Coach Chad's Strength Training Recommendations For Cyclists

I personally think the upper body lifts are a little low for Gravity/Enduro. I’ve always thought you’re BP should be more like 87% of your high bar squat, and Press more like 67% of your BP. As cyclists, and especially gravity cyclists, we take hard crashes and our shoulders need to be bullet proof, so a strong Press should be requisite. But as a former “captain upper body” maybe I’m biased, plus I just love military and push pressing…

I ruptured a disk at L3 in 2015 while squatting, only body weight on the bar. No surgery, and occasional back ache. I avoid high bar squats due to the compression of the spine.
I do Low bar squats as per Starting strength or Barbell Medicine. Before I returned to squatting, I made sure that I had personal instruction on proper form. I was fortunate to book a session with Alan Thrall of Untamed Strength. This puts your back at more of an angle and “in suspension”. Have never done barbell rows, I checked out the Athlean web site. Given my back issue, I will avoid this move and stick with seated rows. If you have back issues that preclude squats and deadlifts, Leg press is a good alternative and can be done single legged. For the back, the Nautilus Back Machine is a good one.

Ah! Right you are, @cartsman. We’ll address that. Thanks!


I’ve been inspired by Chad’s blog posts and started a strength routine last fall. I train at home and am thus limited by equipment. I do an upper body TRX routine, dead lifts and a few core exercises. (New to dead lifts - love them!) “Program” would be overly generous as the whole thing takes less than 15 minutes - 10 minutes if I am in a hurry.

Its been great. The biggest benefit is it has taken care of some back issues I had both on and off the bike. Based on my early struggles, I clearly had some core strength issues. Not sure I’m any faster but I am definitely more comfortable both on and off the bike.

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If you reach your goals and you do not want to gain any extra strength or mass, do you simply continue to use the prescribed weight over and over to stay at that same level?

i.e I hit BW deadlift for 5, thereafter I just stay at BW to maintain all the time? Do I then focus on rep speed? Perhaps reduce rest?


For those with back issues, if you have sufficient core strength, front squat is an option to help alleviate spinal compression and stress on the lumbar region. You’re not likely to squat as much raw weight, but I’ve found it effective and easier on my back. As mentioned, it requires significant core strength to execute properly.

Kettlebell goblet squats are a solid alternative to any barbell squat as well. And Kettlebell swings are a decent alternative to deadlifting, though deadlift is king for posterior chain strength.


At that point, it becomes about maintenance. You can reduce your sets to once a week, and just maintain the same weight/rep structure if maintenance is all you are interested in.


I think this is worth emphasizing. Without a caloric surplus and high protein diet, the risk of adding muscle weight is extremely low. Yet, especially at these levels (at most 150% of body weight for deadlift), the chance of seeing your numbers continue to rise with ongoing training seems high. And what maybe this article doesn’t emphasize is that strength and bone density are definitely in the “use it or lose it” category, so ongoing training is definitely the prescription.

Doesn’t that suggest that maybe these numbers, rather than a stopping point, should be an inflection point? If you’re not up to these numbers yet, then perhaps it’s worth gaining a couple of pounds of muscle to hit them. If you are up to these numbers, then gaining mass is probably not worth it, but continued training is still recommended and strength gains are just gravy.


Thanks, Coach Chad! I appreciate having these benchmarks as a way to inform strength training goals.

While I’m hopeful that I can better incorporate strength sessions with my TR workouts, I find it difficult to plan and adhere to those efforts separately. The TR app has been helpful as a way to increase my workout consistency / adherence for cycling training. Would you ever consider adding a blended cycling and strength training plan to your product road map? You have at least one user that would be all in!


I know this may be a silly question @chad …but does anyone have a link to what these exercises/lifts actually are?

May seem obvious but I’m not 100% sure!


I use Graeme Street’s Cyclo Iron kettlebell videos. I really enjoy them. I use a 14kg kettlebell. They’ve really made my core stronger and has fixed the back pain I would get on longer rides. My back would give me more issues than my legs when I first started cycling longer distances.

Let’s see if we can talk Chad into getting in front of the camera to show some proper form on these lifts. Stay tuned!


I actually expected a companion video along with the recommendations (like the prior Strength Training and Stretching vids). That would be a nice addition to help make the post a more complete guide.

Plus, we all know he’s itching to show off all that work he does in the gym :stuck_out_tongue:


Hey @RobertSims, here’s some of the best short clips I could dig up, a couple with minor modifications.


Back Squat:

Bench Press (use a wider grip though):

Barbell Row:


Chin-Ups: see “Pull-Ups” above, turn your grip inward

Military Press (omit the leg assistance/push):


Fantastic. Many thanks

Nice thanks @chad @Jonathan this is a good article.

Highly recommend anyone get a trainer to teach you the lifts and moves you can do more damage to yourself not having proper movement. I started lifting properly with a wooden pole and wasn’t allowed to add weight until I had the movement. I do one S&C a week, usually on a Thursday, race week I wont lift at all. The deep level stress it puts on your muscles I believe detrimental to your race a couple of days later.

I have been anxiously waiting for this post/thread since it was mentioned on the podcast weeks ago. Thank you @chad and @Jonathan!

I am absolutely clueless when it comes to strength training but am really looking forward to putting this into practice.

Assuming i will be starting out as level 1, and doing 2x week sessions, what are realistic progress goals to move to level 2? Do you suggest incrementally adding weight - at percentages? Weekly?

Again, clueless… :upside_down_face:

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Went straight to level 3 because I think I’m “strong”. Deadlift check, back squat check, got to the chest press and row and was like “Are you sh#*&ing me! No way”. Then kept scrolling down, chin-ups check, overhead press check. But still feeling pretty deflated because of my arm muscle mass and being proud of it…

Then I scrolled down a little farther to the women’s section, ha! Happy again! But I totally want to at least try to achieve those upper body male goals at some point :thinking:


@chad Are there any recommendations for core strength?
For example a minimum plank or side plank time of 1 min.
Thank you for the great blog post.