One area many cyclists miss when it comes to improving their performance is muscle strength. There’s a misconception that the only way to train to improve cycling performance is through cycling itself, which isn’t actually true.
In fact, strength training can boost your speeds AND your potential to compete until you’re older. If you’re planning on cycling until old age, it’s vital to start strength training early so that you have plenty of excess muscle strength.
For all my cycling clients, I recommend full-body exercises. These work multiple muscles at the same time, so they mean you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. As they are compound exercises, they also work the muscles in a way that’s natural.
The king of exercises – especially for cycling – is squats. You probably already know what a squat is, but I bet you didn’t realise that you can gain speed and endurance boosts from doing them regularly. Here are some tips for incorporating squats into your workout.
1. Use a Proper Squat Rack
If performed correctly, the squat isn’t a dangerous exercise. The problems start if you don’t use the right form or equipment though.
If you’re going to be squatting regularly at home, a sqaut rack is an essential purchase. While you CAN get by with a simple barbell holder, you really need the extra safety provided by a rack in case something goes wrong.
I’m no expert when it comes to squat or power racks, so I recommend you take a look at the best squat rack for home gym page of Dark Iron Fitness for some useful information. You don’t need to get the most expensive rack, as long as it makes you safe when squatting.
As with any heavy lifting exercise, make sure you have a spotter unless you’re 100% sure you can complete the lift. And, of course, make sure you warm up. If you’ve never done squats before, I recommend hiring a personal trainer to make sure you’re using the correct form.
2. Focus on Squats During the Winter
Squats are a full-body exercise, which means they aren’t just taxing on your muscles – they also tire out your central nervous system. This means you need to be careful when you squat, as it may interfere with your performance.
There’s no reason why you can’t squat during the summer season, but I prefer focusing on heavy lifting during the winter. During the summer months, I prefer to mix in lighter lifts and basic movements. When I want to squat heavy, I increase the weight while reducing the number of repetitions.
3. Remember Why You’re Squatting
There have been studies that show heavy weight lifting can increase cycling performance when completed twice a week. This study compared performance of people who did strength training with those who only focused on endurance training, and the strength training group won. This doesn’t mean you don’t need endurance training though – but you should include strength workouts somewhere in your program.
There are other ways cycling improves performance though. These include:
- Increase oxygen efficiency. This study showed that half-squats increased maximum aerobic power by 17.2% without bulking up.
- Increased explosive power. Another study showed that peak output increased when training with barbell hack squats.
- Variation. Everyone needs some variety in their training, and squats can provide this.
If you have any questions about including squats in your training program, I’m happy to try and help.