Strength Training

Strength Training information and resources:

  • (We will update this lead post with appropriate info over time.)

5 Strength Training Exercises to Integrate Into Your Cycling Training Plan

  • The Official TrainerRoad blog post with Coach Chad’s essential strength exercises.
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Weight training VS Zone2

I’ve been reading a lot of different articles over the past while trying to see exactly what’s the best way to approach Strength and Conditioning to support my cycling training over the winter and into the future. I am 50 now and on week two of SS Base medium. There seems to be so much varying views on weight training and it’s benefits for cycling. I didn’t want to start a strength and conditioning plan that would negatively impact my results from the TR Plans I intend to follow over the next six months so decided to start small and light and build. Here are the notes I made up. May by useful or just a point for feedback or discussion. Any advice is welcome.

Weight Training Programme for Cycling

Phase 1 – Transitional Phase (2-3 timer per week)

  • 2-4 weeks.
  • Start Day 1 with 1 Set 12-15 reps / Day 2 Two Sets / Day 3 Three Sets.
  • 90 Sec recovery between set.
  • Cover 5 body areas – 1 exercise on each.
  • Body weight or low weights only.

Phase 2 Hypertrophy (2-3 timer per week)

  • 3-4 sets 8-12 reps (1st set light for warm up)
  • Cover 5 body areas – 1 exercise on each.
  • 1.5 to 2 min rest between set.
  • Reps 12 – 10 – 8 – 8 (Slightly increase weight each set till 8)
  • nearly complete recovery between sets.
  • steadily improve once every two weeks

Phase 3 – Building Strength (2-3 timer per week)

  • 4-5 sets 8-12 reps (1st set light for warm up)
  • Cover 5 body areas – 1 exercise on each.
  • 1.5 to 2 min rest between set.
  • Reps 12 – 10 – 8 – 8 (Slightly increase weight each set till 8)
  • nearly complete recovery between sets.
  • Aim for PB in 8 Rep Max
  • Introduce some basic plyometric jumps.

Phase 4 – Time to Build Power

  • Fast explosive power – slightly lower weight.
  • Plyometric/Jump training is a MUST.
  • 4-5 sets 8-12 reps (1st set light for warm up)
  • Cover 5 body areas – 1 exercise on each.
  • 1.5 to 2 min rest between set.
  • Reps 12 – 10 – 8 – 8 - EXPLOSIVE


Phase 1 Transitional Phase (Getting the body used to it!) (Maybe x3 per week)

  • This should be easy for 2 weeks with body weight or light weights.
  • Concentrate on form.
  • Start each exercise with One Set 12-15 Reps (Day 1). Then 2 sets day 2 and 3 sets day 3.
  • 1.5 mins recovery between each set.
  • Five areas – (1 of each to start) Upper Body Pushing/ Upper body pulling/ Lower Back/ Abdominals/ Lower Body.
  • Strength and Power comes later…. (Higher weights/Lower reps).

After two weeks of break-in, riders should move to free weights or some resistance machines to work the same muscles in slightly different ways.
Increased strength, which does not mean creating larger muscles, is necessary in order to improve your power, or speed-strength.

Phase 2. Hypertrophy or Muscle Cell Growth. (Maybe x3 per week)

  • 5 Exercises each at 3-4 sets at 8-12 reps.
  • It’s not necessary to do the same exercises each workout, but do train the same muscle groups.
  • It really makes no sense to build an extensive workout that duplicates effort through similar exercises.
  • Warm UP start with something relatively light, about 50 to 60% of your best and do twelve reps.
  • 10RMax by 130%, which provides a ballpark figure for a 1RMax.
  • 1.5 to 2 min rest between sets.
  • Reps should be 12 – 10 - 8 – 8 (slightly increase weight).
  • It’s designed to be anaerobic, with nearly complete recovery between sets.
  • A quick spin on the bike can be used for warm-up and cool down immediately adjacent to the resistance training session.
  • Serious aerobic training, on the bike or otherwise, should be undertaken several hours prior to or after the weight training session.
  • Keep a training log.
  • Make it a point to steadily improve once every two weeks or so, but be certain that perfect exercise technique remains a priority.

Phase 3. – BUILDING STRENGTH - Continue to build load… (Maybe x3 per week)
Still, with recommended reps in the eight to twelve repetition range, cyclists are not necessarily gaining actual strength. Much of what has happened over the past two months is a simple matter of neural adaptation, or learning how to contract muscles against a load.

  • If the season isn’t started yet continue two above pre-season gradually increasing weights.
  • However, this period, start with one twelve-rep set for warm up with about 60%, followed by one ten-rep set with 70-75%, and finish up with at least two, possibly three, sets with an intensity around 80% that allows for eight repetitions. If eight repetitions are easily and regularly accomplished, increase the weight slightly.
  • Use perfect technique.
  • During this period cyclists should aim to improve their 8RM personal records in all major exercise categories.
  • Although some cyclists claim their legs are exhausted after a weightroom session, the program offered here should not result in that reaction. For example, four or five sets of squats, which are all that is needed to show marked strength gains in an endurance athlete, should not create an exhausted state. After all, only the final set may be a repetition maximum effort.
  • Of course, if a rider decides to work harder on each set or to add sets or to add additional leg exercises, then yes, the legs may be shot after the workout. It is again emphasized that such additional effort in the gym is simply not needed in order for riders to improve their cycling performances.
  • We are still in the process of preparing the body’s muscles for the more intense strength and power work to follow.
  • While Power training is still some time away. Riders should now begin to work in some elements of plyometric (jump) training.
  • beginning or ending a weight workout with five to ten minutes of jumping keeps a rider aware of their type II (so-called fast twitch) fibers.
  • E.g start small – vertical jumps etc and build.

Phase 4 - TIME FOR POWER - Speciality Bike Phase parallel. (Maybe x2 per week)
*As we are working on fast explosive power the weight max may drop slightly to enable the burst action.
Quit lifting now and muscular strength gains earned over the past few months are lost. This is particularly true for master athletes and females, both of whom must maintain some form of weight training throughout the year in order to optimize benefits.

  • It’s not yet time for peak performance on two wheels.
  • it is a mistake to turn our backs on weight training at this stage.
  • We have been focusing on strength building phase. NOW it’s time to focus on POWER.

It’s important to remember that in order to train and improve power, you must focus on both increased strength and improved speed of execution.

Improved strength by itself is unlikely to result in better cycling performance.

  • Plyometric, or jump, training is a must at this time of the year, but again, the volume does not need to be excessive.
  • INTENSITY should be at it’s GREATEST.
  • Training power means movements need to be performed quicker than strength phase.
  • A squat, for instance, would involve lowering slowly to the point where the thighs are parallel to the ground, then blasting upward as rapidly as possible.
  • There’s still a need to focus on exercises that affect upper and lower body, along with core musculature.

I’ve been doing weight training much longer than I’ve been cycling but I’m really no authority in matter.

Couple of comments:

  1. I think sets of 6-8 reps are recommended if your goal is hypertrophy, 8-12 is usually for strenght.
  2. Why not add muscle endurance phase of 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
  3. I like to always add weight next time I go to gym if I can lift over rep limit on last set and decrease if I can’t lift lowest rep limit on last set. Makes weight management easy.

Personally I’ve been struggling with making cycling and gym fit together. If I do deadlift or legs in general at gym I really struggle with cycling next dead. So if anyone has good tips I’d love it.


When we talk about “strength”, we’re usually referring to neuromuscular capabilities, or how well you can activate the available muscle mass. This sort of work targets strength gains without increases in fiber diameter and increased body weight, and the rep range is very low, usually 3-5. Then when you’re chasing hypertrophy, i.e., bigger muscle fibers with greater cross-sectional area, that’s usually done in that 8-15 repetition range pushed to failure or very near to it.

As far as scheduling your strength workouts so as not to negatively impact your endurance training, our recommendation is to separate them as much as possible but do them in the same day rather than schedule strength work on a recovery day. This allows the cell signaling the least interference, your muscles the best chance at reaping both strength and endurance benefits concurrently, and your body the opportunity to fully recover between hard workouts. And it’s prudent to recognize that the best endurance athletes will never be amongst the best strength athletes and vice versa.

You could get away with strength work on recovery days if you stayed closer to the “lift heavy” philosophy and that 3-5 rep range though. As always, there’s some “suck it and see”, trial & error experimentation to be done, but avoiding carryover fatigue and confused genetic signaling is best achieved when you start your day with endurance and end it with strength (or do it the other way around) remaining mindful of how each workout type influences your sleep, aka, repair/adaptation.


Strength improvement is done with heavy weights and low reps? If I need to be able to do a set number of push ups in a minute should I target strength type workouts?

@Sidjournell, pushups aren’t really a strength maneuver in the way they’re only as heavy as your body and usually done until metabolic fatigue sets in. They aren’t usually limited by raw strength/force-production and doing more pushups or doing them faster can be addressed by simply doing more of them or doing them faster, both in an interval fashion where recovery is inserted between sets of pushup repeats.

The argument, and coaches and riders apply this thinking to maximal power training on the bike too, is that by increasing your max strength you can reduce the percentage of max strength you’ll use when doing pushups (or riding up a hill). The rationale being that if you can bench 150 lbs, let’s imagine a pushup requires 30% of that strength or 45 lbs per pushup. Increase your bench press to 180 lbs via lifting heavy and you are now only using 25% of your strength capacity. By that logic, you should be able to do more pushups because less work as a percentage of your capabilities is required. BUT the limitation will still be a metabolic one because you’re doing many pushups and doing them quickly, so it doesn’t translate as tidily as we’d like to think.

Clear as mud? :wink:


IMHO its worth picking up the book “Weight Training for Cyclists” by Ken Doyle and Eric Schmitz. It includes a periodized plan.


@chad Thanks for explaining, always wondered about that. Took the summer off from cycling and spent more time at the gym, saw a nice jump in bench but still quite limited on the number of perfect form push-ups I can knock out.

That was perfect!!! Thank you so much!

Think of one pedal stroke as a exercises movement, it is like any other exercise , curl , bench press etc, doing one exercise alone can created weakness or imbalances in other’s, A whole body approach would reward you on and off the bike, doesn’t matter if you do weight or body weight training, or yoga , pilates, etc. Working it in to your riding and TR w/o "s is a individual endeavor, Just try something your interested in, When you lose interest in that, try something else ,it’s not one thing. A good idea to address your weaknesses, I came in to cycling from a sport that primarily needed max, upper body strength , After my first season of riding I had to address leg strength, after going to the gym, and building some good overall strength , I focused on heavy lifting to recruit more muscle fiber in my legs…and from there Iv’e just continued to cycle in what I’m interested in at that moment. I spend most of my time riding single track, so all year I use band resistance exersizes
to keep my upper body and core fit, and I’ll stop with this , when I see a rider start to make mistakes, get sloppy it’s their core that is usually failing them.


So several, but not all of the exercises in @chad’s blog post don’t require gym or gym equipment.

What I’m wondering is, as a 48-year-old who needs to add strength training both for life and cycling gains, can I do it only at home and without equipment? Are body weight exercises alone hard enough for the right adaptations?

Last season on non-bike days I did heavy weights in the morning and hypertrophy in the afternoon. Worked well but my legs were completely fried at the end of 4 weeks.

Currently doing weights on rest days (morning only) and finding my legs feel & work like clunky logs on the bike days – usually takes 2-3 intervals to get them working like bike legs again.

Still very early so I can switch to ‘all work’ days and ‘all rest’ days and see what happens. I’m sure it helps with mental fatigue as well as hormone balance too, having full on rest days.

Try a few pistol squats and let us know. :wink:


Other way around actually. Strength you go for max lifts, like 1-3 rep for the final and heaviest set. I’ve been lifting weights far longer (20yrs) than I’ve been cycling (4yrs) but I too am no expert and happy to hear others on this.

Not to send people away from TrainerRoad, but I’ve been using for years to plan and record my weights training. It’s a different tool for a different problem than TrainerRoad. Jefit is for weight lifting like TrainerRoad is for cycling (TrainerRoad does a more compete job though :ok_hand:).

PS Joe Defranco’s Industrial Strength podcast is great for weight training info.

PSS I’m not a salesman as much as my post seems like I am.


I heard you suggest this on the podcast and I’ve been trying it out since. So far, so good. Thanks mate :+1:

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Very welcome, @bbarrera. Pushups are about quite a bit more than chest, shoulder, & triceps strength too. Benching is one of the go-to lifts that borders on non-functional due to support derived from a bench instead of your body, and this keeps bench strength from translating as cleanly as squat or deadlift strength will. Whereas pushups, though done in an ‘unnatural’ position, are more representative of deeper, useful strength since they demonstrate weaknesses in other points along the kinetic chain. You can fake a set of bench presses to some extent, but you can’t fake a round of pushups. I suggest planking, deadlifting, and squatting, odd as it may sound, in your efforts to become stronger at doing pushups. All of those movements target muscle groups that overlap with the muscles used when pressing a strong, rigid body up off the floor.


Hi @dbf. Most of the bodyweight movements are aimed at improving structural support more than increasing muscle mass, certainly not aimed at increasing max strength. But for endurance athletes who do little if any strength training, I see it as a perfect place to start. By reinforcing proper movement patterns with nothing more than your body’s weight, the stage for properly executed heavier lifting is set. I see far too many athletes dive into a strength training program with gaping holes in their basic movement quality and I cringe at just the idea of loading those poorly supported joints and biomechanically challenged postures.

And this isn’t to say you ever have to progress past these bodyweight lifts. You can certainly strike a really good balance between endurance performance and some modest but highly beneficial structural improvements doing nothing but bodyweight squats (pistols if you’re nasty), pullups, pushups, planks of all types, leg raises, depth jumps, box jumps, rope jumping…I could go on for quite some time - so much to choose from!


Bodyweight exercises are not to be underestimated, when you can do pullups/push ups easily there are many progressions which need massive amounts of strength. Look up planche push ups, one arm push ups, one arm pull ups, archer pull/push ups, pistol squats, shrimp squat, the list goes on.

A good book for reference is ‘You Are Your Own Gym’ by Mark Lauren and a good youtube channel for similar exercises is Calisthenicmovement


I’m obsessed with planning and structure, bordering on OCD. That’s why i like Trainerroad. And as a complete beginner in strength training, I tend to get lost in breadth of information on the internet. Is something like TR for strength training available online?


I’ve had pretty good success with chad’s suggested “make your hard days hard and your easy days easy” approach. I’ve had good success in the offseason reducing down to a low volume plan and spending more time in the gym, and then moving to mid volume in the spring summer nad only in the gym twice a week.

Ride in the morning or lunch time, and then lift in the evening.
Heavy on the lifts 3x5 or 5x5 for Squat and Deadlift, and then pull-ups, dips, and finish with some box jumps or wall balls. It makes it very easy to fall asleep on those days.