Seven Common Weightroom Errors Cyclists Often Make Part V
Harvey Newton, SportsEdTV’s director for weightlifting, has been an avid cyclist for many years, including years of masters’ racing. Years ago, USA Cycling requested Coach Newton develop educational materials to further cyclists’ knowledge of off-bike training. This was later updated to the Strength Training for Cyclists System (since “retired”) that included revisions, expansions, and improvements. Through a series of weekly blogs, Coach Newton shares key information with SportsEdTV viewers.
For cyclists in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is the offseason. Cycling intensity and volume are reduced, off-bike training (cross-training) ramps up, with riders aiming for improved performance in the next race season. Part of this work includes weight training. Proper weight training helps improve strength and power, and it can improve injury prevention. But all too often, cyclists fail to optimize the benefits of weightroom work.
Over the years I have noticed three common issues that can minimize the benefits of resistance training for cyclists. These include:
- Improper lifting technique
- Poor choice of exercises
- Weak training program composition
From my small booklet, How to Avoid Seven Weightroom Errors, I will cover weekly these challenges. Let’s get started.
Common Error #5: Spending too much time in the weightroom
As USA Cycling’s strength and conditioning advisor in the 1980s and ‘90s, I was disappointed by the huge volume of weight work that cyclists, especially roadies, often engaged in during their offseason. Although their stated plan was to gain strength and power, they missed the target by treating weight workouts as an endurance event.
We all get frustrated in the offseason when shorter and colder days require seemingly endless hours on the indoor trainer. But using lengthy weight workouts (10 or more exercises, light weights, lots of repetitions, little rest between sets) is a poor substitute for endurance work.
Here’s where you need effective cross-training, that is, working your energy system with activity similar to cycling. Weight training is anaerobic in nature and a poor substitute for endurance training. You’re in the weightroom to get stronger and more powerful.
Many cyclists’ workouts mirror those of bodybuilders. Bodybuilders frequently spend a huge amount of time in the gym, but that’s because they are seeking maximum muscular development; they have to do a lot of exercises. Cyclists always say they just want to get stronger, not bigger. So, don’t train like a bodybuilder!
Contaminated by bodybuilding training methods, far too many people divide their resistance training by body parts (chest/shoulders, arms/back, legs/abs, etc.). Here’s a hypothetical workout model commonly suggested for “chest/shoulders”:
Bench Press 10 reps, 4 sets
Incline Press 10 reps, 4 sets
Decline Press 10 reps, 4 sets
Lateral Raise 10 reps, 4 sets
Forward Raise 10 reps, 4 sets
That’s 200 reps, primarily for the deltoids, or shoulder muscles. For a bodybuilder, this stimulates the desired muscle growth. But for a cyclist that needs upper body strength to fight positional fatigue and provide injury prevention, increased upper body pushing strength is easily accomplished with only one multiple-joint exercise. Four sets instead of 20? That’s a no-brainer. Now there’s more time to ride or train endurance via x-c skiing, mountain biking, etc.
Strength Training for Cyclists has always proposed choosing just one upper body pushing exercise. If it is multiple-joint in nature, all the requisite muscle groups are covered. Get out of the gym and go do something else. Either train something more cycling-specific or get on with your daily life.
More time in the gym does not translate to improved cycling performance!