This week our training question goes to Travis "TJ"
is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with
emphasis in Exercise Science. He’s coached riders to five MTB National
Championship wins and has over 10 years of personal racing experience. Since
2005 he’s competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full-time. His
business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Tucson, Arizona
where he hosts wintertime training camps.
can weight lifting and other gym cross training be beneficial to mountain bike racing,
mainly endurance racers? (Submitted by: Cody Pratt -Visalia, California)
You’ve asked a great question and it’s likely
one that many riders share. The benefit of resistance training and its
application for endurance cyclists has long been hotly debated. Unquestionably there are benefits to be gained
from weight lifting or other ‘gym cross training’ (let’s use the term
resistance training since it includes weight training and also strength
exercises which only require body weight). What can be questioned, however, is
the specificity of resistance training. Will it help you ride a mountain bike
any faster? Also, might time spent doing resistance training be better spent by
doing more work on the bike instead?
Outlining the benefits
With resistance training an improved ability
to create higher forces and better fatigue resistance can be expected. Also
with resistance training the rate of recovery will improve so that harder
workouts can be done with greater frequency. If you’ve followed a resistance
training program before you’ve likely noticed that you get stronger and that
you’re able to recover faster after workouts. Resistance training can be a
great full body workout and you can focus on muscle groups that might otherwise
be under developed or neglected as the result of bike-only training.
Maintaining a strong upper body and core with resistance training may benefit your
posture too. Another important
consideration, especially so for women, is that resistance training can benefit
bone health since it is weight bearing and typically includes eccentric muscle
contractions. These are just a few of the numerous benefits that come with
resistance training. Notice however that I didn’t mention that you’ll be able
to pedal your bike at a higher power output for a longer duration – this is
something that no resistance training study has been able to demonstrate.
Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands
While resistance training benefits are quite
clear for overall health and wellness considerations, the competitive cyclist
might say, "okay that’s all great, but is resistance training going to help me
race faster?” The short answer is no and that’s where the concept of
specificity comes in. There will be specific
adaptation to imposed demands that are placed upon the body. Any set of training
adaptations may not transfer to other activities. This is the SAID principle.
In a nutshell, you get good at doing what you do, and not necessarily so good at
the things you’re not doing. Since resistance training differs considerably
with racing a mountain bike, it is unlikely that any benefits will allow you to
pedal harder or to ride faster.
How best to apply?
Perhaps the most important question to
consider is this: how should resistance training be applied into your cycling
specific program? It is safe to say that it’s the training that you do on the
bike that will benefit your riding the most. If you’re already putting in
adequate training time on the bike and have additional time and energy for
resistance training it will make your program better-rounded. I encourage
riders to approach the resistance training as something that is supplemental to
their program this way rather than something that is imperative. Most cyclists
should keep with a well-rounded program which includes some resistance training
done once or twice per week. Those who are racing at the highest level and
pushing their training to the absolute limit may find that resistance training
reduces the amount of training that they’d otherwise be able to do during critical
training periods. For them, it’s all about maximizing the bike training and
also their recovery, so resistance training isn’t the best option in this
situation. So while you might not want to include resistance training when your
bike training workload is at its highest, you’ll likely want to incorporate it
during the bulk of the year otherwise.
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