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Thread: Proper Weight?

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    Proper Weight?

    I was cruising some profiles of pro cyclists and I saw something interesting.

    I weigh ~135 lbs and am 5'11. What I noticed is that a vast majority of pro cyclists that were my height weighed between 140-160 lbs. I understand that every cyclist has his own "optimal weight", but are these guys on to something? Should I maybe consider putting on a few pounds of muscle and then re-testing my power?

    Thoughts?

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    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    Are you, like, a great climber? Or do you suck? Living in Boulder, you should know. 135 at 5' 11" is pretty skinny. Andy and Frank Schleck are 6' 1" and weigh 150. Michael Rasmussen is 5' 8.5" and weighs 130.

    I don't think that the pros are "on to something". Their size is a function of optimal power/mass for a specific function. Most GC guys are the 5' 9"'ish and 150 lb size, climbers 5' 7"'ish, 135 lb size, and sprinters are generally bigger, but Mark Cavendish, at 5' 9" and 150 lb, and Robbie McEwen at 5' 7.5" and 150 lbs are exceptions as sprinters.

    Trying to put on some muscle mass at your weight would probably help you.
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    I'm a decent climber. I would definitely consider it my strength, but am by no stretch a great climber.

    I'll try throwing on a few pounds and see what happens.

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    Generally speaking, putting on muscle mass with the idea that it will make you faster, is misguided. Part of the problem is that when people think muscle mass, they think massive, fast twitch muscles, which is fine if your goal is to be a sprinter like Mario Cipollini, but for climbers and GC riders, muscle mass is not all that critical, especially fast twitch muscles. The real logjam in cycling physiology, is red blood cell count, and unfortunately that is something which is difficult to improve. (But not impossible) You would probably be better served by increasing the efficiency of your pedal stroke, rather than trying to increase muscle mass. A good training regimen should already give you all the muscle mass you need. When people focus on adding muscle mass, what they end up doing is adding fast twitch muscles, when what they really should be doing is focusing on slow twitch muscles.

    But if you really want to increase muscle mass, there is a specific training exercise that you can use, which will both increase muscle mass, and improve pedaling efficiency at the same time. Find a nice steady climb, since you're from Boulder that shouldn't be a problem. I prefer something that takes me 30-45 minutes to climb in my normal gears, and that has a fairly steady rate of climb. Then simply sit down, put your bike in its biggest gear, and climb. You want your rpm's to be at least below 40, below 30 is better, below 20 is even better. On grades above 10% it is not unusual for my rpm's to be zero during this exercise, as my computer doesn't register rpm's once they fall below 11. The idea is to force your legs to pedal a full 360 degree circle. You want to have only two options, pedal a complete circle, or fall over. It's best not to do this exercise until after you have all of your base miles in this spring, but if you really want to try it now, start with a nice easy climb, with rpm's around 50 or so. If you're a junior rider I definitely do not recommend this exercise.

    Another aspect of this exercise is that you MUST augment it with some high rpm workouts. Do the climb in your biggest gear one day, and then the next day do it in your smallest gear, and try to maintain at least 80 rpm's all the way up the climb. Personally, I find going up a climb in my smallest gear almost as demanding as going up it in my biggest gear, if I have a good quick cadence below which I don't want my rpm's to drop. If nothing else, these two exercises will teach you the importance of climbing in the proper gear, as you will quickly realize how much using a gear that's too big or too small, effects your speed.

    These two exercises will definitely build muscle mass, and improve your pedal stroke and climbing ability. Remember that these exercises are only one small part of a good training program. But they will help make you a stronger cyclist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammonjj View Post
    I was cruising some profiles of pro cyclists and I saw something interesting.

    I weigh ~135 lbs and am 5'11. What I noticed is that a vast majority of pro cyclists that were my height weighed between 140-160 lbs. I understand that every cyclist has his own "optimal weight", but are these guys on to something? Should I maybe consider putting on a few pounds of muscle and then re-testing my power?

    Thoughts?
    I take it you have a power meter? I think you should just continue training and doing an FTP test every week. If your Watts/Kg continue to increase then you don't have anything to worry about. If power is not increasing you might not be eating enough to recover properly. Putting on muscle will not make you a faster cyclist since the strength requirements to pedal a bike are really quite low.
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    IMO, a cyclist should almost never want to "gain" weight...... completely counterproductive.

    BTW: I too am 5'-11" & 135 lbs, climb like a goat and proud of it

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    Quote Originally Posted by orlick View Post
    Putting on muscle will not make you a faster cyclist since the strength requirements to pedal a bike are really quite low.
    http://www.chicagosuburbsonline.com/...dor_astana.jpg

    Yeah, I think a lot of cyclist struggle with that idea.

    Look how "big" Contador's legs are.

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    I totally agree with the idea that putting on muscle mass is something that a lot of amateur cyclists overemphasize. But I just wanted to make it clear, that although it might seem like the training exercise that I described in my previous post is all about putting on muscle mass, that really isn't its purpose. Another thing that amateur cyclists struggle with is having an efficient pedal stroke, and that is really what that exercise is all about. The reason that you want to do this exercise on a climb that takes at least 30 minutes, is that you want to have sufficient time for that feeling of pedaling a complete circle to become totally engrained in your mind. You want to repeat that stroke over and over and over again. You want it to be so engrained in your mind that you don't have to think about scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe, or some other such nonsense. Under pressure, you want your body to just do it, and this exercise will definitely achieve that. It won't give you the muscle mass of a weightlifter, but it will strengthen muscles that you may not have used much in the past. And it will definitely make your pedal stroke more efficient. Under pressure you won't have to think about an efficient pedal stroke, it will just be there. Almost every good professional cyclist that I have known, has done this exercise in some form.

    I know that some cyclists may think that I'm crazy, so here is an excerpt from an article by Chris Carmichael concerning pedaling efficiency, and George Hincapie.

    "The way to improve mechanical efficiency is to learn to apply force through as much of the pedal stroke as possible, especially through the top and bottom. Overgeared, high-power, low-cadence workouts are essential. Climbing hills, seated, in a big gear forces George to keep force flowing to the pedals over the top and through the bottom of the stroke. It is the only way he can maintain enough momentum to keep the bike moving forward."

    Here's the link if you would like to read the entire article.

    http://thesportfactory.com/site/trai...iency_44.shtml
    Last edited by Shake'n'Bake; 12-25-08 at 11:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shake'n'Bake View Post
    I prefer something that takes me 30-45 minutes to climb in my normal gears, and that has a fairly steady rate of climb. Then simply sit down, put your bike in its biggest gear, and climb. You want your rpm's to be at least below 40, below 30 is better, below 20 is even better. On grades above 10% it is not unusual for my rpm's to be zero during this exercise, as my computer doesn't register rpm's once they fall below 11.
    Sounds like a great way to blow out your knees to me.
    running makes your legs nasty. Cycling makes them look a weird way that i like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spunky View Post
    Sounds like a great way to blow out your knees to me.
    This is one of the most frequent comments people who have never tried this exercise express. The idea that they'll blow their knees out. But unless your bike is very poorly adjusted, this won't be a problem. Blowing out a knee is an injury that most frequently occurs in weightlifting, where you are working against a weight, or in a sport that applies strong torsional forces to the knee, like football or basketball. Cycling does neither of these two things. In weightlifting, if the lifter is unable to lift the weight, the weight will continue to apply downward force to the knees until something gives. Even then, there is usually some torsional component involved. In cycling however, there is no force working against the knee other than what the rider himself applies. If the rider is unable to turn the pedals, the pedals don't push back, they simply stop turning. There are minimal torsional forces involved, so the likelihood of blowing out ones knees are quite small.

    But that doesn't mean that there are no risks involved with this type of exercise. Pushing such large gears does cause greater wear to the knee. These are repetitive use injuries, which are not uncommon among cyclists, whether they push large gears or not. But pushing large gears can be a contributing factor to such injuries, which is another reason that you shouldn't push large gears all the time. This exercise is not meant to be done on a daily basis, or for hours on end. But I did mention in my earlier post that this exercise should be done only after one's base training is complete, and should not be done by juniors, whose knees have not yet fully developed.

    In the end if you are concerned that you may blow out your knees, then simply do not do this exercise. I am not forcing anyone to do it, I am merely advocating it as a way to improve pedaling efficiency. If you're not a competitive cyclist, then this exercise might not be for you, but if you are, then this is a great way to improve your performance.
    Last edited by Shake'n'Bake; 12-26-08 at 12:26 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shake'n'Bake View Post
    This is one of the most frequent comments people who have never tried this exercise express. The idea that they'll blow their knees out. But unless your bike is very poorly adjusted, this won't be a problem. Blowing out a knee is an injury that most frequently occurs in weightlifting, where you are working against a weight, or in a sport that applies strong torsional forces to the knee, like football or basketball. Cycling does neither of these two things. In weightlifting, if the lifter is unable to lift the weight, the weight will continue to apply downward force to the knees until something gives. Even then, there is usually some torsional component involved. In cycling however, there is no force working against the knee other than what the rider himself applies. If the rider is unable to turn the pedals, the pedals don't push back, they simply stop turning. There are minimal torsional forces involved, so the likelihood of blowing out ones knees are quite small.

    But that doesn't mean that there are no risks involved with this type of exercise. Pushing such large gears does cause greater wear to the knee. These are repetitive use injuries, which are not uncommon among cyclists, whether they push large gears or not. But pushing large gears can be a contributing factor to such injuries, which is another reason that you shouldn't push large gears all the time. This exercise is not meant to be done on a daily basis, or for hours on end. But I did mention in my earlier post that this exercise should be done only after one's base training is complete, and should not be done by juniors, whose knees have not yet fully developed.

    In the end if you are concerned that you may blow out your knees, then simply do not do this exercise. I am not forcing anyone to do it, I am merely advocating it as a way to improve pedaling efficiency. If you're not a competitive cyclist, then this exercise might not be for you, but if you are, then this is a great way to improve your performance.
    Really........
    running makes your legs nasty. Cycling makes them look a weird way that i like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spunky View Post
    Sounds like a great way to blow out your knees to me.
    +1. I can see dropping cadence into the 50s or 60s (as advocated by many coaches) but into the 20s?? No way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Romans8:28 View Post
    IMO, a cyclist should almost never want to "gain" weight...... completely counterproductive.

    BTW: I too am 5'-11" & 135 lbs, climb like a goat and proud of it
    again +1. Work on building your FTP and you will kill guys w a high power/weight ratio. Two of the top masters racers that I ride w in SCal have your build, and they dominate on the climbs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LT Intolerant View Post
    +1. I can see dropping cadence into the 50s or 60s (as advocated by many coaches) but into the 20s?? No way.
    I'm fine with letting each individual decide at what cadence they would like to perform this drill. If you're not comfortable with pedaling uphill at 20 rpm, that's fine. If you would prefer to do it at 55 rpm, that's fine too. But if you want to be a competitive cyclist, then at least do the drill, it will improve your pedaling efficiency. For me personally, it's not about where I feel comfortable, but where I feel that I'm getting the best results. For me, it's at the point where I know without a doubt that I'm pedaling full power, the entire 360 degrees.

    Remember that this drill is not really about building power, it's about pedaling a 360 degree circle. It's not about how hard you push down on the pedals, it's about how hard you're working the other 230 degrees of the pedal stroke. When you do this drill, there should be absolutely no doubt in your mind, about whether you are pedaling all the way around the pedal stroke. Try it at 50 rpm, then try it at 30 rpm. When you're sure that you're applying power all the way around the pedal stroke, that should be your starting point.

    The other thing to remember, is to alternate these workouts with high rpm workouts. Ideally, in a high rpm workout, you would like to be able to maintain at least 120 rpm's for one hour on level ground, or at least 80 rpm's uphill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shake'n'Bake View Post
    Generally speaking, putting on muscle mass with the idea that it will make you faster, is misguided. Part of the problem is that when people think muscle mass, they think massive, fast twitch muscles, which is fine if your goal is to be a sprinter like Mario Cipollini, but for climbers and GC riders, muscle mass is not all that critical, especially fast twitch muscles. The real logjam in cycling physiology, is red blood cell count, and unfortunately that is something which is difficult to improve. (But not impossible)
    Why would weight lifting add primarily fast twitch muscles? I thought, maybe incorrectly, that your ratio of fast to slow twitch muscle was an inherited trait? If you have any answers about this I would love to hear it.

    As for the weightlifting issue I would say that all cyclist benefit from a strong core, and there is a lack of on bike exercises that really strengthen your core, which is important for smooth pedaling. So I would argue that weights are important for in that respect.

    Also, if sprinting is a limiter for you than adding some fast twitch muscle may be beneficial for your racing.

    I am excited to get some more input on this as I planning on hitting the weights this year during base 1 and then doing maintenance throughout the season. I would be very interested to hear if this is not the right plan of attack.

    Also, I find big gear climbing to be very beneficial, but as has been stated, dont ignore the high cadence climbing as well.

    If you knees are killing you get your bike fit.

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    jonestr, you are correct that the ratio of fast to slow twitch muscles is basically set at birth, but the degree to which each type of muscle fiber is called upon during exercise can vary. If you push large gears, or when you lift weights,(depending upon the amount of weight) you are calling upon a higher percentage of your fast twitch muscles. Most weightlifting programs call for high weight, low rep workouts, which emphasize the fast twitch muscles. If sprinting is your weak suit, then exercises that call upon your fast twitch muscles will help. George Hincapie describes doing big gear sprints, up very short steep hills. These will definitely improve your fast twitch muscles. They will also let you know if there's too much flex in your frame. I've learned that one the hard way, a number of times. I'm a slow learner.

    Now is definitely the time to be doing weight work, and any work that will improve your core, and overall fitness. These are things that tend to get neglected during a long cycling season. How much maintainence that you need to do during the season really depends upon how active you are, and how much training you normally put in. If you're training and racing 500-600 miles a week then that should be sufficient to maintain your overall fitness. If you only train 200-300 miles per weak then some weight work during the season would be beneficial. I have known top level cyclists who never trained more than 350 miles a week, but by having a good training program you can attain a fairly high competitive level, with limited time.

    Your plan of attack seems fine to me. I am usually hesitant to tell people how much training they should be doing. I once had a person ask me what would be a good training program for a novice racer, so I gave them what I thought was a nice 350 mile per week training schedule. I thought that it was great. They thought that maybe they might take up running instead.
    Last edited by Shake'n'Bake; 12-27-08 at 04:28 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shake'n'Bake View Post
    Generally speaking, putting on muscle mass with the idea that it will make you faster, is misguided. Part of the problem is that when people think muscle mass, they think massive, fast twitch muscles, which is fine if your goal is to be a sprinter like Mario Cipollini, but for climbers and GC riders, muscle mass is not all that critical, especially fast twitch muscles. The real logjam in cycling physiology, is red blood cell count, and unfortunately that is something which is difficult to improve. (But not impossible) You would probably be better served by increasing the efficiency of your pedal stroke, rather than trying to increase muscle mass. A good training regimen should already give you all the muscle mass you need. When people focus on adding muscle mass, what they end up doing is adding fast twitch muscles, when what they really should be doing is focusing on slow twitch muscles.
    I'm 5'9" and 165 lbs from 22 years of weight training (cycling was intermittent through the years). I'm now backing off the weights (only high repetitions) and trying to get down to around 150 to 155 lbs for my cycling. I'll lose the size in the upper body and be fine with it. Now, that being said, I have no problem climbing and actually look forward to it - plenty of slow twitch fibers still available - and tend to get away from folks easily on the rides I participate in.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gMoneyYo :) View Post
    http://www.chicagosuburbsonline.com/...dor_astana.jpg

    Yeah, I think a lot of cyclist struggle with that idea.

    Look how "big" Contador's legs are.
    Actually they are pretty damn big given how skinny that guy is.
    Please remember that all statements unless quoted, are strictly my opinion of what happened. That there are as many opinions as there are spectators attending. I just choose to publish mine on this forum. And would NEVER intend to purposely hurt or discredit any other cyclist.... With that said... HTFU!

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    Shake N Bake

    Thanks for the good info.

    I have about 10hrs to train a week and I am following the Friel plan and am shooting for 500hrs of training this season. Hopefully Friel's high rep plans will give good benefits for all around cycling as I am interested in staying injury free and am looking to improve my TT

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    I personally believe if you want train the muscles just pedal at a bigger gears at a lower cadence.

    That being said, I dont think lifting will hurt (barring you don't overtrain) at my strongest in the Marine Corps when I lifted seriously, I was 5'8", 165 lbs. Heavy, but not something that will keep you from competing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wfrogge View Post
    Actually they are pretty damn big given how skinny that guy is.
    Which makes sense. Contador's power-to-weight ratio is off the charts.

    But your legs don't need to be like the cheater, that is, Kirk O'bee.
    http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/10734/b22.JPG

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