Question: I’m doing squats this winter but am unsure if added strength will help my cycling next season. I read the weight training chapter in your Off-Season Training for Roadies, but should I continue working so hard in the weight room? — Andy G.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The answer about whether strength training for legs improves cycling is a definite “maybe.” I address two considerations in some detail in the chapter you mention. Here’s the short version:
Sports science isn’t sure that conventional resistance training helps endurance performance. It depends on the individual’s weaknesses.
- If you’re naturally strong but lack aerobic power, you’re probably better off riding and working on strength on the bike with short, hard hills and low-cadence/high gear repeats.
- If you lack strength in your legs, weights can help improve this weakness. But then you have to convert that strength into cycling-specific power with on-bike training.
However, there’s another consideration. As we age, it’s increasingly important to maintain muscle volume. Weights are a great way to do this. I suspect that most riders over 45 or 50 should do squats or leg presses routinely just to stave off sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle tissue).
Think of it this way: You’re lifting not to improve your riding next spring but rather to ensure that you’re still able to ride in 20 or 30 years.
This may seem more a matter of “functional strength” than a direct cycling issue. But as you grow older, it obviously helps your cycling to have more leg muscle to work with.