Winter Weight Training for Cyclists

Karen Frazier
Man doing push ups

With inclimate weather conditions occuring in the winter, cyclists may seek indoor alternatives to staying in shape during the off season. Winter provides cyclists the opportunity to weight train in order to compete more strongly during the rest of the year. Winter weight training provides cyclists with the perfect opportunity to build strength without bulk, and then taper off heavy weights before riding season begins again in the spring.

Cyclists Need Upper Body Strength

There's no doubt cycling is great exercise for the lower body. For the novice cyclist, winter weight training might seem a bit fanatical but it's not, especially if you plan to compete. A strong upper body grants an edge in competition. It provides mountain bikers an advantage, as well, by building the strength they need to lift and jump to make it over rough terrain. If you have a strong upper body, it can supply the rigidity needed to feed power to your quads as you pedal.

Watch competing cyclists bike along a level stretch, and you'll be able to tell those with fit upper bodies because they barely move their torsos. Those depending solely on lower body strength, however, rock on their seats in order to muster the strength they need to keep going. To build upper body fitness, include abdominal exercises in your strength training routine.

Winter Weight Training for Cyclists

The key to successfully using weight training to boost your performance as a cyclist is to build strength, and not bulk, for your entire body. You don't have to get involved in a complicated weight training regimen. All you have to do is follow this simple approach three times a week. Note that experts recommend heavier weights and less repetitions in the winter for cyclists to maximize their results. As riding season approaches, gradually adjust to lighter weights while increasing the number of reps.

Sample Routine

Use this routine or a simiar one for training during the off season.

Upper Body Exercises

Strengthen your upper body during the winter to give you more strength and control when you ride.

  • Upright row - Stand upright and grasp the barbell with your hands about a shoulder-width apart. With arms relaxed, let it hang in front of you, holding your body and wrists straight. Pull the bar up towards your chin keeping it close to your body, and then lower the barbell slowly. Be careful not to lean with your body or swing the bar for momentum. This exercise strengthens deltoid and shoulder muscles.
  • Pull up - Hold the bar with a solid overhand grip. Set your hands at about twice the width of your shoulders. Let your body hang, and slowly pull up to the bar. The top of your chest should almost touch the bar. Don't arch your back; try to stay straight as you lower your body to the starting position. This works the muscles you need when cycling on a steep incline.
  • Push ups - This exercise works your triceps and shoulders, providing the strength needed to push on the handlebars when cycling over uneven terrain and through dips.
  • Bent over barbell row - Stand with your feet around shoulder-width apart and bend so your back is parallel to the floor and your is head up. Grasp the bar with hands slightly further apart than shoulder width. Use an overhand grip and keep your legs bent. Pull the bar to your chest and lower it slowly. The strength built from this exercise will help you steady the handlebars when pedaling hard.

Lower Body

Lower body work gives your legs more power for pedaling, especially on hilly terrain.

  • Squats - This exercise works your quadriceps, lower back, hamstrings, calves and glutes. It builds the power you need to call on when pedaling up steep climbs.
  • Step ups - Step ups should be performed on a platform using weight on shoulders. This will build powerful quads.

Perform Exercises Properly

When using weights in your strength-training program, it's important that the exercises be performed properly. If you can't complete the repetition while maintaining proper form, then you are trying to lift too much weight.

With just three days a week and a few weight training exercises, you can improve your strength and stamina as a cyclist. By performing weightlifting activities in the off season, you will gain an advantage during competition that you can't get by only riding your bicycle.

Winter Weight Training for Cyclists