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Seven Common Weightroom Errors Cyclists Often Make Part VI
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 #6: Not resting long enough between sets
When cyclists depend on endurance-based weight workouts (low weight, high repetitions) that elevate their heart rates, they usually move quickly from one set to another with minimal recovery. This is circuit training, which benefits the body’s energy system fitness similarly to intervals while riding, but it sure doesn’t do much for the muscular system (which is why you’re in the gym, right?).
Remember, strength training is not an endurance event.
Getting stronger (not larger) in the gym means you must train more intensely, or with heavier resistances (see Common Error #2). To raise intensity on the bike you hit the hills or perform intervals and sprints. More intense training drives the heart rate up quickly, but you cannot stay at this level. When you’re doing hill repeats or track sprints, you know to rest between “sets.” This allows you to recover and come back to the next set with a higher degree of intensity than if you were dragging, barely able to breathe.
Similarly, high-intensity training in the weightroom requires that you let the body’s ATP energy system recover.
Training intensely in the gym requires an adequate recovery period of 2-3 minutes between sets. This may seem like a huge waste of time for an endurance athlete not accustomed to sitting and/or letting the heart rate come down, but it’s something you must learn to deal with.
Pace yourself wisely by working with two training partners. Ideally, always train in groups of three, with one lifting and two standing by. The person preparing to lift and the person who just finished are the two responsible for loading the next weight properly. This only leaves one person with little to do. They can take this time to get a drink or record the last set in their training diary. This gives a consistent amount of rest and allows for adequate spotting on those exercises requiring spotters (bench press, squat, etc.).
Physical effort above 85% or so of your max (how to get strong) requires resting adequately before coming back for another set. Don’t treat your anaerobic strength training as an endurance event. Learn to rest up so you can come back aggressively for the next set...that’s the only way you’ll get stronger.