Fitness & Nutrition Tips
Should Cyclists Use Strength Training Machines?
A new study from Denmark shows that adding the use of
special strength training machines to bicycle racers’ cycling
training can help them ride faster in races (Scandinavian Journal
of Medicine & Science in Sports, December, 2011; 21(6):e298-307).
Previous studies have shown conflicting results on
whether strength training helps cyclists to ride faster in races.
This is one of the best studies because the researchers compared
cyclists who added strength and endurance training to their
programs for 16 weeks to those doing only the cycling training.
Those who added strength training were stronger, as shown by
their improvement in scientific measures of strength. Their
maximal muscle capacity (MMC) and contractile rate of force
development (CRFD), were up to 20 percent greater than the
cycle-only group. Their 45-minute time trials were eight percent
faster than the cycle-only group. They also had an increase in
their proportion of fast twitch strength (type IIA) fibers in
muscles. (Fast twitch type IIA fibers are the strength and
speed fibers that also have great endurance. In contrast, fast
twitch Type IIB are pure strength fibers with minimal endurance.)
Both groups had the same short-term, five-minute
endurance performance increase of three to four percent.
EXPLANATION: Cycling is a power sport. The stronger you
are, the faster you can ride over long distances. This study
shows that adding weight lifting to a cycling program makes you
CAVEATS: 1) All athletes should train by some form of
stress and recovery program. They take a hard workout on one or
more days, feel sore on the next day, and take easier workouts
for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away.
2) A typical cycling training program includes very fast
days on Tuesdays and Thursdays that usually include some form of
interval training; race days of sustained effort on Saturdays or
Sundays or both; and much slower recovery days on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays.
3) Do not use the strength machines on the days that you
are recovering from hard cycling and your muscles feel sore.
Recovery days are to keep your muscles moving, but not to put so
much pressure on them that you delay healing. Remember, you are
only as fast as your fastest training days. Riding too fast on
recovery days delays muscle healing and can leave you sore on the
next day when you had planned to ride fast. Anything that
interferes with your intense fast training days will also
interfere with your race times.
4) Never use strength training machines when your muscles
feel particularly tired or you feel localized pain in your leg
muscles. These are the warning signs that you are likely to injure
yourself if you put too much pressure on your muscles at that
Research from Dr. Gabe Mirin, http://www.drmirkin.com