Simply performing strength training exercises and looking to add more resistance and weight week to week, is NOT going to get us the results we want to see in our sport. But what’s the difference between just strength training and training for performance?
Today we’re going to take a much deeper dive into strength training for cyclists, and help you better understand that it’s not what you do, but rather HOW you do it, that will determine the results you get.
But before we get into that, let’s first establish that as cyclists, we DO have a need for some general physical preparation. That is, learning the FUNdamental 5+1 human movements of:
- Rotary Stability
Learning how to do each of these in a general form is indeed a necessary step. However, our sport keeps us in a relatively restricted position for long periods of time: hunched forward over the handlebars, shoulder blades in a relatively stable position (although they should be moving), our necks extended, and backs flexed while our quads hammer away on the pedals.
This means that our sport will demand that our body’s tissues change and adapt to these positions, leaving some of the muscles and joints to be a little wonky when they try to perform their designed movements. While not ideal, this in fact is how each and every sport works if you play it or participate for more than a smattering of hours throughout the year.
Setting it up so you win
As we look at strength training to enhance performance – be it to get you your first pro contract, or to ride longer without those aches and pains – we first have to look at the common theme seen in those who excel in that particular sport. Note that road riding, gravel, and cyclocross are each their own sport! This will help us to better understand the particular body types, shapes, and positions that lay common ground for success.
Of course, in our chosen sport of cycling we have a wide array of riders at many ages, heights, limb lengths, etc. who are performing at the top levels. This is why it’s so important to perform a movement analysis for the individual, in order to align what their bodies can and cannot handle with how we can best help them get the most out of their strength training (and riding).
While a topic for another discussion in and of itself, we can take this understanding and really begin to think about HOW we perform a movement greatly affecting the rest of the body’s ability to produce power, stiffness, and movement only from the hip or shoulder (and knee/ankle, elbow/wrist appropriately).
Let’s take a look at the bench press, an oftentimes scoffed at or omitted movement that in fact can offer big rewards for cyclists…if done correctly for performance.
How to Bench Press for Cycling PERFORMANCE
As noted in the video, barbell bench press (much like barbell back squatting) is at the very END of the progressions we’ve been using here at Human Vortex Training since 2007 with our cyclists. Locking oneself and our cyclists shoulders into a static position with our hands on the bar, increases the likelihood that we are going to morph and twist our bodies in order to “get it done”. This is a problem as we don’t actually care about how much weight is on the bar…. We just want to be better, stronger, faster, and endure longer on our bike!
As you saw in the video, just by changing the tools (dumbbells for the barbell) and the angle at which she was working, we drastically improved her ability to apply force with sound movement patterns. Not to mention that she is now able to better and more quickly identify movement issues at the shoulder which are causing excessive fatigue or pain on the bike!
We’ve taken HUGE strides forward as a community the last 10 years, as we’ve gone from the mentality that “strength training and weight lifting will make you bulky and unable to ride well” to understanding that strength training can help us ride stronger, longer, and better…
But we’re still missing two important keys:
- We don’t need only general physical preparation, we need strength training for PERFORMANCE (and improved function)
- Strength training needs to be done year-round
Understanding the right changes to make, how to progress or regress a movement for yourself or a rider, as well as why these changes matter, will take your strength training to a much higher level of enjoyment, and drastically improve its effectiveness.
If you’re a coach, or a rider who’s been regularly performing strength training, my Strength Training for Cyclists Certification course is a fantastic resource to help give you the professional knowledge and tools you need, to get the most out of your strength program. It includes over 65 exercise progressions and regressions for the FUNdamental 5+1 movements, Power, Acceleration, and more. Join the Insiders List and get $200usd off the purchase price when enrollment opens this fall.