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Impact of strength training

Old 01-30-21, 08:25 AM
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Impact of strength training

Before I started my training season last year in March, I had basically done a year of solid gym work, with the last half year solely focused on cycling specific strength training (i.e. no upper body, just focusing on lower body plus core). One would think that given last year was my first proper season where I trained based on principles and did so consistently, that this year I can build on that. But I am not at roughly the same amount of time into cycling training as I was last year before my first FTP test, and I am at about the same level. Additionally, I notice that my HR is low, e.g. in intervals it is about 10 bpm lower than it would have been last year, while at the same time my legs feel weaker.

I googled quickly and there does seem to be evidence that strength work improves performance, but more so in older people. What do you think? I think if my gym weren't closed and I could have done strength work I would be further along now. Definitely something I will test next year when hopefully gym will be open over the fall/winter.
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Old 01-30-21, 12:05 PM
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I've always felt that strength is better built in the gym or at least off the bike. However getting all the muscle you can isn't going to help cycling performance if you don't cycle enough to condition that new muscle mass for cycling.

No, I can't prove it. It's just my opinion.

And realize that too much muscle can work against you if you want to do long rides in very hilly conditions and have some time criteria you must meet. IE, not be one of the last to cross the line. But if you are only interested in sprinting fast for short rides, then bulk those legs up.
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Old 01-30-21, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post

I googled quickly and there does seem to be evidence that strength work improves performance, but more so in older people. What do you think? I think if my gym weren't closed and I could have done strength work I would be further along now. Definitely something I will test next year when hopefully gym will be open over the fall/winter.
If you're not doing anything else, then random exercise will help you be fitter in most other activities because general fitness is general fitness.

A better question is whether doing on-the-bike work would have given you more gains than strength work. I'd assert that it certainly would.

Cycling fitness is maximized by cycling fitness. If that's not possible or feasible, any fitness is better than no fitness.
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Old 01-30-21, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I've always felt that strength is better built in the gym or at least off the bike. However getting all the muscle you can isn't going to help cycling performance if you don't cycle enough to condition that new muscle mass for cycling.

No, I can't prove it. It's just my opinion.

And realize that too much muscle can work against you if you want to do long rides in very hilly conditions and have some time criteria you must meet. IE, not be one of the last to cross the line. But if you are only interested in sprinting fast for short rides, then bulk those legs up.
When I started riding last year I just started to research proper training. So it was far from perfect. Which meant I did a lot of cycling up my local hill at the beginning, and that consisted of a lot of grinding. My hypothesis is that those early, hard rides conditioned the muscles built in the gym as you say.
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Old 01-30-21, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
If you're not doing anything else, then random exercise will help you be fitter in most other activities because general fitness is general fitness.

A better question is whether doing on-the-bike work would have given you more gains than strength work. I'd assert that it certainly would.

Cycling fitness is maximized by cycling fitness. If that's not possible or feasible, any fitness is better than no fitness.
It certainly seems to me that my aerobic fitness is rather good. My intervals are about 10 bpm lower, but they feel the same, in fact, I recently wanted to add one set to my workout but the last normal one was already a massive struggle.

It might simply also be that outside one can output more watts, but I was curious how people who trained longer experience with strength training. I will certainly as I said try to do take less off from exercise completely, start much earlier with gym and keep doing gym in the base next year.
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Old 01-30-21, 04:03 PM
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Eh, I can't say it has made a difference in my, say, 1 minute or less power since I started, and I think the slight FTP bump was more due to more work on the bike, despite reading how strength training is supposed to be beneficial, but being able to lift heavy stuff is nice, and I get less niggles while running and can maintain a lower position on the bike without any pain, so there's that.
​​​​
​​​​​I don't do weights more than once a week, so maybe I'm just doing too little for it to really matter performance wise.

​​​​​

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Old 01-30-21, 04:53 PM
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Well, there are studies and studies about this topic. I've been a collector of same for some time. One has to keep an eye out for researcher bias, for instance adding strength training to one group and not reducing cycling training time. I've tried several different programs over the past 25 years, but never found anything really better than what's in Friel's Bible. Some of these links need to be explored to find the PDF. Some have no PDF access. Gives you a general idea though.

Almost universally "heavy" strength training is recommended. IME it doesn't particularly matter as long as the final set is done to near failure. Heavy is way quicker though. There are many studies showing that taking it easy in the gym doesn't do anything, duh.

All that said, not having had a PM, I can't say for sure that any of it increased my FTP, but it did make a difference on the 3rd long hard climb of the day. It's worth giving it a try, but now is too late to start. I wouldn't bother. Next September. I had my best days when I took a spin class at the gym and lifted after. That was a quick route to not being able to walk to the car, whole idea. Gym work takes a long time to build up to. Read your Friel. That also calls the finding of some studies into question. IME it takes about 6 months to see real results and the 3rd year will be your strongest. I didn't gain weight.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16287351/
https://sa1s3.patientpop.com/assets/docs/22597.pdf
https://www.semanticscholar.org/pape...a7e7a6795?p2df
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20799042/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19855311/
https://www.semanticscholar.org/pape...7e789cf78?p2df
https://sportsandscience.de/wp-conte...-und-Kraft.pdf

Back when there were gyms, I did two1 hour workouts/week which increased the weight moved. One 1 hour workout kept me even or almost. I started in September and quit in May, moving to 1 hour during Build2. Supposedly I could have kept it up all season, but I was maybe too old to have legs again soon enough to keep up the volume and intensity.
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Old 01-30-21, 06:20 PM
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Interesting topic that gets a lot of play at BF and the usual suspects trot out their reasons pro and con. What I have found is that stronger is better and stronger muscles seem to fatigue more slowly. However, endurance cycling is dominated by oxygen consumption. Volume of blood, oxygen content of the blood and heart stroke volume and heart rate dominate ones ability to perform. We are oxygen limited not strength limited.

Sprinting is a different matter. I trained for 2 years as a track sprinter and in that case it is about leg strength and freshness along with the muscles ability to relax after exploding. Heavy lifting in the gym increases strength but at the expense of muscle relaxation. Whereas explosive plyometrics such as box jumping improves rate of muscle relaxation after contraction. The ideal periodization of strength is heavy lifting and then time doing plyometrics. The net result is less absolute strength but more force per pedal revolution generated on the bike.

And two leg work is not as good as single leg since we ride pushing one leg at a time.

What do I do? I do most of my strength training on the bike. Standing and seated starts, accelerations and flying efforts at the track. I go to the gym a lot but that is for general health and longevity.
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Old 01-30-21, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
Volume of blood, oxygen content of the blood and heart stroke volume and heart rate dominate ones ability to perform.
I believe that is a very incomplete picture, if not incorrect. The ability of muscle fibers to metabolize O2, is at least as, but probably much more, important than delivery of oxygen to the cells.
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Old 01-30-21, 06:57 PM
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I've lifted weights before for core and quad strength lifting over 70 lbs weight. Deadlifts, lunge with the same amount of weight. It may not sound much but at my weight of only 125 lbs it's pretty heavy for me.

But I found I can also achieve the same desired outcome (raising my peak / burst power and performance) by simply finding steep hills >10% gradient and mashing up those hills in and out of the saddle in the biggest gear I could as part of my intervals and doing multiple laps of those hills. Part of the interval is also short sprints up those hills at lower gear to do so at higher cadence.

So nowadays, I don't lift weights anymore so no time wasted, more time on the bike, more time to train on my riding posture, only train the muscles needed for cycling, etc.

Those intervals don't work well if the gradient is not steep enough <7%. I think it has something to do with your center of gravity (COG) over your fulcrum (the feet at the downstroke pedal) and it seems it can shift behind the fulcrum if the gradient is steep enough, increasing the force at the fulcrum (downstroke) to beyond your body weight (basic high school physics), aided by shifting your weight a little to the back without flipping backward in the steep gradient. One way to reduce the chance of flipping backward is to lean forward in a semi or full sprint posture to lower your COG while doing this exercise.

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Old 01-30-21, 07:07 PM
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First off, judging how much you can lift is not an accurate representation of how strong you have become over time. Its more about how you lift the weight, not how much.

What you explain sounds mostly like a factory of recovery. You build muscle when you rest. It is largely a factor of your diet. Not just calories in calories out, but how often you eat, how much at a time, obviously what you eat, when you eat, and most important how fast you eat (and drink, of course) your stomach acid will only break down food properly if yojr saliva has broken down the food in your mouth sufficiently first. So eat tiny mouthfuls first, very slowly. You are supposed to only swallow your drinks once it is warm inside your mouth and sufficiently mixed with saliva.

Also, taking a very hot shower and spraying directly on your entire body, one group at a time is fantastic for recovery. I gradually increase the temperature until it is just bearable. Heat does wonders for your muscles and blood flow. I suggest also trying those bristle brushes in a circular motion on your skin. Not only does it remove dry skin, but its also very good for blood circulation.

Try to wake up earlier in the mornings, and make sure you go to bed on time. Don't look at screens before bed. Remember that your brain is also a muscle and must be trained accordingly. Read books and study.

Also, what sort of training specifically do you do? I use resistance bands. They are super effective. I make sure to slow down the eccentric portion of each movement and maximize muscle tension. I am also a big fan of isometric excersises.

How often do you workout? If you feel drained of energy, don't work out. Just rest.
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Old 01-30-21, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
First off, judging how much you can lift is not an accurate representation of how strong you have become over time. Its more about how you lift the weight, not how much.

What you explain sounds mostly like a factory of recovery. You build muscle when you rest.
I think results matter more. Unless you have physical issues prior to cycling, you could have way more progress within your 3 months of cycling, much more than you have shown so far.

You're definitely doing something wrong somewhere or not doing what you should be.
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Old 01-30-21, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
Standing and seated starts, accelerations and flying efforts at the track.
Strong acceleration shifts weight to the rear and more to your feet so you can push down with more force before you are lifted off your seat!

I induce the same weight transfer by finding steep hills and mashing in big gears. I found it's just as good or even better than lifting weights. But really better because you're doing everything on the bike!
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Old 01-31-21, 01:45 AM
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One difference between doing squats and deadlifts and doing strength work on the bike is the range of motion, which is much bigger when actually lifting weights. So, if you are trying to improve mobility, reduce injury and the like, gym work is superior in that respect.
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Old 01-31-21, 05:33 AM
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Interesting observations, I will stick to gym work in the winter though, cycling outside here in the winter is not nice. At all. Plus I actually do like the gym. There is something so rewarding about the deadlift and adding a kg or two a week to your PR. I was at 242lbs on the DL and 227lbs for the squat and I started almost half that (though not ass to grass, more just above horizontal which is a little easier in terms of balance but as a cyclist more than enough range of motion than you need).
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Old 01-31-21, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
First off, judging how much you can lift is not an accurate representation of how strong you have become over time. Its more about how you lift the weight, not how much.
I very much disagree with this.

There are two components here that play the dominant role. One is teaching the muscles fibres that you do have to be activated, in fact, the first wall you will hit is probably your CNS recruiting as many fibres it possibly can, from that point on you do need to gain muscle to improve.

How you lift is completely secondary. You don't magically improve your technique week in week out. Best case for this argument is you have been doing it wrong and a teacher shows you how to improve. That is a one off that may trickle down a few weeks but then it's over.
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Old 01-31-21, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
I believe that is a very incomplete picture, if not incorrect. The ability of muscle fibers to metabolize O2, is at least as, but probably much more, important than delivery of oxygen to the cells.
But it lends to his point that what matters in endurance sport is aerobic fitness that you get on the bike, not muscle strength you get in the gym.

Some aspects of the sport have very specific neuromuscular demands to go with that aerobic fitness (I'm thinking long, explosive crits or super punchy road races), but that again is done on the bike and not the gym.
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Old 01-31-21, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
But it lends to his point that what matters in endurance sport is aerobic fitness that you get on the bike, not muscle strength you get in the gym.

Some aspects of the sport have very specific neuromuscular demands to go with that aerobic fitness (I'm thinking long, explosive crits or super punchy road races), but that again is done on the bike and not the gym.
I have read on this topic but am no expert - strength training does not help muscles get better at metabolize O2?
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Old 01-31-21, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
I have read on this topic but am no expert - strength training does not help muscles get better at metabolize O2?
In my experience, strength training has similar effect of having easier/smaller gears on the bike.

It can give you solid performance improvement on steep climbs if you currently feel like you don't have small enough gears on your bike or riding SS.

Won't guarantee improving your sustained speed in the flats or mild gradients though.

You'll get the most performance benefit out of lifting weights if you can simultaneously use all the lifting muscles you built from strength training on the bike at any given point.
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Old 01-31-21, 12:55 PM
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The gist of everything here I'd pretty much agree with. It's not one magic bullet. Doing any one thing to such an extent you fail to do the other things enough is not going to help much.

Though I've no issue with staying in the gym when it's too cold for what you want to ride in. But still don't go all resistance and not do any aerobic work. Though for two or three months, and if you aren't needing to cross the line first, then you'll catch up quick when you do start riding....IMO
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Old 01-31-21, 02:04 PM
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In training, I like to follow the science. A good read on the subject is The Great Influenza by John Barry. Nothing to do with training, just science, but very topical right now. Anyway, I look at a study and if it seems real to me, I try it out. My experience is that this works well as long as my lived experience matches the study. Sometimes it does, sometimes not so much.

I try to keep interesting studies coming onto my screen. I ran across a couple more strength & cycling studies yesterday:
https://www.academia.edu/27638157/Ef...ained_cyclists
https://www.academia.edu/14473993/St...elite_cyclists

That latter link interested me. It included the detail that training time was the same between the E and E+S groups, though of course there's no way to demonstrate that TSS was the same. IME the E group would have had had a higher TSS than the E+S group. I also liked that it was 25 weeks of training instead of the usual short period, which as I mentioned above, doesn't seem to do much.

That's what I was referring to in my previous comment about doing better on the 3rd long hard climb. Also in this latter study, and perhaps having to do with asgelle's contention above in post 10:
It has been suggested that strength training by increasing strength of type I muscle fibers delays their time to exhaustion, thereby delaying activation of the less efficient type II musclefibers, in turn increasing endurance performance (Rønnestad & Mujika 2013).
The latter indicates that improvement in muscular efficiency is an important mechanism behind improved work economy and improved endurance performance.A cross-sectional study of cyclists with similar VO2max and Wmax, reported lower EMGactivity in cyclists with higher maximal strength (Bieuzen et al. 2007). Indications of postponed activation of type II muscle fibers have been found in well-trained cyclists. After12 weeks of strength training, a larger improvement in cycling economy was observed in the strength-training group than in the control group during the last hour of 185-min submaximal cycling(Rønnestad et al. 2011a). This was accompanied by reduced heart rate, RPE, and improved performance in a 5-min all-out trial performed immediately following the 185 min.
The other thing I liked in this study is the targeted strength work:
The performed exercises were: half squat, unilateral leg press,standing unilateral hip flexion, and ankle plantar flexion.
This year, my age is giving me recovery issues. In spite of my history of strength training, this year I haven't been able to do it after a cycling workout and still recover the next day. My thinking is that perhaps my routine was too tough for me now. This routine looks doable. I don't have a gym, only dumbbells but I think I can substitute:
Weighted one-legged half squats
Weighted step-ups
Unweighted one-legged standing calf raises
Unilateral hip flexion with a band:
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Old 01-31-21, 03:11 PM
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Fitness is sport-specific, just because somebody lifts a lot in the gym doesn't mean that they're going to be a strong rider. My strength training workouts are very unconventional and I don't follow any science. I don't do strength training to improve my cycling but to maintain my overall strength and general fitness and so far it seems to work very well for me....I ride my bikes to maintain my bike-specific fitness.
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Old 02-01-21, 11:22 AM
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When these discussions come up, I really think we need to acknowledge there are at least two questions we should be asking:

(1) Would strength training improve my bike performance? and
(2) Are there good reasons aside from bike performance for engaging in strength training?

In response to the first question, I fall in Rubik's camp. If your sole goal is getting better on the bike, I just don't see how spending time in the gym, off the bike, is going to give you the same results as training on the bike would. Studies that show a performance benefit from strength training in the gym are all somewhat flawed in that they don't focus on having the other study participants (i.e., the ones not strength training) spend the same time in productive bike training that the strength training participants spend in the gym for what I would consider to be a true comparison. If you are focused on being better on the bike, nothing beats specificity. (That's true of nearly anything you can come up with--I'm sure there are always outliers; hence the need to say "nearly anything.")

However, I would contend that it is important not to overlook the second question. Many of us are over 40 in age who are, at best, amateur riders, regardless of whatever talent we may bring to the table in that regard. Riding is just something we enjoy, but our livelihoods and families' well being are not contingent upon our ability to perform well in a bike race.

Sarcopenia, a condition characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, is something most of us battle as we age. I'm still fairly young (yes, 48 is still pretty young, so %$#@ you, naysayers!--and yes, to be clear, I say that playfully and completely tongue in cheek), and I want to do everything I can to maintain my quality of life in my later years and add to my life expectancy. Yes, I'd like to live longer, but more importantly, I want to remain active, mobile and independent as I age. Good science indicates resistance training can help in that regard.

So, although I do not strength train to be better on the bike, I do it for other important reasons. No matter how devoted we may be to cycling, balance is important and should not be overlooked.
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Old 02-01-21, 01:25 PM
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If you only ride the bike and don't do core, some legs, etc......you won't have a stable enough trunk to help you deliver power on the bike. Like, do plank. Do some unweighted pushups. Do more plank. Do some side plank. Do some lighter weight leg work like squat and lunges with kettle bells or dumbbells. Not body build 5 rep 3 rep stuff. High rep stuff. This can aid in injury prevention, bone density, stability of your knees/ankle, etc...... Not "meat head" muscle building work.

Be goals oriented in the ratio of weighted work you do, and the type. If you're a B-group rider with general fitness in mind, do whatever you want. If you want to race bikes........the ratio is going to skew more towards............well......riding the darn bike.

Lastly...........for effect let's cross over sports. Youtube "crossfit" and "bike". They put out some solid efforts in the cross and crit course they tossed at those folks a few years back. But, in both, they'd probably have been in the bottom 1/3 of a Cat 4/5 cross or crit race. Amazing athletes, no doubt. Some can squat 500 or deadlift 500 and then run a mile both within 5min total. More run than bike folks. But just goes to show how the sport specific work matters a lot. The bike speeds are pretty slow for those folks, but they never put in tons of miles on bikes. Run? They run a mile or two with weight vests very frequently as part of workouts. So.........the 5min mile is a more credible challenge. That there is proof of sport specific work.
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Old 02-01-21, 08:02 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by SkepticCyclist View Post
When these discussions come up, I really think we need to acknowledge there are at least two questions we should be asking:

(1) Would strength training improve my bike performance? and
(2) Are there good reasons aside from bike performance for engaging in strength training?

In response to the first question, I fall in Rubik's camp. If your sole goal is getting better on the bike, I just don't see how spending time in the gym, off the bike, is going to give you the same results as training on the bike would. Studies that show a performance benefit from strength training in the gym are all somewhat flawed in that they don't focus on having the other study participants (i.e., the ones not strength training) spend the same time in productive bike training that the strength training participants spend in the gym for what I would consider to be a true comparison. If you are focused on being better on the bike, nothing beats specificity. (That's true of nearly anything you can come up with--I'm sure there are always outliers; hence the need to say "nearly anything.")

However, I would contend that it is important not to overlook the second question. Many of us are over 40 in age who are, at best, amateur riders, regardless of whatever talent we may bring to the table in that regard. Riding is just something we enjoy, but our livelihoods and families' well being are not contingent upon our ability to perform well in a bike race.

Sarcopenia, a condition characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, is something most of us battle as we age. I'm still fairly young (yes, 48 is still pretty young, so %$#@ you, naysayers!--and yes, to be clear, I say that playfully and completely tongue in cheek), and I want to do everything I can to maintain my quality of life in my later years and add to my life expectancy. Yes, I'd like to live longer, but more importantly, I want to remain active, mobile and independent as I age. Good science indicates resistance training can help in that regard.

So, although I do not strength train to be better on the bike, I do it for other important reasons. No matter how devoted we may be to cycling, balance is important and should not be overlooked.
1) YES it would in the right portions. You don't need to spend a lot of time in strength training and even just a little time on strength training (still much more time training on bike) will make you stronger and last longer in things like going up very steep climbs, sprint faster and longer, cruise faster in rolling hills, and get better at chasing a fast group if you get dropped.

Strength training doesn't seem to bring any improvement on the flats or long mild climbs but when the road starts going up and down and seeing very tight turns, that's where strength training will shine and you'll start dropping your mates!

I used NOT not do any strength training so I'm now seeing the difference it makes. The vast majority of training I still do on the bike because you still need to have good Aerobic strength because all that high leg strength is useless if you can't sustain it.
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