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Old 08-27-06, 02:56 PM   #1
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Another "beginner" query: skinny riders

Since I'm very skinny (but still out of shape), I thought I'd start a different thread: no offense to the "fat" or overweight riders, I just don't want to insult you by asking my body-specific queries on your threads.

I'm 34, former distance runner. 5'9", 120+ lbs on a good day. (I am not underweight--I'm healthy and have always been extremely skinny. While I have a very low BMI for my height, no doctor has ever told me there was anything wrong. Please don't respond to this telling me that I just need to eat more. I eat plenty and always have, I just have one of those small-boned, long-limbed bodies that rests below the bell curve.) I'm reasonably strong for my size, but my legs could be more muscular, I think. I took up cycling about two years ago for several reasons, (1) it's a good way to get around NYC; (2) I've always had terrible balance and wanted to improve this; (3) I started suffering some chronic tendonitis in my left (non-dominant) knee and wanted to cut down on the impact exercise and strengthen the surrounding muscles.

For the past year, I've ridden a fixed gear bike around on very low gearing, and while it's been good, I haven't really gone on many long rides, nor have I actually focused on training per se.

I'm wondering if someone could suggest some basic training rides I should work on, specifically to improve my leg's power (NOT endurance, as much) as well as my cardivascular shape. I know hills are good, but there aren't a lot of big ones here in NYC. Can anyone suggest time/distance/cadence/gearing I should use as a goal? I think on my fixed gear I was running in the low-mid 60s gear-inches, and I know that I might want to increase that. But how far?

Finally, being so thin, I don't want to lose too much weight. I know that bike riding/training will cause me to do that, but what should I look to do for increasing my leg's muscle mass/power?

Thanks in advance for any tips.
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Old 08-27-06, 06:33 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by peripatetic
what should I look to do for increasing my leg's muscle mass/power?
Sprints from a standing start, without shifting gears. This is the one drill that will build leg muscle mass in a hurry. Only do these every few days, since you need time to recover. If you want to be a strong sprinter, these are great help at building leg strength.

I'm curious why you want to build leg muscle. Do you feel weak, or is it just a body image thing?

(I'm 5'11" 135 lbs)
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Old 08-27-06, 06:55 PM   #3
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To gain muscle mass (or weight period) you will need to eat more... sorry. As for workouts Terry’s standing start sprints will work. Anything short-duration, medium to low cadence and very high intensity will do it.

If you really won't eat more, bracket the food you already eat around your exercise and eat less at other times (reduces catabolism from exercise).
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Old 08-27-06, 10:15 PM   #4
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Bicycling doesn't really help that much on balance.

You might want to consider pickup up the Cyclo-core training DVD. I'm just starting on it, and it's helping both my core and my leg strength a fair bit.
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Old 08-27-06, 10:45 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info. I realize I need to eat more to gain weight, but without building muscle, I'm really just going to add fat, and my body just doesn't seem to be that efficient about that. I'm not concerned about my body image, I just feel weak in the legs, and because of my tendonitis in my knee, I've been told that I need to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings.

I kind of thought bicycling helps with balance in that it helps to strengthen all your little balancing muscles, esp. in the legs and torso. Guess that was a wrong assumption. Oh, well, it's fun. Thanks for the advice so far. How many sprints do you do in a short period (this reminds me a bit of fahrtleks for distance running, but perhaps for different purposes).

Thanks again.

PS What's a decent "training gear" for a fall/winter fixed gear bike? And what kind of cadence/duration should I look to ride for longer rides? As I said, I'm a newbie to training, so while I know how to get into good shape running, I'm clueless on a bike: what kind of weekly mileage and what kind of miles-per-ride are good to shoot for in building a solid leg-strengthening/cardio-strengthening base?
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Old 08-28-06, 01:21 AM   #6
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Biking won't do much for your hamstrings. I once pulled my hamstring and I could hardly walk but still ride an excercise bike comfortably.
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Old 08-28-06, 01:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic
Thanks for the info. I realize I need to eat more to gain weight, but without building muscle, I'm really just going to add fat, and my body just doesn't seem to be that efficient about that. I'm not concerned about my body image, I just feel weak in the legs, and because of my tendonitis in my knee, I've been told that I need to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings.
Yes, you need to tax your muscles more AND eat for recovery in order to gain muscle-mass. Without the workout and teardown, you won't gain one gram of muscle on the recovery. If eating was all that's necessary, I can sit in front of the TV and eat steaks and drink protein-mixes all day and eventually look like AHHhhnold right?

I'd be careful about the knee, perhaps do some light weight-training in the gym in order to build up muscle- and joint-strength while allowing you to control form and motion precisely. Then add intervals to your weekly training, working on form and smoothness while not pushing more than 80-90%. After a month or so of this, add 100% sprints in low gears to the mix. After a month, add 100% starting in high gears to add maximum-stress to your muscles. This is where you build up the most strength quickly without adding too much mass. But form and smooth motion is vitally important to prevent injury.

Good luck!
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Old 08-28-06, 06:26 AM   #8
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Drink Endurox. I think I'm becoming addicted. I just bought four big pails of this stuff from REI!

Try this Tai Chi style exercise for balance. Hope I can describe it properly. Stand with feet on the floor shoulder width apart. Gradually shift weight onto one foot by moving the hips to the left and bending the left knee a bit. Allow the right leg to move naturally to the left. Try standing on the left leg. Now move the right leg forward about six inches or so. Back close to your left leg, and back to the side. Repeat with other side.

Once you're good at that you can do it with a weight and do it blindfolded. Blindfolded is hard. Google propriocetion exercise and you'll find a ton of stuff.
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Old 08-28-06, 02:59 PM   #9
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I was like you. I was thin and would still be consider thin. I am 5’11” and wrestled years ago in the 119 weight class. I am now 170 and the same percent body fat. How did I do it?

Squats, Dead lifts, chins, bench press, etc. All the basic weight lifting exercises.

Think you eat enough? Read the article below from t-nation.com. Admittedly I do not eat as much as the article recommends below. But I seriously increased my food intake and gained muscle. Once you do that the fat is much easier to loose. I have to be honest, when I cycle more I have to eat a lot more as people started to ask me last year if I have “lost weight”. This year not the same problem.
The exact link is
http://www.t-nation.com/findArticle.do?article=238app2

The author is Dr. John M. Berardi. Read and enjoy. Comments welcomed
"When I was 18 years old, I was in the same predicament you are. I tried eating four to six times per day and simply couldn't gain weight, so I sought out the big guys in the gym and asked them what they were doing. Their advice was to eat all the time. Now, "all the time" meant something very different to them than it does to most people. Most people think that eating all the time means three meals a day and then some snacks. Well, to these guys, eating all the time meant literally chewing food all day long! As a result of their tutelage, here's the diet I generated:

8 AM, Breakfast: 6 whole eggs, 4 slices of whole grain bread, and 4 packets of instant oatmeal.

12 PM, Lunch: 1 pound extra lean ground beef, 1 cup cauliflower, and 2 large baked potatoes.

4 PM, Evening Meal: 1 pound of extra lean ground beef, 1 cup broccoli, and 2 large baked potatoes.

8 PM, Post-workout: half pound of pasta (weighed before cooking), 1 cup green beans, and half pound extra lean ground chicken.

Before bed: 6 whole eggs, 4 slices of whole grain bread.

Also, upon waking each morning I'd mix up a one gallon jug of water and somewhere between five and ten scoops of protein. In addition, I'd open a bag of six cinnamon raisin bagels and put peanut butter on each one. The protein drink and the bagels were to be consumed all day long when an actual meal wasn't being eaten. The motto was: "If I'm not chewing, I'm not growing." As soon as I'd finish each meal, I'd start right away with my protein shake and bagels and continue on them until the next meal. No lie.
Gluttony? You bet! Did I grow? You bet! On this plan I went from 165 pounds at 8% fat to 210 pounds at 12% fat in about six months. Hurray for newbie gains! That's 34 total pounds of lean mass or about six pounds of lean mass per month.
Will this plan work for everyone? Probably not as well as it did for me. Does it violate my Massive Eating guidelines? Yes, it does! But my body didn't know it was violating any guidelines. All it knew was that it needed a whole lot of calories to grow bigger and stronger and once I started providing them, I grew like crazy.
The point of my story is not to give you an exact diet to follow. Nope, my goal is to illustrate just how important it is to push the boundaries of your comfort zone if you're interested in making gains. Quit worrying about being full and just eat more. As you continue to push yourself in terms of how much food you can eat, the body will adapt by becoming more comfortable at these new levels of intake, just like with training.
Increasing your muscle mass isn't about comfort. In the gym we train until we're uncomfortable and, likewise, if we're interested in getting as big as possible, we should do the same at the table."
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Old 08-28-06, 04:13 PM   #10
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squats. with or without dumbells.
3 sets of 30, as fast as you can squeeze them out
hold the last one isometrically 1 minute, 30 seconds rest after
each batch of 30.

rest 1 minute

hindu squats...do 10, slow

repeat all the above 4 times

you will sweat like a pig so drink sports beverage during this
--------------------------------
and a can of tuna afterward


done.

guaranteed to produce slamming power. but you
gotta do them. and this routine sucks. results will happen

you won't gain much weight but you'll go into zones
of pain that will make bike riding pain trivial, and power, easy
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Old 08-28-06, 05:34 PM   #11
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Thanks for the tips, all. I'm really not all that preoccupied about gaining weight, I just think it'd be good to have a bit more muscle mass in general, as my legs feel fairly weak--power-wise, not endurance-wise. I don't think I'm going to be shoveling as much protein down as I can; I once did that for a year, gained about 7 lbs over that period, pretty much devoting myself to working out at the gym. Unfortunately, I can't afford a gym here in NY (the rates are ridiculously expensive), but I'm going to look into purchasing some weights.

Thanks again for the tips.
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Old 08-29-06, 02:43 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic
Thanks for the tips, all. I'm really not all that preoccupied about gaining weight, I just think it'd be good to have a bit more muscle mass in general, as my legs feel fairly weak--power-wise, not endurance-wise. I don't think I'm going to be shoveling as much protein down as I can; I once did that for a year, gained about 7 lbs over that period, pretty much devoting myself to working out at the gym. Unfortunately, I can't afford a gym here in NY (the rates are ridiculously expensive), but I'm going to look into purchasing some weights.

Thanks again for the tips.

The squats and dead lift will make your legs feel very strong and increase size as long as you lift heavy. I have found it does not help much with endurance, at least the way I lift (for strength increase). Riding makes me better at riding and increases my endurance. Yet I tend to lose size and body weight. The bad part is I loose fat and lean muscle mass. Lifting makes you stronger and increases muscle mass. I base this on my weight and body fat percentage.

I live in NY also (Long Island). I know what you mean about gym prices! Buying iron isn’t cheap either. Some YMCA’s have gyms. My cousin is an instructor at one and the rates are reasonable. Also, some high schools have great weight lifting facilities. They are learning the usefulness of weight training and sport performance. I am not sure if you could use one near you.
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Old 08-29-06, 11:24 AM   #13
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try adding a little more protein in your diet. i go to duane reade and buy nutirional supplements to drink once a day. it's a little shake thing in a can and adds 13g of protien and 350 calories. sometimes you need just a little extra.
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Old 08-29-06, 01:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
8 AM, Breakfast: 6 whole eggs, 4 slices of whole grain bread, and 4 packets of instant oatmeal.

12 PM, Lunch: 1 pound extra lean ground beef, 1 cup cauliflower, and 2 large baked potatoes.

4 PM, Evening Meal: 1 pound of extra lean ground beef, 1 cup broccoli, and 2 large baked potatoes.

8 PM, Post-workout: half pound of pasta (weighed before cooking), 1 cup green beans, and half pound extra lean ground chicken.

Before bed: 6 whole eggs, 4 slices of whole grain bread.
I am fat and eat too much and the above diet makes me queasy. I don't see how anyone could honestly eat that amount of food.
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Old 08-29-06, 01:37 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
I am fat and eat too much and the above diet makes me queasy. I don't see how anyone could honestly eat that amount of food.
no kidding. it seems absolutely revolting. a dozen eggs a day!?
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Old 08-29-06, 01:54 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Univega
The squats and dead lift will make your legs feel very strong and increase size as long as you lift heavy. I have found it does not help much with endurance, at least the way I lift (for strength increase). Riding makes me better at riding and increases my endurance. Yet I tend to lose size and body weight. The bad part is I loose fat and lean muscle mass. Lifting makes you stronger and increases muscle mass. I base this on my weight and body fat percentage.

I live in NY also (Long Island). I know what you mean about gym prices! Buying iron isn’t cheap either. Some YMCA’s have gyms. My cousin is an instructor at one and the rates are reasonable. Also, some high schools have great weight lifting facilities. They are learning the usefulness of weight training and sport performance. I am not sure if you could use one near you.
doing fast squats with little to no weight, and high numbers of them, produces endurance

weight only hurts the joints. what matters is fast light reps to build lactic acid then
hold in an iso squat while your muscles bubble in acid goo. makes riding a bike
100 miles so much easier, 'cuz you've already experienced the tough burn at home.
what happens on a long ride of endless miles and grinding is familiar pain. good pain.
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Old 08-29-06, 04:07 PM   #17
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Find a hill that takes 5~10 minutes to climb, put your bike in a big gear 53/17-12 , climb the hill while seated. rest 2x the work interval , do it 3-5x. These workouts helped me a lot. I'm not sure if you're looking for cycling specific power gains though.
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Old 08-29-06, 10:10 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowandsteady
I am fat and eat too much and the above diet makes me queasy. I don't see how anyone could honestly eat that amount of food.
I was eating about that much when I was lifting heavily and trying to gain weight. I'm a beanpole. 5'4" at 125 lbs. It took me a couple months of eating 3500-4000 calories a day and lifting to gain 10 pounds. I was eating so much that it made me feel sick and bloated all day, every day. I've since given up trying to be buff and feel healthier.

Now, I just accept my natural climber's body. Not that I can climb all that well. I have to eat a lot to avoid losing weight, but it's not as hard to do as gaining it.

Last edited by Mach42; 08-29-06 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 08-30-06, 12:36 AM   #19
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To build muscle mass, terrymorse is right. His drill will help. Another drill is of similar function.

Climbing hills in high gear. However, since you don't have any hills, the only other option would be to get a multi0geared bike, and run high gears for shorts periods, similar to sprinting like terrymorse stated.

Also, lifting weights (squats, etc) to build leg muscle will help to some degree.

Adding a whey protein shake for recovery will also help build some leg muscle mass.
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Old 08-30-06, 02:52 AM   #20
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I just wanted to clarify something. The diet I printed is just there to illustrate what “eating a lot” means. I am the fitness coordinator at work. I have too type of people that may ask for help, skinny people who say then eat a lot and overweight people who say they eat nothing. I ask then to keep a log off everything they put in their mouth. Guess what, in most cases skinny people do not eat a lot and people who claim they can’t loose weight don’t realize how much they do eat and tend to forget the snacks they munch on.

I went from 119 to 170 and still maintain the same body fat. My point was to show what it takes for people to grow and what eating a lot of food meant. Shocked? I was too. I increased my healthy food intake and with weight training, I added muscle and strength.
You have to also understand I came from VERY weak beginnings, being able to bench and squat less than 90 pounds when I started. My best bench press in competition was a 240 bench in the 139 to 154 weight class and a 260 non competition bench. I have also Box squatted 300 pounds.

To get back to the original post by peripatetic he said:

“I just feel weak in the legs, and because of my tendonitis in my knee, I've been told that I need to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings. “

Squats and deadlifts will work fantastic for this. Although the cycling as Terrymorse and Patriot will make him better on the bike. Weight lifting never seemed to make me better and faster on the bike. Riding more made me better on the bike.

I also agree with Patriot that adding protein shakes will help.

BTW: I am 52. If I make gains, anyone can. I was working out with my son who is 17.
He gained 3 inches around his chest and an inch on his legs in just three months. He also LOST body fat. Good bless a youthful metabolism.
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Old 09-02-06, 04:51 PM   #21
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"Biking won't do much for your hamstrings."

Not true, if you're just pressing down at the front of your stroke with your quads then no, your hamstrings won't get more than a token benefit. If you're pulling for the whole pedal stroke though, your hamstrings will firm up and strengthen quite nicely. Don't get me wrong, they won't be huge like if you're squatting a few hundred pounds in the weight room, but they'll get lookin damn good from cycling without scaring people or making you look like a pyramid.
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Old 09-03-06, 12:30 AM   #22
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my hamstrings developed very quickly when i first started riding my road bike, so fast that they caused knee problems due to my quads not progressing as fast.
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Old 09-03-06, 04:47 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrymorse
Sprints from a standing start, without shifting gears.
Can you explain that a bit more, i don't quite understand.
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Old 09-03-06, 10:40 PM   #24
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I think Terrymorse means that you start from a resting position in a high gear, and push hard for a specific period. that makes sense to me.

Thanks for the info, all. I've gone through the weighlifting regimen, and it helped, but as I said, I can't afford a NYC gym (prices start at about $90/month here). I also can't afford the time and that much food. I'm mainly looking to get stronger, but as skinny as I am, I just think that riding a bike a lot will naturally make my legs get bigger--they'd have to, just to be able to do any work. I don't really care, either way, but I want to get stronger. And, as far as that monstrous diet listed earlier, back when I lifted weights a lot and gained 7/8 lbs. in a year, besides the enormous increase in cost to me, I also got a major problem with digestion/constipation/etc. That was back when I was 27 years old. With my 34-year-old digestive system, I think that would be even more disastrous. While I may look into increasing some of my food intake, I'm not going to make the mistake of focusing it all on protein--roughage and vitamins and green vegetables and fruits have become very important to me as I've got older.

Once again, thanks for the tips, and keep them coming. I've been riding a lot in the past week, and have found that my knee stopped hurting, and I'm not only addicted to just riding, but I also am feeling much stronger in the legs. Bottom line: cycling improves your cycling.

But I also like the points about adding iso resistence to lifting exercises. I actually do 'reverse' push-ups, and they help my strength a lot more than the regular ones ever did, in much less time.
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Old 09-03-06, 11:59 PM   #25
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Also as a new rider without a lot of training, you'll be able to increase strength tremendously without gaining much bulk. This is done through recruitment of dorman fibres in the muscles as well as more coordination in getting sequential muscle-groups working together.

As already mentioned, you don't need a gym to do high-load resistance training. Doing hill-intervals pushing big gears will be like doing medium-rep weight workouts. Terry's standing-starts in big gears are like low-rep/high-weight workouts that'll build up strength quickly.

Be smooth and watch your form. Rapid on/off force transitions can lead to wobbly knees and injury, so also do a lot of easy miles and work on smooth fast cadence as well. Good luck!
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