Just like bicycle mechanics can debate endlessly over “which chain lube is best?,” coaches are going to debate endlessly over the idea of weight training for cyclists…

Should I do upper body weights/conditioning as a road/mtb cyclist. My coach and other people on my team say ‘no’ that it isn’t important. Seems like it would be a good idea though.

Thanks,
Bulging Biceps Billy

Hi Billy,

I’m a big fan of upper body conditioning, especially for mountain bikers. I think everyone should lift weights, at least in the off season.

I certainly don’t recommend any sort of bodybuilding routine, but a straightforward strength training program composed of some basic exercises is great. During the off season, that might be squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, dips, push ups, and pull ups done 2-3 times per week.

Once racing season begins, you should probably drop the weighted squats and lunges and ease up on the arm exercises a little. At this point you might only lift once per week, if at all.

But you can still do your calisthenics during the season. At the very least, competitive cyclists should be doing basic body weight workouts – push ups, planks, bird dog, lunges, mountain climbers, etc.

A nice compromise between weight lifting and the easier body weight exercises is plyometrics. These jumps and explosive movements are intense like weight lifting, but they don’t require weights or a gym!

Personally I like to hit the heavy weights in the off season (full body) but then switch to mostly body weight workouts and plyometrics during the season. I’ll still do shoulder presses, dips, and pull-ups (with weights) during the season, but I have to back off on the squats once the serious interval training begins.

This strength training will get rid of muscle imbalances and possible posture problems from hunkering down over a bike for hours on end, as well as strengthen your bones, which is VERY important for cyclists!

(Cycling being a relatively low impact activity, it doesn’t promote bone strengthening to the extent that weight lifting does.)

The weight lifting is not going to increase your aerobic capacity so you can ride the Tour de France. And you do have to give up a little bit of riding time since you’ll need increased recovery from adding in weight training.

But I feel the general health and injury prevention benefits outweigh the risks! (As long as you are lifting with proper form, that is.)

And contrary to popular belief, you won’t turn into a hulk just by weight lifting (unless you’re on steroids!)

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