In this post we discuss how to add resistance training to your off season cycling programme for the best results.
Resistance training is now widely recommended to improve performance and reduce injury risk in endurance activities such as cycling and running.
As we enter the off season for many endurance sports, it’s time to focus on improving the strength of your muscular system with regular resistance training.
How should you programme these sessions into your current schedule to achieve the best results however?
Fortunately you’re not the first person to ask this question, so there’s a bunch of research that will provide us with some answers.
First, how much cycling will you continue to perform?
It’s important to recognise that to your muscles, all training is resistance training.
For example, your quadriceps (thigh muscles) aren’t aware whether they are pushing against a pedal or a leg press machine. They simply contract when they are required to do so.
What differs is how hard they have to contract to overcome the resistance and how long they have to do that for.
You could conceivably perform resistance training on a bike and endurance training on a leg press. It would be weird but you could do it.
The point is that volume matters.
Most of the research suggests that strength gains are impacted when the weekly training volume is high.
Training sessions combining both endurance training and resistance training more than 4 times per week tend to reduce strength gains.
If however endurance training is kept at a low or moderate level, strength gains remain unaffected.
You’re probably riding your bike less now it’s winter, but it’s worth bearing this relationship in mind if you start to increase your weekly mileage.
When should you perform resistance training sessions?
A 6 hour bike ride will severely impair your performance in a squat. Likewise a heavy squatting session the day before a long bike ride may not be the best idea.
It’s important therefore to think about when you perform your resistance training sessions.
Studies that have successfully combined endurance exercise with resistance training have overwhelmingly programmed resistance training before endurance exercise.
This order has produced strength gains in subjects even with relatively high volumes of training.
That said, you probably don’t want to do your long ride on a Sunday with sore legs.
It takes your muscles up to 72 hours to recover from a heavy resistance training session, so that’s worth considering when scheduling long rides and lower body weight training sessions.
What specifically do you want to use resistance training for?
Additionally you should consider the exact adaptations you want to create. Of course you want to start next season in better shape, but we can look deeper than that.
For example, do you currently have injuries, aches or pains that you’d like to improve during this time?
Rather like taking your car into the shop after some heavy mileage, it’s wise to focus on the parts that require attention.
Think about areas of your body that either give you problems now, or have done so in the past and focus on these particular areas as a priority.
Have you used resistance training before?
Lastly consider your experience with resistance training.
You probably wouldn’t start training for a marathon, with a marathon. Or ride 100 miles on your first bike ride.
Likewise if you’re new to resistance training, don’t start trying to squat your body weight in the first week. Begin slowly and with caution, it will take time to learn the skill and for your body to adapt.
It’s useful to think about resistance training as a long term commitment that will give you results in the seasons to come, rather than in the next 2 months.
Adding resistance training to your off season programme will help make you a stronger athlete and a more successful bike rider.
Start slow however and think about how you schedule your bike riding around your resistance training sessions.
In this Cycling Tips post I explain the value of resistance training for bike riders in more detail and exactly which exercises to use.