Hitting the gym in the off season
I am often asked if it is a benefit for a cyclist to spend time in the gym during the off-season to cross train. My answer is a most definite YES! The gains made during the fall and winter will pay dividends during the cycling season. Not only does the gym serve the purpose of building strength, but it also adds diversity to your winter program. By dedicating at least 3 months to working out in the gym at 2 sessions per week (separated by at least 1 full day), you will see and feel the gains you’ve made when March comes around.
I divide my gym work into 3 phases; Getting back into it, Strength building and, then, Endurance. After spending the entire spring and summer pedaling around, a few gym sessions are needed to get the legs and body into the gym routine. I advise 4 to 6 sessions before you start the strength phase. The strength phase is exactly that; building strength. It is a slow, meticulous process, but plain and simple, it works! During this time, 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each device is recommended. My program and the program I write for my clients is about 70% legs, 20% core and 10% upper body. Obviously, the exercises are concentrated around the “like movements” we have on the bike; pushing and pulling with the legs, pulling with upper body and basic core strength.
After 2 to 3 months of solid strength building, it’s time to introduce the Endurance phase. This happens 1 day per week while keeping 1 day for strength. On endurance days, the weight is cut by about 50% and double or tripple the reps on certain (not all) exercises. By doing this towrds the end of your program, it helps get the muscles ready for those steady base miles and the start of long endurance efforts on the bike.
Very important note: to avoid injury and to gain the most out of the experience, doing each and every exercise correctly with good form is crucial. If you are not going to do it right, don’t do it! Seek the advice of a trainer or professional if you are in doubt about the correct way to do each exercise.
There are many ways out there to build or add to your fitness in the off season. Doing something as simple a structured weight program is a great way to help ensure you are going into 2011 with some base strength.
Eat Well! Sleep Well! Train SMART!!!!