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Strength Training for Cyclists Over 50: Research Backed Performance Boost

Strength training for everyday recreational and masters cyclists could be as important to your long-term success as doing intervals. 

The research suggests that incorporating strength training into your cycling routine can yield numerous benefits, from improving power and endurance to reducing the risk of injury.

Plus full-body strength training can build durability and stability in our bodies that allow us to train more.

The research is clear that strength training can be a key component in improving that performance if you focus on building full-body strength and mobility.

Strength training is especially critical, though, if you are female or a cyclist over 50. 

With decreasing hormones, strength training is critical to building lean muscle mass.

Strength training for everyday recreational and masters cyclists could be as important to your long-term success as doing intervals.

1. Improved cycling performance

One of the main reasons cyclists may turn to strength training is to improve their on-the-bike performance. 

A 2012 study found that eight weeks of strength training improved cycling time trial performance by 4.5 percent. 

Another study from 2016 found that 12 weeks of linear periodized strength training improved 5km cycling time trial performance by 2.4 percent.

2. Increased muscular strength

One of the main benefits of strength training is increased muscle size and strength. 

This is especially beneficial for cyclists because bigger and stronger muscles can produce more power, which can lead to improved cycling performance. 

In one study, professional road cyclists who performed 8 weeks of strength training increased their leg muscle size by 13 percent and their leg strength by 29 percent.

You might think that additional size means additional weight.

While that may be minimally true, the extra strength you get outweighs the weight penalty.

But the bottom line is that we don’t train to get size, we train to build lean muscle.

3. Increased power output

Cyclists who are looking to increase their speed and sprint ability can especially benefit from regular strength training. 

In one study, well-trained cyclists who performed 6 weeks of dynamic leg exercises saw an 11 percent improvement in their five-second power output. 

Another study found that 12 weeks of whole-body resistance training led to a five percent increase in power output during a 30-second all-out cycling sprint.

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that lots of kettlebell swings seem to help my power up hills and in sprints. 

Similarly, another study found that eight weeks of whole-body plyometric training (a type of explosive jump training) improved 5-km time trial performance in amateur cyclists. The plyometric group also had better VO2max (a measure of aerobic fitness) and leg power compared to the control group.

4. Increase your muscle endurance by tips of strength training for cyclists over 50:

Another common goal of strength training for cyclists is to increase muscle endurance, which can help you ride longer and stronger on the bike. 

A 2009 study found that eight weeks of strength training improved leg muscle endurance by 13 percent. 

This is one of the most important potential benefits of strength training: increased oxygen efficiency in oxygen use. 

Strength training can help the whole system by making the cells in your muscles become more efficient in consuming oxygen and producing energy. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eight weeks of lower-body strength training improved cycling economy and time trial performance in well-trained cyclists.

The study participants who did regular strength training also had higher levels of muscle power and endurance, as well as greater cycling efficiency.

5. Decreased risk of injury

Stronger muscles can also help protect you from injuries, both on and off the bike, by protecting your joints from the impact of cycling and helping you avoid overuse injuries.

A 2013 review looked at 10 studies on the relationship between strength training and injury risk in a variety of sports. 

The authors found that, overall, athletes who incorporated strength training into their programs had a 33 percent lower risk of developing an overuse injury than those who did no strength training.

In other research, a study of Tour de France cyclists found that those who performed strength training had a significantly lower risk of developing overuse injuries than those who did not. 

Furthermore, another study showed that elite cyclists who incorporated strength training into their routine had a reduced risk of crashes and other acute injuries.

Full-body strength can improve balance

Plus, research shows that full-body strength training can also improve cyclists’ balance and coordination.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that just eight weeks of full-body strength training improved cyclists’ balance and coordination, as well as their leg power. 

The researchers concluded that full-body strength training is an “effective means to enhance the performance of amateur cyclists.”

Some key full-body strength exercises for cyclists

We want to target full-body work to build our general health and fitness. 

  1. Deadlifts - One of the most important exercises we can do as cyclists because deadlifts target our glutes and back muscles. 
  2. Single-leg Straight-Leg Deadlifts: This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, and quads – all key muscles for cycling. Plus the balance work you get targets your side butt muscles (gluteus medius and minimus) which we don’t use much as cyclists. 
  3. Bulgarian Split Squats: Another great exercise for your quads and glutes, Bulgarian split squats will also help improve your balance and stability – both important for cyclists.
  4. Hip Bridges: This is a great exercise for activating your glutes – something that’s essential for generating power on the bike. 
  5. Planks: A staple in any workout routine, planks are great for building core strength – something that’s important for all athletes, but especially cyclists who spend so much time in a hunched position. 
  6. Upper body pushes and pulls: dumbbell push press, chest press, and rows are all excellent movements.

Start slowly and be consistent

What’s important is that you start slowly with light weights, build to heavy weights, and be consistent. 

Typically, two days a week is the minimum until you’re close to target events when you cut back to once a week. 

And your focus is on lifting heavy weights fewer times. 

Lifting heavy seems to stimulate additional hormone release which in turn can help build lean muscle.

Three things to consider about strength training for cyclists over 50:

  1. Start slowly with good form and build up your weight.
  2. Lift all year.
  3. Focus on full-body exercises such as deadlifts.

Want to know more about what you can achieve?

If you liked this article, please share it with others.

Do you have questions? Email me at paulw at SimpleEnduranceCoaching.com

I support a limited number of cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

Contact me or sign up for Virtual Coffee so we can discuss your goals, ask questions, and talk about making your endurance training more effective, fun, and Simple.

You can also opt-in to receive my weekly blog posts about what works in endurance sports. 

Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer
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1 Comment

  1. Private Proxies on July 10, 2023 at 2:34 am

    Wow! Thank you! I constantly wanted to write on my blog something like that. Can I include a portion of your post to my blog?

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