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How To Start A Strength Training Program

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How To Start A Strength Training Program
©stroopsmma via Flickr

Your biking routine doesn’t have to end when warm weather does. If you can’t get outside to ride, try starting up a strength training program indoors. Building muscle will help you improve your performance on the bike so you’re not starting at square one when springtime rolls around.

Let me pause here and note that this topic seems to be a bit controversial for competitive cyclists (whose main concern is weight gain from weight training). I’m going to assume that by reading this article, you aren’t in that camp!

A Beneficial Habit
Those of you who do believe in the advantages of weight training, you're in good company. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research:

Maximal strength training for eight weeks improved cycling economy and efficiency and increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power among competitive road cyclists, without change in maximal oxygen uptake, cadence or body weight.

The authors advise cyclists to include maximal strength training in their training programs based on the aforementioned results.

When you’re forced to hibernate during a long, grey stretch of nasty weather, strength training seems to be a beneficial habit to pick up. Positive health benefits include muscle mass growth, increased power on the bike and delayed muscle fatigue—all of which will improve your riding performance. In addition, strength training increases bone density, which reduces your risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.

Before You Begin
Never incorporated weight training into your cycling routine? You’re not alone. Hitting the gym isn't usually a customary experience for cyclists. That’s why About.com turned to JJ Flizanes, personal trainer, director of Invisible Fitness and author, to discuss starting a strength training program.

In order to build your program, you need goals to determine what and how you will execute a strength training program, said Flizanes.

"If you have no goal, how can you create a program? It’s like building a house without architectural planning,” she explained.

Flizanes advised cyclists to ask themselves the following questions before beginning a strength training program:

  • What would I like to get from it?
  • How much time am I willing to give to a strength training program?
  • How will I create it?
  • What form is best for me?
  • What areas should I work on to help me with my sport?
  • What kind of results should I expect?
  • How can I measure my results?
  • How often should I do strength training?
  • How do I know when it’s time to progress to the next level?
  • How do I know what intensity is right for me?

Play It Safe
Because strength training can either intensify an injury if you use poor form or rehab an injury if you get the right set of exercises, cyclists must identify any current pain or other physical issues before beginning.

“All exercise is not created equal,” Flizanes emphasized.

When determining a safe starting weight, she said to keep your goals in mind, and recommended consulting with a personal trainer or physical therapist who specializes in biomechanics of resistance training. Consulting a sports medicine expert is important because adding resistance to your body can be beneficial or detrimental.

“Wearing down of your joints can be sped up or slowed down with proper exercise, so the form you choose and the application of force to your body is critical for long-term success and safety,” she said.

Once the strength training program has begun, Flizanes said athletes can use heart rate, speed, recovery time, muscle soreness level and body composition testing to measure their results?

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