Hello and welcome to the ADAM COPLEY: PERSONAL TRAINING blog. Here you will find weekly updates designed to educate you on strength and conditioning for cycling. Over the coming weeks I will be covering all aspects of conditioning your body for cycling and how it can benefit you in terms of comfort, speed, and improving your riding. So, without further delay. Let’s get right into this week’s entry!

Week 5: How can strength and conditioning make you a more efficient rider?

This week’s article is one for the distance riders out there, but is also applicable to anyone who just wants to ride more; with less effort. We will be looking at how you can make your body more efficient away from getting miles done on the bike.

Why is this important?

Becoming more efficient is usually the primary goal of any endurance athlete, an understandable goal. Why would you not want to develop more power, with the same (or less) amount of effort than you could a month ago? Exactly. More power means faster movement, less effort means less fatigue. It’s a win win situation.

But developing efficiency can also help with rides that feature A LOT of climbing, it’s not just about turning the pedals flat on the flat roads. Getting to the top and not feeling completely out of puff is another key advantage to being an efficient rider.  Yes, some of this comes down to your fitness and lung capacity but your bodies strength also plays a huge role in this. This article will look into what the STRENGTH element of S&C means and how it can be applied to endurance athletes in a way that doesn’t slow them down or make them bulky.

Strength and cycling

Making a cyclist strong comes with a whole host of advantages, but today I am just going to focus on efficiency on the bike. This will get information heavy so, make yourself a coffee.

So, what is the outcome

Produce more WATTAGE per PEDAL STROKE than before. Simple as that.

What the outcome means:

Producing more WATTS per pedal stroke will ultimately increase your horsepower without increasing your effort level.

“Think of cars, you could put a 1 litre, and a 2 litre car at 60mph in 4th gear and the car with the smaller engine would have to work harder to keep that speed. The 2 litre car’s engine has to work with less effort to produce a 60mph driving speed. This is exactly what we are looking at with a cyclist’s cadence”.

This will ultimately mean that while your cadence may be the more or less, the power going through your legs is much higher, so your natural speed increases. This is easy to see done on a flat road. Pedal at a comfortable rate and monitor your speed. Build up the strength in your lower body and do the same a month later and I bet your speed has increased while your cadence may not be that much different.

More power-less effort-Increased efficiency.

Simple as that.

Now let’s get into how you can achieve this.

In order to achieve this, you are going to have to trust me, because I am going to suggest you get in the gym and lift some weight.

Now, we are not talking body building here. We are talking strength training. Completely different to how a body builder would train for their goals.

So, let’s explain how you would train for pure strength:

Strength training is all about intensity. We are looking at increased intensity exercises with high amounts of rest, this allows the body to recover and carry on lifting the max levels we can lift for a designated set of reps.

To break it down simply:

High weight, low reps of the exercise, high rest.

The diagram below is taken from one of my personal Strength sessions, this is the most intense session of my training week as it is the one that takes place with the biggest gap between my riding.

I want you to focus on the green block of exercises. These are my strength exercises (I am currently in my XC race season or there would be more strength-based exercises). Take note of the amount of rest between sets I have:

I will have a 60s rest where I stand on a bosu ball, this is known as cognitive rest and is designed to keep my mind working while my body rests. I will then have 30 seconds rest while I put more (or less) weight on the bar. So, a total of 1 minute 30 seconds rest.

A muscle building plan will typically have a 30-45s rest, and consist of A LOT more repetitions than 5 reps.

Also take note of the reps. The reps being VERY low in this session as I am looking at increasing the strength in my muscles. Essentially shifting more weight and producing more force. Again, when looking to build muscle you will focus on lighter weights, slower movement that targets the specific muscles in the body the individual wants to grow.

Don’t worry about the other exercises in the diagram. These will be explained in next week’s blog.

I hope this section does its bit in showing you the difference in body building and strength and conditioning.

S&C is all about Increasing performance where it counts. ON THE BIKE.

Hopefully that has given you a bit more of a clear picture on how S&C works and how it can make you more efficient. Following this section, I am going to give you an example of how you can train in a gym. Increase your strength and develop your efficiency on the bike. I will use exercises that I have explained in previous blogs, so I won’t explain the technique of them. I will provide a picture though, and I will explain why these exercises work. I will also give you a sets and rep range.

1. Box squat

A great exercise for any cyclist as the position of your thigh when sat down is EXACTLY the same as the position of your thigh at the top of a pedal stroke. It is also great at lessening the stress on the lower back.

Complete 2 warm up sets of 5, starting with just the barbell (20kg).

Complete 5 sets of 5 reps with escalating weight, have 60-90s rest in between.

Complete 5 sets of 3 reps with escalating or the same weight, have 90-120s rest in between.

2. Deadlift

A fantastic posterior exercise, essentially working everything in the rear of your body. This is great for strengthening the glutes, lower back and hamstrings and is an essential exercise for ANY athlete.

  • Complete 1 warm up set with just the bar.
  • Complete 5 sets of 5, use bumper (all the weights are the same size) plates to get the barbell hight correct and start light. Have 60-90s rest in between.
  • Complete 5 sets of 3, with 90s rest in between sets.
  • Complete 3 sets of 2, with 90-120s in between sets.
  • Complete 2 sets of 1, with 120s rest in between sets.

These two exercises are great ways to develop power in the legs and increase your bodies strength, ultimately increasing the efficiency in your pedal stroke.

I hope this article hasn’t been too long winded, or information overload for you. Essentially the initial goal and the final outcome is simple. There is just a lot of mythology surrounding weight training to bust in order to give you the confidence in using the gym to improve your cycling. Next week I will be showing you how an S&C plan, like the one shown in this article is structured and how it can develop your riding.

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