Strength Training for Cyclists: Go Slow to Ride Fast
Toolbox: Halloween is right around the corner, which means the vast majority of cyclists are now turning to strength training in an attempt to go faster. Today we’re looking at the importance of slowing down, to help you achieve much better strength, stability, balance and power for cycling.
How much you lift doesn’t matter
Unlike most sports, which usually come with “strength standards”, or target weight-to-body weight ratios for major movements one “should be able to do” as a demonstration of the minimum strength needed for performance, cycling has no linear correlation with weights moved.
This may shock many, but it is the truth.
This is partly due to the positions of our sport as well as its unique requirement of “pulsating” strength, accompanied by our feet being attached to the pedals. These position-specific requirements make it very difficult to determine the relationships between weight used on the bar and results on the bike.
HOW you move, however, is a huge determinant of cycling performance.
Slow down to see the power and speed increase
Movement quality can be a difficult thing to quantify, especially for those new to strength training, which is one of the many reasons why “strength standards” tend to be the benchmark. Yet when you take the time to learn how to create stiffness in the right places and in the right amounts, while getting movement only in the areas you need, performance improvements are often surprisingly quick.
But to get there, we need to slow down our movements, make better mind-muscle connections, as well as hone our unconscious ability to know where our body is in space.
Think of a new mountain biker trying to learn how to use the big chainring to help them roll over a tree trunk on the trail. Achieving this requires creating just the right amount of stiffness in the arms and core to keep the bike upright and moving forward, while remaining relaxed at the hips, yet pressing the pedals hard enough to keep rolling. .
Easier said than done.
How do we learn to do it?
We slow down and break each of the skills down into a segment (and a subsequent drop, in the author’s case, lol!), allowing us to learn the skill.
The same goes for bodybuilding.
Use the 3-1-3-1 tempo
While we want to slow down to achieve a better mind-muscle connection, better quality of movement and to push ourselves towards better performance on the bike, it has to be done in the right way, at the right time. And for this time of year, early core strength training, using the 3-1-3-1 tempo, is the way we want to go.
There are a number of ways to slow down our strength movements for better positioning and performance, and a number of tempos that can be used for a variety of specific training adaptations. I discuss this in more detail in Chapter 11 of my new book “Strength Training for Cycling Performance”, an excerpt of which I have taken from here:
Tempo 3-1-3-1: Learn movement control, core control and prepare the body for a more intense and explosive workout
The 3-1-3-1 workout rhythm is a fantastic way for you to start your strength training program for a number of reasons. It will be:
- Expose breakdowns and weak points in the 5 FUNdamental movements
- Help you learn to produce basic control while moving
- Build tissue strength and resilience with more time under tension
- Use the motor units of your muscles more when you get tired
- Use lighter weights for great results
The 3-1-3-1 tempo is a great place to start your bodybuilding cycles in the fall or winter, as it will help get you on the right track quickly, giving you lots of great feedback as you build the tissues. and nervous. system capabilities to be ready to handle your upcoming training. The 3-1-3-1 Tempo has also proven to be an all-star for mid-season strength for those who travel a lot or have high time demands.
An example of using this tempo is in the video below
Don’t fall into the traditional trap of thinking you have to jump into heavy weights to see cycling results and improvements. Instead, take the time to learn how to move better and have more efficient and effective movements…as stated on my podcast, THIS is the golden ticket to improved performance and longevity in the game of the cycling and life.