Strength Training: Three Essential On-Bike Complements
What does it take to ACTUALLY see on-bike results from your strength training? These three key components may not seem like much, but they make THE difference to becoming a stronger cyclist.
In past articles I’ve covered quite a lot in regards to strength training for on-bike performances; whether those performances mean PR’s or podiums, or simply being able to ride a full season without aches and pains (unless you’re taking tumbles on the MTB learning how to get a bit better, such as in my case), simply hitting the weights and LIFTING HEAVY STUFF won’t get you there. But following the advice laid out over my previous articles, along with these three often overlooked items, will.
On-Bike skills practice, or learning
There are 2 kinds of team sessions that I, and many other coaches, always struggle to get riders to attend: strength training, and on-bike skills practice.
Gaining strength in the weightroom is fun, different, and a whole new challenge which many of us enjoy for a few months in the winter- yet almost none of us make a concerted effort to take 5-10 minutes within each of our rides, to practice basic on-bike skills.
These skills, which should be practiced by all cyclists, include:
- Cornering. Choosing a good line, braking before the turn, looking through the turn, and carrying speed through a single line.
- Braking. Smooth braking via front and back brakes, power skids, emergency braking from speed and staying stable/upright, and braking on irregular surfaces (think grass, and if you feel adventurous, gravel).
- Climbing. How you work your bike under you, not throwing your bike backwards when you stand up, keeping tempo/cadence once you sit down, changing gears.
- Bike Handling. No-speed figure 8’s, riding in your easiest gear along a straight line, riding hands-free, removing arm and leg warmers while riding (not on the open road), riding straight with 1 hand on the bars, track stands (on both sides!), unclipping from both sides.
- Descending. Positioning, braking, choosing a line
Each of these skills must be developed to a subconscious skill level, yet very few “group riders” possess them. How can we make you a stronger, better rider with strength training, if you’re not adding to your on-bike skills?
Taking 5 minutes at the beginning of each ride to practice these skills can make you a far better, and safer, rider.
Unsure which skills to practice, or how to best practice them? Hire a local experienced coach to work with you once a month, and show you some new stuff.
Learning How to Breathe
“Well, I ain’t dead, so I must be doing something right” is a very common response when I mention this to riders. Yes, really.
But learning how to ride at endurance, while breathing through your nose only, and at a true endurance heart rate, can significantly boost your riding “fitness” with little to no changes to anything else.
Yes, it really is that simple. But boring, and you can’t talk while you ride… well, that’s a drag…. But if you want to see some big gains in your fitness, give it a shot for 2 of your endurance rides a week, starting with 30-60 minutes, and building up to 90 minutes in those 2 weeks.
No cheating. You can eat, but keep up the nose breathing, and keep your shoulders and arms relaxed as you ride.
Blending your Strength with Riding for better results
Understanding how riding and strength training can boost each other’s results is absolutely integral. Yet very few understand how to do it well.
While the research is starting to trickle in regarding performing strength training AFTER riding can help boost strength gains, what we as relatively serious cyclists are looking for, is to have our strength training help us recover from and improve our riding, while making us stronger and more resilient.
While the answer is complex, and a bit different for each of us, there is two major take homes:
- Your strength training shouldn’t leave you sore, beat up, or fatigued to the point your riding quality suffers.
- Your riding should be focused on one main energy system at a time, with strength training stages that help balance out that training stress.
I share this information in my new book Strength Training for Cycling Performance, which has now been the #1 New Release on Amazon for the last 5 weeks. I also incorporate this into individualized strength and on-bike programs for those who sign up for my Big Gear Blueprint program, which includes weekly live group coaching video calls.
If you’re interested in experiencing for yourself what a huge difference blending your strength and on-bike work together properly can make in your fitness and function, email me . I’m running a special now through Thanksgiving of 20% off the regular 3 and 6 month program pricing. But there are only 12 spots available, as the group is kept very small.