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Cycling regularly is great for lower body strength, but leaves a lot to be desired for the upper body muscle groups. And this can be a major liability - both for roadies who need that extra edge in road competitions and for mountain bikers who need this upper body strength to lift, jump, or just plain muscle heavier bikes over rough terrain and obstacles.
A reasonable approach is to focus on building strength (not bulk) in the winter and then backing off to just maintain it during the peak riding season. Strength from the weight room will help with on the bike performance, but 3 sets of leg presses at 400 pounds is different from the riding demands of roughly 30,000 pedal strokes during a century. When you're riding, resistance is in the range of 10-40 pounds per pedal revolution. So for the riding season you need to convert that weight-room strength to cycling-specific power with intervals, training time trials, and hill work.
WHY "MUSCLE UP"?
1.The upper body, including abdominal muscles , is an integral part of the pedal stroke. A strong torso provides the rigidity to deliver maximum power from the quads to the pedal. On a level stretch, a strong rider will barely move their upper body while those who are tiring will rock their pelvis on the saddle. And watch a group of road riders in a sprint or a technical single track rider pulling and rocking their shoulders and handlebars. This motion actually levers the bike, adding to the power of their legs on the pedals.
2. Muscle strength in the quads and legs can mean the difference between walking and riding up a short (10 to 15 pedal stroke) hill.
3. A strong upper body gives additional protection for those falls that are part of the sport.
4. Muscle strength and endurance help prevent the fatigue of the constant jarring and correction that are part of a long descent - and in turn this freshness helps to maintain sharp reflexes and technical
RECOMMENDED EXERCISE PLANS
There are two approaches to resistance or weight training. The first is the "keep it simple" approach one can put together at home and on the bike, and the other is the more "traditional" using free weights. Both should be done 3 times a week (2 times at a minimum) to maximize benefits.
Most coaches recommend a program of strength building (higher weights, fewer reps) in the winter and then a shift to lower weights (perhaps 50% max) and more reps (3 sets, 50% max.weight, 25 reps OR 2 sets, 25% max.weight, 50 reps) as the cycling season approaches to mimic the ways you use your muscles on the bike and to decrease the possibility of injuries.
The following idea builds on the concept of transitioning from a pure muscle building program to one that mimics how you use those muscles on the bike. Do a 3 - 5 minute "muscle reeducation" on the spin cycle after lifting. This stresses the muscles and then uses a sport specific task to coordinate the firing patte...