Cycling: Pedal to the Iron

Last month, I offered insight to all my running readers and friends on how to improve running fitness through building strength. Cycling, very much like running, is a huge part of the Denver fitness landscape, so it seems like a natural transition to discuss how strength training can also make you a better cyclist.

The basic key to running better is to run more. That’s the same for cycling; the more you do it, the better you get. Depending on how far you plan to advance your cycling, you will encounter thresholds not easily crossed without becoming stronger.

It’s somewhat easy to pick out a cyclist by body shape: huge legs, spindly arms and somewhat underdeveloped upper body (plus, they’re all drinking coffee at REI on the Platte). Some of that is by design because many endurance athletes try to avoid building too much muscle (which weighs more than fat). This doesn’t mean I’m trying to turn you into a bodybuilder, but a strong body still works more efficiently than an ignored body.

By knowing the correct regimens – that’s why you have a fitness trainer, right? – you can build strength without necessarily building too much muscle. One of the keys is to go with higher weights, few reps and more rest between reps. I imagine many of you think that’s counterintuitive to staying lean, but the more reps and the less rest you have, the more you’re building muscle. Strength is what we’re looking for here. More weights, less reps.

Maybe even more so than running, a cyclist’s geometry on the bike is paramount to efficiency, and keeping the body fit and strong means keeping the body in position to pedal productively. Popular exercises to maintain fitness are lunges (of course), but with the amount of spinning you do, you ought to focus a bit more time balancing out the upper body. Kettlebell swings, dumbbell lifts, Russian twists and even planking will contribute to strength throughout your body.

Here’s where the strength training goes next level, and where I will encourage you to consult an experienced fitness trainer in Denver, or wherever you’re reading this. The exercises you do, when you do them, how hard to hit the weights and why are all part of the equation for cyclist strength training. We don’t want you to get hurt, especially if you’re more recreational than competitive.

There is a balance when it comes to getting better as a cyclist, and while the majority of that balance comes in saddle time, understanding the hows and whys of training for strength might be better with a fitness partner.