Winter Weight Training - A Basic Program for Real Results

A few years ago, only football players and shot putters lifted weights. Cyclists were warned to stay far, far away. Resistance training was said to destroy the suppleness needed to pedal smoothly.

Now, weight training has become standard for cyclists. The reason is simple -- it’s been proven very effective.

However, you don’t need to spend hours toiling with weights to benefit your riding, as well as your general health. A basic off-season program takes less than an hour, two days per week.


Getting Started

If you have the time and money to go to a gym or health club, you’ll find a variety of machines and free weights plus plenty of workout partners. But if you want to economize on hours and expenses, the following program can be done at home. You’ll need a pull-up bar, a light barbell set, several dumbbells of various weights, and a sturdy bench or box.

Do crunches, pull-ups and push-ups with your body weight. For other exercises, use a weight that allows you to do from 12 to 20 repetitions. Studies show that one set of each exercise provides most of the benefit of multiple sets. You can do one set during the riding season as a maintenance program, then increase to two or three sets in the winter.

Strength train two or three times per week, depending on your schedule and enthusiasm. If you combine the upper- and lower-body work in the same session, always allow at least one day for recovery between workouts. An option is to alternate days of upper-body work with days of leg exercises.

Always warm-up thoroughly before working out. Stretch, do some light calisthenics, and spin easily for at least five minutes on your indoor trainer.

The following are general descriptions of each exercise. If you don’t know how to do them correctly, ask a knowledgeable coach or instructor.


Upper-Body Exercises

Pull-ups. When you’re climbing a steep hill out of the saddle, you pull against the handlebar with many of the same muscles worked by pull-ups.

Do one set of as many repetitions as you can manage. Grip the bar so your palms are facing away (like on a handlebar). If you can do fewer than five pull-ups, “cheat” by resting one foot on a chair and pushing up slightly with your leg. Gradually lessen the amount of cheating as you get stronger.

Push-ups. These help alleviate soreness in the triceps caused by supporting your upper body on the handlebar during long rides.

For maximum benefit, do pushups with strict form. Position your hands the same width as your grip on the handlebar. Keep your back and neck straight. Lower your chest to the floor slowly, pause, then push up quickly.

Dumbbell rows. Because these are done one arm at a time, they duplicate your motion on the bike when you stand to climb.

Bend at the waist and rest your left hand on the bench. Bend your knees slightly. Hold the dumbbell, hanging straight down, in the right hand. Keep your head up and back flat. Raise the dumbbell toward your right hip. Keep your elbow close to your side. Pause a second, then lower. Repeat with the other arm.

Crunches. Strong abs are crucial to overall trunk strength and protection against low-back pain.

Lie on your back and raise your legs in the air, directly overhead, then bend your knees. Cross your arms on your chest. Curl your trunk so your shoulders come off the ground, pause slightly then lie back. Repeat. Aim for 25 to 100 repetitions.


Leg Exercises

Here’s a program that will build leg strength in the weight room and then convert it to cycling-specific power on the indoor trainer. Spend four to six weeks on each of the following workouts. Get instruction if you aren’t sure how to do each exercise correctly.

Workout I (6 weeks)

Do one to three sets of squats or leg presses. Use a weight that allows 15 to 25 reps in each set.

Leg Workout II (6 weeks)

Do one to three sets of one-leg exercises, such as lunges or step-ups, with your body weight. If you can do more than 25 reps per leg, hold light dumbbells in your hands to add resistance.

Leg Workout III (4 weeks)

Continue the lunges or step-ups but increase sets to five. Between each set, do three minutes per leg of one-leg pedaling on the indoor trainer. Choose a gear that allows you to maintain a cadence of at least 60 rpm.

Leg Workout IV (through the cycling season)

Over a period of four weeks, phase out weight training for the legs as you increase the amount of time that you ride.

General Cycling