Question: For winter training, I use weight machines a couple of times a week for my core and upper body, but I’ve had difficulty with squats and leg presses. Even body-weight squats hurt my knees. Are there other ways to build my quads? — Nels W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: First, make sure you’re doing squats in good form. See if you can find a certified strength and conditioning specialist at a health club and get instruction.
Leg presses are easier than squats to do properly because you’re seated in a fixed position. Even so, form flaws like failing to keep your knees in line with your feet can cause pain.
If your knees still hurt while doing leg presses or squats in perfect form, then it’s better to forego conventional resistance work for your legs. Cycling is an aerobic sport, so you can condition your legs for riding just by riding. That’s all the best roadies in the world did for a hundred years.
If you want to build more strength, remember that the bike is essentially a leg-press machine. Simply ride uphill in a fairly tough gear and you’re doing leg presses. Even better, they are highly specific to cycling.
Of course, overgearing is another thing that can hurt your knees, so work into this sort of cycling very easily.