Question: I have a big upper body from genetics and years of weight raining. I’ve lost 40 pounds since I began riding, and I’ve quit the weight room for good — I want to climb better! But local coaches tell me that I should still do upper-body resistance work to help my cycling. Why? I don’t pedal with my arms. — Andrew V.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There are three good reasons why you and every roadie should be doing upper-body weight training.
- First, you lean on the handlebar for long periods while riding. To avoid sore triceps and shoulders, pushups, dips or bench presses are effective.
- Second, when you sprint or climb, you pull on the bar harder than when you’re riding on the flats. So your pulling muscles need to be kept strong with exercises such as pull ups and rows.
- Third, you need to work on the core muscles of the abs and low back. They’re crucial to any kind of strength — on the bike or in the weight room — because they provide the foundation that arm and leg muscles work from. They’re especially important for stabilizing your trunk on the saddle during pedaling.
That said, you should not do upper-body weight exercises like a body builder or strength athlete. Instead, use relatively light weights and high reps.
You’re a cyclist now, not a lifter, so you don’t need to spend much time in the weight room. A couple of sets each of four or five exercises, twice a week, will give you plenty of strength to ride well without adding muscle mass.
For more details, see my eBook Off-Season Training for Roadies. It has practical and effective weight training programs for cyclists.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.