The Importance of Strength Training

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Improve your performance by getting stronger

Cyclists, and endurance athletes in general, have never been too keen on strength training. Thinking that locking yourself up between four walls to pump iron was something for bodybuilders, they rarely stepped into a gym.

Photo: Cristian Baron

Fortunately, this is changing and more and more athletes are including strength routines in their workouts, whether they are professionals or competing at a high level. Are you among those who have already added strength to their workout routine?

Strength training does not necessarily have to be done at a gym. You can train at home or outdoors, and without the need for any gear or equipment.

It’s not something just for bodybuilders, or sports that apparently require great strength.

And don’t think that it has to be monotonous or boring. There are plenty of options to make sure that it isn’t. For example, circuit strength training is a challenge, keeping you motivated throughout your workout and allowing you to mix up your training routines.

First off, let’s clarify the concept of strength. Without getting into academic definitions, strength is the capacity to move a weight in the shortest time possible, or to keep it stationary for as long as possible.

Based on this definition, if you want to be faster on your bike, you need to be stronger.

Photo: Paul Green

It is very important not to focus exclusively on the muscles most directly involved in our sport. As cyclists, we should not think that doing some squats and other leg exercises is enough. You’ve got to work your whole body. While you will want to keep the muscles most directly involved in our sport in mind, you will also want to focus on the weakest parts of your body, those you do not tend to use in your sport or your daily life, and core work.

Keep in mind that strength work will not necessarily lead to a visible increase in your muscle mass. In order to achieve muscular hypertrophy it is necessary to follow certain workout patterns and a diet just for this purpose, and it is still difficult if you do. Thus, the excuse that you don’t want to get bigger, because it will affect your climbing, is invalid. Obviously, you will improve your muscle tone, and develop those muscles that you don’t normally work, but the increase in strength will far outweigh any mass you may have gained.

Photo: Alexander Redl

Reasons for strength training:

Muscles are the motors of our bodies. The stronger they are, the better its performance.

Improved endurance. The stronger you are, the easier it is for you to move weights more easily, being able to do so faster or for a longer period of time, with less fatigue.

Prevent injuries. If you subject your muscles to a higher weight than they can take, they end up suffering damage. Your joints take on part of the effort when muscles are strained, placing more stress on your tendons, and producing greater wear and tear.

Improve your quality of life. Daily efforts will be much easier, so you will be more rested.

Increased basal metabolism. Greater muscle mass means that you burn more calories when at rest. And, if you watch your diet a little, you can easily reach your optimum weight.

Look better. Although the search for a good physique may not be a priority for, we all like to look good in the mirror, which boosts mood and motivation.

In future instalments we will discuss how to include strength training in your preparation. As a sneak peek: include at least two workouts focused on strength, which you can do after some moderate training and without investing too much time, giving priority to functional multi-joint movements, core work, and mobility.

A must exercise is the one-leg deadlift, a unilateral exercise for the leg’s posterior chain. Once you master the technique you can progress by adding weight, using a dumbbell or, if you don’t have one, a bottle of water or a similar object.

We hope we have convinced you, if you were not already, to include strength training in your sports routine.

 

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