- Strength Training For Cyclists
Arkworld and Lifestyle Focus are very familiar with strength training and weight lifting, as some of the Team Lifestyle Focus athletes are vey successful in strongman competitions. It seems obvious that lifting weights is a big part of the training for those athletes. For me as an endurance cyclist, however, people don’t always realize that it is an important part of my training plan as well. And people are even more surprised if I tell them about my results in strength training. But it also has to be noted that strength training for an endurance cyclist is completely different than for power lifters or strong men who specialize in short but extremely strong bursts of peak power.
To understand this better, it is necessary to look at what cycling is in terms of strength, what type of training is needed for this and how strength training can benefit from this. Take the example of a rider that is pushing 400 W for 1 hour, at a cadence of 90 rpm. There are not many riders that can push that amount of power for 1 hour, but if they can 90 rpm would be an appropriate cadence to do the job. The force needed for this can be calculated through biomechanics. If you are not interested in the calculations you can skip to the end of this paragraph, because you only need to know the final outcome to understand the rest of this blog. The force needed is the torque needed divided by the arm of the force, which is the same as the length of the crank which is usually 172.5 mm or 0.1725 m. So now we need to calculate the torque, which is the power output divided by the angular velocity in radians. With 90 rpm, the crank rotates 90 times per minute which is 1.5 rotations per second. This gives an angular velocity of 3 pi radians/second, so the torque needed to push 400 W with 90 rpm is 400 / (3 * pi) = 42.44. If we go back to the formula to calculate force and we take this number, then force is the torque / arm so 42.44 / 0.1725 = 246.04 N. If we calculate this to kg under normal circumstances on Earth, we get 246.04 / 9.81 = 25.08 kg.
So we calculated that the rider needs to push about 25 kg to ride fast. This is not a lot, as for most people an unloaded squat (squat without weights) is actually quite a lot heavier. This makes the task of the cyclist look easy, but it isn’t as he would have to do 90 reps per minute which is quite fast compared to a power lifter. And where the cyclist is really different from the strongmen is in the number of repetitions, as the cyclist is doing 90 * 60 = 5400 reps! So a cyclists only has to push a small amount of weight, but he has to be able to push it really fast and he has to be able to do an extreme amount of reps compared to power lifters or strongmen. Basically this comes down to endurance training, which a cyclist already does enough on the bike. So does he need to lift weight then as well?
The simple answer is: No, he doesn’t NEED to. But the more complete answer would add that it can help to improve your cycling performance. How does this work? In endurance training you train mostly the cardiovascular system, to transport oxygen. This system becomes highly fatigue and stress resistant. But the muscles hardly get stressed from the low intensity training. Lifting weights can strengthen the muscles, improving the maximal force. This can be useful for sprinting, but is not the main goal of strength training for cyclists. As a cyclist, you want to do strength training to make your muscles more stress and fatigue resistant. To do this, you would need to train with weights that are heavy enough to stress the muscular system rather than the cardiovascular system, but not too heavy to lift multiple times. Usually a strength training plan for cyclists consists of sets ranging from 12 to 50 reps or sometimes the maximum number of reps you can get in a time slot of up to 3 minutes. Those 3 minute sets are hard! And in order to train maximum strength, we do shorter sets as well. Last year I did a workout that included 5 sets of 6 squats per set, with a weight of 165 kg. This is far less than the strongmen can lift. But I bet most people wouldn’t even be able to stand upright while carrying that amount of weight on their shoulders, let alone do squats with that weight.
Arkworld products can benefit the strength training for cyclists in the same way as it can for strength athletes. Ark 1 before and during the workout can increase your energy levels and Ark 1 after the workout can help with recovery. Ark 3 after the workout will reduce muscle soreness and speed up your recovery.
I will soon write another blog on another topic related to strength training, focusing specially on the difference between the left and right leg. If you have other requests for topics you want me to write about, please leave a comment or contact Kevin or me.
Lead Cyclist Team HRTC
@lifestylefocus1 on Twitter