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FAQ ~ Weight Training

I emails from get lots of new riders, getting themselves down the gym, trying to develop their muscles to be as big and powerful as they can be. Which as a concept is perfectly understandable, just a little flawed in reality!  Let me explain why.

Look at Froome, Contador, Schleck, Porte, or any of the other notable climbers in the Grand Tours....

skinny legs

There's no extraneous muscle (or fat) on that body!

Powering the bike is all about getting oxygen from the air outside the body, to the muscles inside it.  It's not the size of the muscles that's important, what counts is how much oxygen (fuel) you can deliver to them.  No use having 500 watt muscles if you only have 200 watt lungs!

And it's no use having 500 watt lungs, if you only have a 200 watt oxygen delivery system; cardiac output, heart capacity, plasma volume, mitochondrial availability, capillary density, etc, etc.

The muscles have to be just big enough to perform the function required of them (get you up hills at your climbing potential) and be able to burn as much of the "energy" delivered to them to meet that demand. 

Any bigger and you're carrying dead weight.  The chances of them being smaller than required are so minimal it's not even worth discussing!

So our job is to maximise the cardio system and ride in the physiological zones that bring the best adaptations to the systems mentioned.  Which isn't attained by riding around as fast as you can for as long as you can; or pumping iron in the gym!

For me, weight training is to be used for the upper body to keep everything in balance and proportion.  Again, you don't need upper body muscle development, but you do need a strong core; as before, no use having 500 watt legs if you only have a 200 watt core.

If you push down with all your force on the pedals and half of that force is travelling back up you body, instead of in to the pedals, then that is a gross waste of your talents.

The Hindu Squats, push ups and sit ups, within our programmes, all develop the upper body, connective tissues, and the cardio system, to complement the needs of propelling the bike forward and nothing more.

No matter who you are, the muscles you have are more than up to the job of powering your velocipide.  But is your oxygen delivery system?

This is why the Hindu Squats are an excellent cycling workout, you get multiple returns from just one exercise!

So, personally, I would discourage "weight training" (as opposed to body conditioning), from the point of view, the muscle (no matter what it's size) isn't your limiter when climbing. 

Weight training builds weight (muscle mass), cardio training (and body-weight bearing sessions) make the most of what you have by raising your efficiency.  A pound-for-pound efficient rider will always beat an effective one.  To climb better, you need to drop the weights, and the weight, it's as simple as that.

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