By Martin Sigrist
It might seem strange that a cyclist could learn some training lessons from an NFL running back.
Derrick Henry is no ordinary running back, he’s been the best in the league for the past two seasons and was the AP Offensive Player of the year in 2020.
A clue as to why he’s so special comes from watching him workout as in the video below.
While his training objectives are very different from a cyclist, indeed almost the opposite with respect to his upper body strength what is noticeable is that he not just lifting huge weights to bulk up.
Many of his drills are done with relatively light weights or resistance cables.
Many are more concerned with movement rather than strength.
Many involve equipment like Swiss balls, rubber bands and chains which add elements of instability into moving weights.
Many are single sided, weights are often dumbbells.
This illustrates some basic principles that are so basic that they apply not just to every sport but to every body.
“Use it or lose it” is not something that just applies to a high VO2max or FTP number.
It applies to the basic movements that our bodies are capable of and that we did so easily when we were young.
However in today’s world we don’t “use it” with regards to how we move about and work. Many of are joints rarely if ever move to their fullest extent and even more rarely do so while trying to lift a significant load. Simple, natural, actions like raising the arms above the head or sinking into a deep squat don’t happen very often.
So not surprisingly then the range of movement for our bodies becomes less as time goes by. On the rare occasions they are expected to go beyond their now restricted limits they are more likely to suffer harm. Even if never asked to perform in this manner the imbalances caused will can cause long term pain, often in sites far removed from the actual cause.
This, more than just the passing of years, is why as we get older things can seem harder. Its not the year themselves but the years of under use and misuse.
A solution is to do like Derrick.
Not lift the heavy weights. But move all parts of your body through their full range of motion at least every now and then.
Add a little weight to these movements not to build muscle but to remind the vital muscles that go unnoticed because they add stability not muscle bulk that they are still loved and still need to work.
Reinforce this by making things a bit more difficult by adding some elements of instability.
Move limbs individually — not together — so that the weak link has to become stronger and the body is a balanced body.
You don’t need to go to a gym in order to do this. You don’t even need any gym equipment. Old inner tubes make good resistance bands and a bag of sugar makes a good starting substitute for a dumbbell.
The video of Derrick Henry lasts just over 7 minutes. Just following along, even without any weights at all would be a pretty good way to keep you in shape just by itself. A couple of times a week would be enough.
You may not get a call from the Tennessee Titans but it may mean you not having to call on your doctor in future.
And it may make you a better cyclist. There is more to riding a bike than putting out as many watts as you can. If you lack mobility and stability you will not be comfortable on the bike and will not be efficient in turning muscle power into speed.
And if speed is your goal then if you are riding alone or at the head of a bunch then the single best way to get faster is to get slippy, reduce your drag by lowering your profile and reducing your width. This isn’t easy and is much harder if you can’t move properly or tire quickly because the muscles needed have forgotten how to work.
Seven minutes a few of times a week doing like Derrick or similar may save you minutes in a race and may mean that the money spent on go faster gear is well spent rather than wasted.
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.