Monday, July 3, 2017

Keys to Improvement - Resistance Training

Resistance training (gym work, weight training) will improve your cycling performance.

It is not as powerful a factor in training as improving your cardiovascular efficiency, but it may provide the edge that helps you beat your buddies to the finish on a weekend ride.

Why does it help? There are several possibilities that come to mind. The common factor is an improvement in the potential power power output that the muscle can delivere to the pedals of your bike.

 Power = energy produced per unit of time = watts

If you produce more power with your cycling muscles, you will move your bicycle at a faster speed.

The first possibility, suggested in the article, is that resistance exercises (which require that all the muscle fibers in a single muscle work together to achieve maximal force of contraction) improve the efficiency (co-ordination) of a muscle's nerve/muscle units. If the muscle fibers in the muscle (your quadriceps for example) are working in a highly coordinated fashion, all contracting in concert, it will increase power output.

The second is that resistance exercise may improve the velocity (speed) at which the muscle fibers contract when the nerve stimulation arrives. A faster contraction translate into more force generated per unit time which translates into more power (watts).

Finally, resistance exercise will increase the strength of a muscle, as the individual fibers increase in size in response to the stress of increasing loads (as weights are added). That is why you can lift greater weights as training progresses. And once again, being able to produce a more forceful muscle contraction means more muscle power is available.

Thus a well rounded training program should be built around both intervals to improve the cardiovascular aspects of high end performance as well as include components of resistance training to maximize the muscles power potential.

And it may not need to be an all out session at the gym. This article (the original reference) suggests that you don't have to push heavy weights to improve muscle strength. It suggests that instead of pushing weights of 80 - 90% of your maximum for 10 reps, you can use lighter weights (30 - 50% of your one time maximum) for up to 25 reps (to the point of fatigue) and gain the same benefit.

Thus it is not tissue injury and repair that leads to strength improvement but the stress of achieving the total muscle fatigue. This approach not only should decrease the risk of tissue injury that might sideline your biking, but eliminate the barrier of needing to undergo an uncomfortable workout to achieve improvement.

My recommendations would be to add 2 days a week of resistance work a week to your training program and do some standing climbs on a regular basis which might increase leg strength as effectively as work in the weight room.


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