Strength training on the bike

21. January 2020

Do you wish you had more strength in your legs but don't feel like lifting weights in the gym? Then try cycling at a low cadence during your next bike training.

It is clear that cyclists need strength in their legs. But unless you are a sprinter who needs to generate tremendous power at the finish, or a biker like Nino Schurter, who has to shake off his competitors with an explosive burst of speed, then you don't need ultra-bulky thigh muscles, but rather muscles that enable you maintain the highest wattage possible over a longer period of time. And this, in turn, does not require you to do maximum strength and/or speed training in the gym.

In practice, good 1:1 strength endurance training can be done on the bike. Strength endurance is when you can cycle against resistance on the bike or home trainer at your maximum level of exertion for longer than 90 to 120 seconds. The winter months are extremely suitable for strength endurance training – not only outdoors but also on the roller.

After a short warm-up of about 5-10 minutes, start cycling slowly for 3 to 5 minutes at 50 revolutions per minute. This adjustment in terms of cadence usually requires practice, because it is normal to cycle at a cadence of roughly 80 to 100 revolutions per minute, even on ascents. During strength endurance training, the resistance should correspond to a perceived intensity of 80 percent of your maximum possible performance, i.e. rigorous, but not flat out. The first block is followed by an active break of 3 to 5 minutes with really relaxed and fast pedalling, preferably without resistance. You can repeat this short program 2 to 3 times and constantly increase the length of the strength endurance unit up to 10 minutes with 40 to 60 revolutions, alternating with 10 minutes of relaxed pedalling. You can also increase the load intensity and cycle the blocks at a lower cadence with the maximum possible resistance. To do this training outdoors, you need a longer, steady but not too steep ascent, for which you will need about 5 to 10 minutes.

You can do such a strength unit 1 to 2 times a week, depending on your performance level. In spring, it is good to do these units on a mountain to ensure you can also cycle up an ascent at a low cadence for 20 minutes. The closer you then get to the tours or even race, the less you will need to work on your strength endurance because while these units give you power, they also make the muscles sluggish, which negatively affects your liveliness. Accordingly, your strength endurance training units in spring will also need to be followed by faster units with sprints and intervals.