Question: This winter I’m training at a health club that has a leg-press machine and spinning bikes.What’s the correct way to combine these two activities? — Max P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Leg weight training for road cyclists is controversial. Some coaches recommend it, at least in winter, while others tell their riders never to lift with their legs. I discuss this issue in my eBook, Off-Season Training for Roadies.
I think maintaining or increasing leg strength is important, especially as we age. The adage — you can’t make a strong rider out of a weak person — holds true. But there’s an important caveat: You have to convert weight-room strength into cycling-specific power. If strength were all that mattered, power lifters who squat with 800 pounds would be the best cyclists.
If you want to give the combo a try, one of the best ways to convert strength to power is to alternate leg presses with intervals on a spinning bike or indoor trainer. The weights build strength while the intervals retain your muscles’ memory for pedaling.
Let’s look at a sample workout using leg presses. (Squats, step-ups or lunges are good substitutes if you don’t have a machine.)
Use enough weight after the warmup so you can barely complete the desired number of reps. In sets 2 to 5, add weight and decrease reps. Set 6 should be an “endurance” set with low weight and high reps. Take enough time between sets to recover so each one is high quality.
Set 1 Warmup. Leg press: 25 reps with a light weight. Bike: 2 minutes at 90 rpm with moderate resistance.
Set 2 Leg press: 15 reps. Bike: 1 minute, 90 rpm, hard.
Set 3 Leg press: 12 reps. Bike: 1 minute, 90 rpm, hard.
Set 4 Leg press: 10 reps. Bike: 30 seconds, sprint.
Set 5 Leg press: 6 reps. Bike: 30 seconds, sprint.
Set 6 Leg press: 30-50 reps with a weight allowing you to barely finish. Bike: 5 minutes at high resistance and 75 rpm.
Finish by cooling down for 10 minutes with easy spinning, followed by your usual stretching routine.
This is a tough workout! Tailor it to your present state of fitness. Don’t do it more than twice a week. And be sure you have medical clearance before attempting this or any other demanding workout.