Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Strength Training Improves Cycling Performance

February 8, 2016


As we move towards the end of winter many Boulder cyclists are growing tired of the indoor hours on their bicycles.  One of the benefits of the winter months for cyclists is the opportunity to introduce strength training into their work out programs.  A 2 to 3 day a week, total body strengthening program not only reduces a cyclist’s risk for injury, but has recently been shown to improve cycling performance.

As noted in a previous post on running economy, cycling economy is one of three factors shown to influence endurance sports performance.  Essentially how much of a cyclist’s energy resources are used to produce a given speed and distance.  At a given speed or power intensity, a less economical or efficient cyclist will ride at a higher intensity of their max, burning more valuable fuel and oxygen, than a more economical or efficient cyclist.  These variations in efficiency are most visible during a cycling competition.

Sunde and colleagues recently examined the impact of an 8 week strengthening program on cycling performance and economy (J Strength Cond Res. 2016).  The cyclists continued their cycling training but also performed high intensity squat training (4 sets x 4 reps) 3 days per week to maximize their positive nervous and muscle system adaptations.  As expected the athletes demonstrated improved strength and power after the 8 weeks, but they also improved their efficiency and aerobic output.  These athletes extended their time to exhaustion at their maximum power output by close to 20%.  

Cyclists are advised to work with a local Physical Therapist to implement an individualized lower body strength training program to improve aerobic performance and reduce injury risk.