While the ice and snow keeps me off the roads, I've started weight training -- legs and upper body. My question is what kind of training is better for cycling performance -- More weight with fewer reps? Or lighter weight with more reps? (I know that I don't want to add much to my body weight, since my relatively slight frame seems to give me an advantage going up those hills.) How many reps is optimum? How many times per week? Which muscle groups should I concentrate on?
Do both types; high reps light weights for endurance, low reps high wieghts for power- get coaching if you can, it is very easy to hurt yourself. If no coaching is available go to the library, and have a friend watch you to check your technique. There are several excercises that are dangerous to do without a spotter and/or if your technique is not correct, especially if you are using free weights.
For injury prevention, it is VERY, VERY important to do hamstring curls. I cannot stress this enough! Many experts recommend that these curls be done throughout the year. Your goal should be a strength ratio of 3 to 2, quads to hamstrings. If you quads have a strength ratio af more than 3 to 2 vs your hamstrings, STOP developing them and work on your hamstrings until the ratio is correct. Cyclists tend to overdevelop the quadrecep, which WILL eventually pull the kneecap off track. The fix at that time is very painful surgery and recovery. When the symptoms devleop it will be almost certainly be too late to avoid the knife.
Also it is very important to develop the muscles on the front of your neck, (lie on your back and pull head up slightly puling your chin toward your navel, hold, repeat), or any muscle group that is unused, or "off balance" from the cycling strengthened opposing muscle group.
Get yourself into a good stretching regimen as well; ballet, modern dance, martial arts, or yoga techniques can all help. Stretch only when you are warm, (breaking a sweat), at the end of your workout or ride is best. Stretch gradually and do not "bounce" the stretch. Stretching, even by itself, will increase your speed and cut down on injuries and cramps.
Try "crunches" similar to stomach curls- lie on the floor with your calves in a chair, thighs perpendicular to the floor, arms on chest or hands at ears,(do not pull on the back of your head-this can cause injury), curl your trunk up and repeat. This exercise isolates the stomach muscles and works portions of the muscles not worked in curls.
Wieght training has helped me, I started this year with higher average speeds that ever before. Due, in my opinion, to spending time in the gym and working my quads, hamstrings, hip abbductors, and upper body muscles. As Pat said, stretching is VERY important. On thing I have found out the hard way is that tight hamstrings in particular can give you some back pain. The trainer at the gym said a 1 to 1 on Hamstrings to quads, however I think 3/2 is probably more accurate based on feel. The weight I use for quads is too light for my hamstrings. Upper body will help as well. As for the high reps light wieght vs heavy weights low reps debate. I base the number of reps and amount of wieght this way, Legs I do at least 3 sets of 15 and the last set should be hard to complete. Abs and back extensions I do three sets of 20 and the last set is hard to complete. Arms, chest and the rest, 3 sets of ten again the last set should be hard to complete. I also try to do all sets with less than a minute rest in between sets. I stretch before I start and then again throughout the work out, I finish with about 30 minutes on the stationary bike at a high cadence, around 90 - 100, then stretch again before I go. Normally the whole process takes about one hour. Don't do it every day go every other day and take two days once in while for rest.
Thanks for the input. Don, it's good to hear that you did notice a difference in your cycling from the weight training . . . I know there's a school of thought that says it doesn't do anything for cycling, but I have to believe that strengthening my muscles will help.