Ride Less, Lift More

By Dave Appel – January 1, 2014


It is a new year, and that means it is time to ditch your current training program and try a new one. What you are about to read may come as a shock. Are you ready?

Ride fewer miles per week and spend more hours with the weights.

Why? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Riding more miles is not very likely to increase your speed and, eventually, your endurance is going to plateau. More miles will just lead to more imbalances in your body.
Let’s start with the imbalances that can occur from cycling. Several hours in the saddle can lead to very tight hip flexors and quads and very little glute activation. And it doesn’t stop there. Along with the aforementioned comes limited shoulder mobility (especially in the overhead position) that, over time, will lead to a decrease in muscle activation. Less muscle activation means less speed and more imbalances. Sound familiar? If so, it’s time for a new training program.

Weight training and mobility work should not only be incorporated during the off-season. Instead, we should be doing the opposite. During the season, we should be doing fewer long road sessions and spending more time lifting and stretching.

Let’s look at a few basic moves that are guaranteed to increase your performance and overall fitness, along with a couple of different training programs.

The Deadlift
This is the crown jewel of full-body strength development. The deadlift has numerous benefits, such as increasing metabolism, strength, and lean body mass. It will also decrease body fat, rehabilitate your back, and improve overall athletic performance. Do I have your attention?

Back Squats
Squats are the ultimate hip extension exercise for both athletes and non-athletes. Hip extension is the foundation of all good human movement. Unfortunately, most men, whether cyclists or not, have severely limited hip mobility. Having powerful and controlled hip extension is just as necessary for the elite athlete as it is for the weekend warrior.

Overhead Squat
This move is the keystone of core exercises and unequaled in developing effective athletic movement. The overhead squat trains for efficient transfer of energy from core to extremity, which is the heart of sports movements. For this very reason, the overhead squat is a key tool for developing speed and power.

These moves are just a few of many lifts that can be performed in order to make you a better cyclist. That being said, it is paramount that you master proper technique and form before adding weight and increasing speed. Using these moves in a training program will strengthen your pedaling muscles (glutes, quads, and hamstrings), which will allow you to resist fatigue. They will also help you ride more efficiently with a stronger core to hold position.

By incorporating these lifts into your weekly training routine, you will set performance markers on the bike and build strength in your overall muscular system. When you start out, you may be sore for the first week or two, but don’t let this soreness lead to you missing out on potential gains.

A program like CrossFit can help you identify and correct muscle imbalances caused by long hours in the saddle. The deadlift, back squat, and overhead squat are at the core of CrossFit’s training principles. This is a great program that will complement your cycling. Aside from health benefits and strength gains, CrossFit puts you in a group setting where you can suffer with others, just like you do out on the roads. It is a great way to keep the camaraderie of road cycling going all year long.

Finally, the most important component is also the easiest to skip—mobility. Why is mobility the most important of all the training protocols? By increasing the body’s mobility, you are giving it the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. Mobility exercises help retain movement in damaged and non-damaged joints, so you don’t squander power that is trapped in poorly moving muscles and joints. If you have not heard of Kelly Starrett, Google him and see what you have been missing. Earlier in the year, Starrett worked with Levi Leipheimer and shared mobility exercise you can do at home. Check out the video to see what got the attention of one of cycling’s best American riders.

In a world that continues to get faster and faster, you are constantly being challenged to train as efficiently as time allows. I am not telling you to abandon the bike, but I am offering up a solution that will require less time and have you sprinting faster, climbing stronger, and smashing your buddies in the group—if that is what you are looking for.



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