Winter Weights

Now that winter is here in the east, riding hours can be sometimes hard to find. That leads many of us to find other ways to supplement our fitness leading into next year’s riding season. Most winters I find myself in a weight room of one variety of another, trying to build my strength to somehow make me stronger for next year’s race season. There is a lot of debate on the merits of weight training and cycling. Many argue that cycling is 99.5% and aerobic activity. Those of us who have done races or rides with constant attacking probably might argue with that. Most of the racing I do consists of efforts that are considerably below lactate threshold, or totally anaerobic efforts. The latter is where the gym work pays off.

Last year I spent about 10 weeks in the gym building power and muscle mass in the core and legs and I spent about week 6 on of that transitioning strength onto the bike. A lot of sit-ups, planks, squats, leg extensions, calf raises, back extensions, and some other plyometrics were incorporated. Since I was trying to build power, I did high weight with sets of 10-12 repititions. The result was I put on about 5 lbs. of muscle mass which has yet to come off despite the fact I ended the visits to the weight room in late January of 2010. 3 years ago when I was a new cat 3 I easily kept my weight at 155 all season. When I was ready to upgrade to cat 2, I was probably tipping the scales at 158 to 160. After training my tail off over winter of 2009/2010, I raced at 163-166 lbs the whole season and had my best season ever and finally achieved my goal of making the cat 1 field. The more fit I got, the higher my weight seems to go.

This year in the weight room I am not trying to put on more muscle, I’m just trying to strengthen what is already there. I did some reading this summer about weight training for cycling and it seems a lot of people who coach track cyclists have their athletes doing huge numbers of reps at relatively low weight. I do see the merit in this and I think it will have benefits in the races I do.

I started of the year with 95 lbs on the squat bar and just did 3 sets of 15. Two weeks later when my muscles remembered how to handle weight training twice a week, I increased the weight to 115lbs and built up to 3 sets of 20. A couple of weeks ago I increased the reps to 25. This morning when I lifted, I increased the first two sets to 30 reps and on the third set I managed 40 reps before failure was imminent. I really love the weight room as you can quantify your workout exactly and easily measure your progress. Bike racing is much more vague in that regard. Training with power would probably help that, but I’m not prepared to pay more for my bike than my car, so I stay away from the watt measuring devices that drive the cost up exponentially.

Probably by mid January, I’ll start implementing power work on the bike which means low cadence and short intervals. I really want to be able to just kill it for one kilometer to one mile distances. It would be fun to be that guy attacking from 1 or 2 K out and have the strength to stay away. I think the weight room and this routine will help with that. Whether or not that opportunity presents itself in a race remains to be seen, but I don’t think this will hurt the team lead out train.

Happy riding,


  • alpainter



    This is a great blog post, and something that I highly encourage all cyclists to do. With the exception of the seated machine work (leg/backextensions), this is a solid plan. Long story short on machine work they shorten join range causing flexibility loss, causing micro trauma to ligaments and tendons from pattern overload of the repetitive stress motion of a seated machine (same reason why you lose flexibility riding a bike), disconnect the brain and spinal column muscles from joint stabilizers because the machine is supporting you and generally don’t have any functional carry over to the bike.


    Single leg work should be the focus/concentration after existing muscle imbalances have been addressed. The perfect way to go is 4-week phases of the following:

    1) Mobility (high rep with little to no load)

    2) Stability (single leg/shoulder work with little to no load)

    3) Strength (which is where my cyclists are right now at INTEGRATE with loads that only allow 6-8 reps)

    4) Power (4-6 explosive reps with moderate loads)

    5) Power Endurance (light to moderate loads, this is akin to interval training on the bike: 30 on/30 off, etc)


    The perfect formula is two days a week of high intensity trainer sessions with 3 days a week of cardio kettlebell work in addition to strength (Turkish Get Ups, Windmills, Pushups, Pullups, Split Stance Squats and Bent Over Rows) and eventual power and power endurance. Kettlebells have been proven to be the most effective modality to build strength without putting size on someone.


    Hope this helps!

    Al Painter

    VeloReviews Fitness Editor


  • will1

    I’m in Texas. The DFW metroplex to be more exact. Hell, it takes me an hour just to get out of town in most directions. Add to that the flatness of the terrain and lack of trail areas nearby and I’m SOL.

    I am hyperbolizing a bit, of course. There are a 3-4 trails in the city that are about a 30 minute drive away, and a couple more within about a 60-90 minute drive, but sadly only one that I could ride to, and it’s just a simple two mile loop. It’s really sad when remembering how it was back in Albuquerque which had great mountain bike riding areas pretty much everywhere, including some actual mountains.