Today, we have a cyclist and cross-country skier who wants to get stronger to excel in both sports, but doesn’t quite know where to start…

How do I start strength training?

Coach Levi,

I am both a cross country skier in the winter and a cyclist in the summer. Being a cross country skier I want to make sure that I have a good strength routine not to mention that it helps on the bike as well as with how I look.

The problem is I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the different strength training plans and philosophies. I know that one of the worst things I could do is to constantly switch from on plan to another and not be well structured or planned.

I am obviously looking for some on the bike gains from my strength training but my main goals are to improve strength for skiing and maybe improve my look in the process, however I still want to have lean body type and not get too bulky..

I have worked with a basic strength routine of primarily body weight core exercises in the past. Recently I have been looking at convict conditioning. I like the body weight aspect of convict conditioning as I don’t have any weights or a gym membership but am still completely open to looking into weights and such. Maybe weights are needed to really get what I’m looking for? I have also looked at your reviews of Built For Show and Visual Impact and am interested in those. Just to be clear my primary goal is performance (in skiing) and look is a far off secondary concern.

I am also working on adapting my diet to your recommendations so hopefully that will also help.

I would love it if you could provide someone like my self with some guidance to stop being a wimpy cyclist and start being strong.

Wimpy Wynston

Hi Wynston,

Great question. I read through your email a few times so I could best assess your situation and make a recommendation!

You’re right that there are a ton of different strength training philosophies and many debates between them, so it’s easy to get distracted. I’m actually a big fan of both weight lifting and pure bodyweight training because either approach can be used in a way to fit almost any athlete’s goals.

Bodyweight Training

Going with my gut instinct, I’m going to recommend you stick with bodyweight training and just ramp it up a notch. I wouldn’t rule out weight lifting, but it’s not cheap (especially on top of two expensive endurance sports), and it takes a while to get good at it. It’s probably not the best use of your time, money, and energy right now.

However, if you’re ever looking for a good gym routine to use when you first get started, check out and download the free 5×5 training plan. Reading the site and training plan for enjoyment will teach you some of the important basics. Just avoid their weight gain advice (GOMAD for example) and you should be fine! 🙂

Convict Conditioning, perhaps.

So with weights on the backburner, effectively ruling out the other books, the discussion turns to Convict Conditioning. I’ve read about this book numerous times, but never used the program myself due to time restrictions (too many programs to review, too little time).

The only thing I question about the book is how easy the exercise progressions are. The sales page claims anyone of any fitness level can start the program and progress through exercise variations, which is awesome if true, but that has always been the downside of advanced bodyweight training. Bodyweight exercise variations aren’t as simple and straightforward as adding 5lb to the bar like in weight lifting. Sometimes the next variation is a small step and sometimes it’s a big step.

That said, Convict Conditioning still sounds like a great program, especially if you don’t have weights of your own. I plan to test it out myself eventually – the Kindle version is currently on my wish list (for $9 it’s a good deal compared to the regular $24 paperback version).

And if that goes well, you can always grab some gymnastic rings and train on those, too. I’ve never seen a gymnast without a killer physique!

Whatever route you choose, let me know how you are progressing and I can give you some tips on modifying it to better suit your goals.

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