Updated: Sep 21, 2021
It is very likely that we have all been told a few myths and tall tales around how to train and some common misconceptions regarding strength training for cyclists. Ultimately, these wide-ranging misnomers can have detrimental effects on your ability on the bike and leave you scratching your head as to why you are failing to improve.
But worry not, the team here at Breathe Physio and Pilates have gathered a lot of content to deliver you the best information there is out there regarding your cycling training and performance.
Myth 1 – You should only ride your bike as training
When developing a training plan or while following one, it is much simpler and more familiar for cyclists to only do on-bike workouts. But this is a mistake. The base period is the time you can and should be in the gym building your strength and working on your movement limitations and imbalances. It is also beneficial to pursue cross-training to mix up your mental and physical loads.
Myth 2 – Strength training isn’t necessary for cyclists
Cycling is a power sport. Power can easily be defined as strength x speed. Although you can work on increasing your cadence, there is a ceiling on how fast you can pedal. Therefore, cycling requires leg strength and what better way to improve leg strength other than strength training.
Myth 3 – Cycling enhances bone density
Unlike running, cycling is not weight-bearing and does not promote increased bone density due to the low impact experienced by riders. By adding strength training to your routine, you can improve bone strength, muscular strength and achieve a more balanced fitness.
Myth 4 – Adding strength training will lead to fatigue
This is a fair concern. However, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario found that adding maximal strength training to a cyclist’s endurance-training program had no negative physiological effects on endurance parameters. On the contrary, it has been shown to lead to an improvement in cycling economy, particularly in less-trained cyclists.
Myth 5 – Cycling is an endurance sport so adding strength would not help it.
The strength-building mechanisms that help cycling performance are largely neurological. This means they must come from teaching your body to better use the muscle it has, rather than from adding lots of new muscle.
Endurance training typically relies largely on the recruitment of slow-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers have great stamina as it is, but researchers have concluded that strength training improves the maximum strength of these fibers, which further increases the time it takes to work them to exhaustion.
Additionally, combined strength and endurance training has been shown to increase concentrations of fast energy-yielding substrates (e.g. phosphocreatine and glycogen) and lower concentrations of lactate at the end of a 30-minute bout of cycling.