Two New Studies Look at the Benefits of Strength Training for Cycling


Strength training has been gaining ground in endurance training for some time. Not that long ago, many cyclists were afraid of strength training because they didn’t want to put on excess muscle – some probably still think so. But study after study suggests that strength training is not only beneficial for cycling performance, but is also an important factor in injury prevention, overall health, and longevity.

So why are we writing about strength training again?

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Well, two studies just came out on bodybuilding and cycling, and they might get you to start lifting weights.

Australian study says strength training affects body fat percentage just as much as aerobic exercise

Posted in Sports medicine in September of this year, this systematic review and meta-analysis comes to us from Sydney, Australia. A group of researchers looked at nearly 12,000 records to determine the effects of strength training on body fat percentage.

By now you’ve probably heard the rider’s excuse to refrain from weight training or weight lifting by saying, “I don’t want to gain extra muscle.

Most people think of cycling as all about the power to weight ratio, so riders want to be lean. Lose weight while maintaining your power output and you will go faster. Simple math, right?

But in reality, very little cycling is about the power to weight ratio. Only the upper echelons of the sport – and the local hill climbs – are pure watts per pound contests. The rest of cycling (local criteria, time trial and road racing) is more about absolute power, timing, tactics, positioning and sprinting. If you are reading this, you are probably not taking part in the Tour de France.

Connor () Fields works out in the gym to train explosive power. (: Courtesy of Connor Fields)

Losing weight is also a tedious process and one that so many cyclists get it wrong. Fortunately, there has been a growing trend towards healthy eating and sustainability in the cycling community; Plus, many of the world’s best riders are no longer sticks.

Back on track now, the belief that strength training invariably leads to increased weight and muscle mass is wrong. In fact, as this study aimed to prove, strength training can not only increase strength and power without increasing body weight, it can even help. decrease body weight and total body fat.

Compared to cardiovascular exercise, resistance training has the same negative effect on body fat percentage – the average participant lost 1.4 percent body fat over a 4-week training period – according to this report. study. This suggests that you don’t necessarily need to get hours of cardiovascular exercise to burn fat. In fact, exercise burns fat; and during a structured weight training program like the ones done in this study, you will not only lose fat, but you will also gain muscle.

German study followed 30 competitive cyclists during a year of strength training

While our first study focused on entry-level weightlifters in the general population, this recently published study looks at a much smaller client base that likely includes people like you and me. Posted in the Sport Biology, a group of German researchers followed 30 competitive cyclists as they participated in a one-year strength training program. A number of important performance parameters were measured and monitored, including functional threshold power (FTP), maximum force repetition (1RM), and body composition.

Study participants engaged in intensive weight training sessions once or twice a week, which included the barbell squat, leg press, seated leg curl, one-leg press, trunk stability and others. Each exercise was performed in three to five sets, while the number of repetitions varied with the amount of weight, according to the study.

The researchers gave the participants even more specific instructions, asking them to perform each repetition with a rapid explosive effort to start (during the concentric contraction phase), followed by a slow, controlled movement back to center (during the eccentric contraction phase).

During the one-year study, each participant simultaneously performed structured cycling training that included intervals of endurance capacity, then progressed to lactate threshold and neuromuscular capacity (VO2 max) intervals.

Here are the main differences between this study and the other: longer duration (1 year vs.> 4 weeks), simultaneous weekly cardiovascular and muscle training, and the types of measurements measured (measures of cycling performance in addition to body composition ).

Bottom Line: Participants in this study gained both strength and endurance throughout the year, while experiencing a slight increase (around 500g) in body mass. Jumping beyond the stat-heavy formulation, the researchers found that there were significant increases in strength and functional power during the study, but only minimal increases in power-to-weight ratio.

Let’s talk about what it all means.

Strength training isn’t bad for cyclists, and it won’t make you heavier. Photo © Mark Twight.

Why these studies are important to you

The second study applies to competitive cyclists, and probably to most of those reading this article. The most frequently asked question is “Does strength training make me faster?” The answer, for 90% of us, is yes.

There are very few people whose goals are mountain fondos or alpine hikes. Most of us run criteria and time trials, maybe a regional road race or two, and maybe even a stage race. I also know that most of these races are relatively flat, and it’s your absolute power – not your power-to-weight ratio – that matters most.

The remaining 10% are pure climbers. If your cycling goals involve long, steep climbs of over 20 minutes with an average gradient of over 5%, then your weight-to-power ratio is more important than strength training. I highly recommend lifting once a week to maintain muscle mass and balance your core and upper body, although strength training doesn’t help increase your weight-to-power ratio.

Key points to remember

The first study in this article proves to us that weight training is not bad for cyclists and that it does not weigh you down; in fact, it actually does the opposite.

In Study 2, we learned that you can include both strength training and cycling in your program, and simultaneously increase your performance in both. This is especially important for sprinters, critical runners and punchers, whose absolute power matters far more than their power-to-weight ratio.

Finally, we learned that strength training can have a direct and positive effect on your cycling performance. With just one to two sessions per week, you can increase your overall strength and absolute power, while complementing your weekly training on the bike.

Ashton Lambie, world record holder and world champion in individual pursuit, regularly makes strength training a part of his training program.

If all those big words like “systematic review” and “meta-analysis” haven’t quite won you over, just take Ashton Lambie for example. The American can lift almost 300 pounds – in a Montana barn just before breaking the world record for the individual pursuit.

Squats and strength training are an important part of Lambie’s training schedule, which helped him win the World Individual Pursuit Championship in October. Especially for track runners and sprinters, strength training can have a direct impact on your power output in the bike.


Cesanelli, Léonard et al. “Performance indicators and functional adaptive windows in competitive cyclists: effect of a one-year strength training and conditioning program.” ” Sport Biology, flight. 39, no. 2, 2022, p. 329-340. doi: 10.5114 / biolsport.2022.105334.

Wewege MA, Desai I, Honey C, Coorie B, Jones MD, Clifford BK, Leake HB, Hagstrom AD. The effect of resistance training in healthy adults on body fat percentage, body fat, and visceral fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Med. Athletic. September 18, 2021. doi: 10.1007 / s40279-021-01562-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34536199.


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