MF CARDIO EXPERT Will weight training help my cycling?
Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, on the road or the track, strength training will improve your performance, says a six-time Olympic champion
With seven medals, six of them gold, Chris Hoy is the most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time – and he’s also an 11-time world champion. As he explains, weight training isn’t just for mammoth-thighed super- sprinters like him.
Road cyclists tend to have a misconception about weights – they think they’re only of value to track spinters who need explosive power. They do everything they can not to gain too much weight, and many of them worry that if they so much as look at a dumbbell they’ll put on a kilo – and that this will slow them down. But my message is that weight training can bring everyone functional improvements without making them heavier.
You can use it to become more powerful in short bursts or improve acceleration on climbs. It’ll also help you prevent injury – being on a bike for hours at a time is not great for your posture – and working your core will get the most out of your propulsive prime mover muscles: quads, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. This means faster cycling, no matter the distance.
Before you start, of course, you have to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve. When I was training as a track sprinter I would do two or three gym sessions a week doing low repetitions with heavy weights, always focusing on the quads, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. However, if you’re an endurance cyclist looking to improve your acceleration or climbing, put unilateral exercises with a full range of movement at the core of your workout – dumbbell or barbell lunges, for example.
People often overlook the importance of having a plan. If you just turn up to the gym and hop on and off the machines you’ll get nowhere and possibly even get injured, especially if you go too heavy too soon. I’ve always done gym training, but early in my career I would only class it as a decent session if I could barely walk after. The effect was that my next track session would be very low-quality. Once I started tweaking my sessions to make them work with the rest of my programme, my times on the track improved massively.
For cyclists, weight training certainly isn’t a replacement for getting out on the bike – you still need to spend lots of time in the saddle – but if you supplement your training with some good-quality gym work, it’s going to benefit you in the long run. Chris Hoy is an elite consultant for sports nutrition company Science in Sport and uses the new SiS Whey Protein. Visit scienceinsport.com
Not sure weight training
is helpful for cyclists? Well, six-time Olympic gold medallist Hoy can
leg press 650kg