Tag Archives: strength training

The Cycling Benefits of a Strength Routine

After undergoing an off-season strength training program for the past couple months, I was able to test it out up in the mountains on some mammoth climbs. While I had not been off the bike completely, I was certainly not in peak riding form, so most of what got me by was from what I achieved in the gym.


To my surprise, I was a lot stronger on the bike. That didn’t necessarily mean I was faster. I wasn’t and shouldn’t have been, but I could tell when climbing that I had more power. It did not take as much work to move myself up the mountain.

When stopped, I have surprised myself by how fast I can get back to my desired pace. Before I would accelerate slowly. Now I stand up and push the pedals a couple times until the speed returns.

Upper Body

Another benefit, which I did not expect, was in the upper body. When I came into the gym, I was a weakling from the waist up. I still am to a degree, but thanks to lat pulls and upright rows, my forearms are quite a bit stronger. This gave me the ability to use my arms to help balance and power my pedal stroke even more. It also helped when I needed to stand up on the bike and apply more power. I was able to hold the bike tighter and apply offsetting pressure that pushed the bike harder.


The biggest benefit has to do with recovery, both on and off the bike. These last few climbs were among the most intense I have ever attempted, yet I hardly ever felt sore. I was unquestionably tired and out of gas from the cardio work, but my muscles bounced back. When they were weak, it was more of a product of inadequate fueling rather than muscle condition.

Recovery off the bike has been even better. I was a little sore the day after Pinnacle Mountain and did not exercise, although an easy 40 to 50 mile ride would have been no problem. I felt good enough. After the other rides, I was hardly sore at all. This means that the muscles are stronger and they can endure more damage. When I get back into regular training, this will pay off immensely. Last year I had trouble riding three days in a row. That shouldn’t be the case this year.


There have been a couple of shortfalls as well. For starters, my biggest weakness is in cardio ability. My heart is not anywhere close to as strong as it was even a few months ago. That is the key reason why I am slower now on the climbs. Fortunately, this is a problem that can be remedied with more riding.

Another drawback is that I have a tendency to try and mash a big gear simply because I can. I also am in the habit of standing up on moderate hills to power myself up. This is not as efficient as the way I rode in the past with a higher cadence and less power. This is not a big deal, as I can work on focusing on my cadence in the training season.

The reason I didn’t get to finish the strength routine was mostly due to free time. There wasn’t enough, as is often the case during the holidays. I really needed three serious workouts every week and mostly could only manage two, which cut my progress in half. Either way, it has already made a difference and I expect that to continue into the Spring.

Post-Holidays Training Update

Happy New Year to everyone! A few weeks ago I was in the midst of a strength program. That was a high rep and low weight program. Around the time of the holidays my plan was to transition to a higher weight, lower rep program while gradually getting more bike time. On top of that I hoped to lose another pound or two.

So that didn’t happen.

The weight room program was going great and I was noticing a gradual difference. That was starting to show on the bike as well. The transition was going to begin around Christmas and then after the New Year I would start with the new program. What I didn’t count on was that my gym would close during my normal workout hours in the week between Christmas and New Years. Instead I snuck in a ride and spent a little time on the trainer. At least with that, I wouldn’t lose fitness. Now that the New Year has come and gone, I still haven’t been inside the gym for a number of reasons.

So the transition is still on hold and with a lot around the corner, might not continue, at least not the way I had hoped. Weight training will continue to a certain degree throughout the season, but the focus will probably be on maintenance with minimal gains.

And you know what? That is absolutely fine. The good thing is I am well beyond where I was last year. I’m actually in pretty good riding shape and now need to switch my focus to getting as many base miles as the weather and my schedule allow. At this rate, I’ll be stronger come spring.

Now the diet is another story. Rather than lose weight, I gained a little bit. I have since already trimmed some of that and hopefully that will continue as the training progresses.

This weekend I will be putting that training to the test yet again with some ‘insanely steep climbs,’ as the ride leader calls them. More on that later.

Winter Training Continues …

After a couple of weeks in the gym, I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable. At first my entire body ached from working out underused muscles. Last week I even had to take a couple extra recovery days. Now I’ve come to the point where I no longer suffer afterward. My last session corresponded with a large Thanksgiving lunch celebration at work, so I did extra reps to burn off those calories and felt very little soreness. From here on out I will work on getting my butt to the gym at least three times a week and gradually increasing the load.

In addition to weight training, I have started watching what I eat a little more carefully. It is so difficult to lose weight while riding regularly, at least for me, that I am hoping to shed a few pounds over the off-season. I’m at a decent weight, but going into the spring maybe five lbs later would help immensely.

A new program requires a new diet. When riding, I had to make sure I ate enough carbs to keep my workouts fueled. That is no longer the case. I have been trying to ween myself off carbs with moderate success. What’s odd is now that I’m not riding, I’m not hungry all the time. Cravings are at a minimum. There are moments, sure, but it is tremendously easier to stick to a diet. So far I have not lost much weight, which is fine. I am not trying to drop quickly. I have three months to play with and the last thing I want is a crash diet where I lose weight, only to regain just as quickly over the holidays.

So far I have been off the bike for two weeks, and will remain on and off for awhile. There are a couple small rides planned over the Thanksgiving holiday. After that I will probably ride intermittently only with groups.

So what do I do to fill that hole? That’s a perplexing question and I don’t have an answer yet. I would certainly benefit from cross-training, especially swimming or running. Unfortunately swimming is not an option since I don’t have access to a pool, and have no desire to take on another monthly expense. That leaves running.

I hate running. Okay, maybe that’s a little strong. Part of me loves running and I used to do it all the time. The last time I ran seriously, I got hurt and that led me to the bike. That was a period of constant frustration, no fun whatsoever. I’m really not looking forward to trying again, but I may give it a go anyway. The strength exercises will help with injury prevention and I have been taking the occasional long walk just to get my calves loose. So far, so good. If this continues, I might find myself in a slow jog one day. I’ll just go with my body.

If I don’t run, and that is a distinct possibility, I’ll do gym cardio. That means a lot of time on elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, and occasionally treadmills.

This is my last post before Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with family.