Life Proof Your Body With Strength Training

The past few decades of training for cycling has centered around the quote “ride lots”. It makes sense. You have to ride your bike to be a good bike racer. Naturally, that means riding a lot. The thing is, that is not completely true anymore. The weight room is increasingly becoming the place to find those elusive marginal gains. The research is there, the rest of the sporting world does it, yet cyclists are still holding out.

The position your bike puts you in is very unnatural for your body. Not to mention we pedal an unbelievable amount of revolutions in a very short amount of time. This means that any poor movement patterns and muscle inhibitions are exacerbated and ingrained very, very quickly. The lack of stress on the upper body and the constant stress on our lower body in a fixed, repetitive pattern is a recipe for bodily ruin. That’s why you hear so many complaints about low back and knee pain during and after rides. Bikes are great for your cardiovascular system, not so great for your muscles, tendons, etc.

The gym is there to fix all that.

There are two primary ways you should approach lifting: Mobility and stretching, and moving heavyweight (none of that low weight, 20+rep stuff).

Mobility and stretching are vital to ensuring our body moves properly. After every ride and weight session muscles tighten and pull on each other. We’ve all felt it. You hop off the bike after five hours to find you can’t stand up straight or your shoulders are stuck rotated forward. Mobility and stretching are going to pull you joints through full ranges of motion and remind our body that’s how it’s supposed to move. There are a few rules you should know about mobility and stretching exercises:

Perform mobility exercises that target common range of motion to cycling prior to and after riding (this includes upper body).

Perform dynamic stretches that target muscle chains used in cycling prior to riding (that means upper body as well)

Perform static stretches after your ride, NOT BEFORE. Static stretching prior to a ride or race can make your performance worse. (Yes I know we see the pros do it. They’re wrong. Just don’t do it before you ride)

If you would like examples of exercises, check out the Move Up or FIT Muscle and Joint’s (chiropractic practice of Move Up athlete Michael Allison) Instagram accounts.

I’ll be honest with you guys. At some point in our early to mid-thirties the body begins to breakdown. There is literally nothing that can be done to stop it. It typically happens at a rate of 1% a year, give or take genetics, in the general population. Your bike will slow the decay of the cardiovascular system, but not your body. Weights are where the life-proofing for everything else happens. There are four primary areas that weightlifting benefits us:

  • Muscular strength
  • Bone density
  • Nervous system function
  • Tendon and ligament strength

Strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments will make you much more powerful as an athlete (you’ll never say you can’t sprint again), more resistant to injury (say goodbye to knee and back pain), and make sure we can still carry the groceries well into old age. Your tendons and ligaments respond in the same way as your muscle. Having strong muscle and supporting structures also means your bones have to be strong to support all the forces they generate. Let me tell you, that is a very good thing. The higher your z-score (bone density rating) the lower your risk of osteoporosis (“Elderly” weightlifters often have stronger bones than your average 20-year-old!). Tying it all together is the nervous system. Weightlifting requires coordination far beyond the demands of cycling, especially when you are required to produce a lot of force in a very precise pattern, such as Olympic lifting. The more this system is used, the better your body can produce force efficiently and resist form breakdown from fatigue. Consistent use will also delay loss of motor control well into old age. Stay coordinated for life!

Whether you are looking to be the best athlete you can, or just get through life ache and pain-free, you need to be in the gym. Our bikes are excellent for our heart and lungs, and the weight room is going to make sure you can still use your body well into old age. No more using “I’m old” as an excuse again!