Strength for Endurance

Strength for Endurance
Endurance athletes are often very cautious when it comes to strength training. However, adding one or two resistance sessions into your weekly regime can make a significant difference to your overall performance. Obviously the majority of your strength training will focus on leg exercises but it is important not to neglect core stability. It is important to note that resistance sessions should be viewed as an addition to your training – there is no substitute for actually cycling. However, they can be very useful in the Winter when the roads are icy and uninviting!
Step Ups, Squats and Deadlifts should make up the core of your leg weights session. These weighted exercises are a fantastic way to stress your muscles with loads that are not usually experienced when on the bike. This in turn encourages muscle development and increased power output. You can clearly measure your increased strength and power by the amount of reps you are capable of with any given weight.
I personally prefer to use leg weights to concentrate on explosive power output, really driving upwards to help with my distinctly average climbing ability on the bike! Resistance sessions can also be incredibly useful for honing certain muscle activation. For instance, utlising your glutes when cycling is something that a lot of people fail to do (including me). When doing your squats, step ups or deadlifts, focus on generating power from your glutes rather than quads. This can be harder than you think, but once you do it is a sort of Eureka moment – now all you have to do is transfer this skill to the bike and suddenly when the pace picks up on training rides (as it always does towards the end) you will find yourself at the front rather than getting dropped off the back!

Core stability has become a crucial factor in most professional sports. Static holds such as ‘The Plank’ can be more effective and more time efficient than doing hundreds of sit ups. They also develop the necessary ability to hold a hunkered aero TT position whilst still maintaining a high power output. Furthermore, a strong core will facilitate a higher power output when climbing as a large proportion of your power is generated from an engaged core. The great thing about core stability is that you can do these exercises with your own body weight so no need to travel to the gym for the equipment.

Cyclists are constantly searching for increased performance, that may be in the form of upgrading the groupset, reducing weight with carbon headset, more aero position, etc. So why wouldn’t you use resistance to increase your wattage? With prices of a carbon wheelset reaching £2000 / $3000 this year, strength training is a cost efficient way of increased performance.

Finally, wide grip pull ups, bent over rows and tricep dips are the swimming equivalent of squats, lunges and step ups! The same theory applies to swimming and again these exercises will help prevent injuries if done properly.

For more information on strength training talk to a coach or specialist personal trainer in order to ensure proper technique when strength training – it is all well and good improving your cycling and running with weights but if you injure yourself then there is very little point! Get your technique sorted first, and then move on to testing yourself in the gym.

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