Tag Archives: strength

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?

Off the Bike, Into the Gym

It has been quite a year, far surpassing my goals and expectations. That said, there is always room to improve and this year I’m going to handle the offseason a little differently. Last year I rode through the winter. I will have my share of rides this year, but the focus is going to be on developing full body strength, which should help with my fitness and performance for next year.

Over the last few weeks I have been transitioning to my off-season training program. This week I dusted off my gym membership and tried to figure out how to lift weights. I have done some strength training in the past, but nothing catered towards cycling. With the help of Joe Friel‘s book, some internet searches, and good old fashioned trial-and-error, I settled on a plan.

I will hit the gym for strength training 2-3 times a week with the following routine.


Elliptical machine – This is my preferred way to get the body loose and start with some moderate cardio. The focus here is to just get ready for weights, not go crazy with intervals or anything.

Lower Body:

Upright Squat – This will by my foundational exercise as it will strengthen my quad and hamstrings, giving me power to the pedals. My gym has two machines, one of which works more of the muscle, while the other interacts more with the core. I’ll alternate these.

Leg Press – This is a reverse squat. It is the same motion, but from a different position. I lie on my back and put force on the weights with my legs. I believe this works more with my lower back.

Leg Extension – This is supposed to be more of a knee exercise, but I feel it most in my quads. It is a great workout if I do sets with one leg at a time.


Seated Row – My gym has a regular rowing machine and also the seated row with weights. Both are great workouts. The rowing machine is probably more of a full body workout with a focus on the core. The seated row is also full body, but I’ve noticed a lot of the pressure on my upper body.

Curl-Ups – Just your regular old, garden-variety curl-up/sit-up. The gym has a few different tools to accomplish this. My favorite is the one where you rest on a bench, leaning back with the head angled toward the ground and legs locked up top. Once I get some core strength, I’ll work in some abdominal twists with this exercise.

Upper Body:

Lat Pull Down – This has me seated on a bench, pulling the weight above my head to near my shoulders.

Bench Press – Eventually I might do free weights, but for now I am using the assisted press machine.

Standing Row – My gym does not have a machine for this, so I am using free weights, standing straight up and lifting them up to my shoulders. The focus on this one is on form, This is great for my triceps.

Cool Down:

Recumbent bike – I would prefer an upright or, better yet, a cycling trainer. My gym has some upright bikes, but I’m not crazy about them. The recumbent will have to do.

The focus here is on low weights, whatever feels comfortable, and lots of reps. Maybe two or three sets of 15-20 reps with short breaks in between. As I develop a strength base, probably mid-winter, I will increase the load and focus on a few select exercises.

Since I’m just getting started here, I’m staying off the bike for the time being. We have a Winter training group starting around Thanksgiving, so I’ll be getting some winter riding. That will be good for me to keep some riding fitness, but my primary motivation will to get the most out of the gym.