Drop weight training or not?

Hi all,

Evidently my body really likes weight training and adapts well to it, so well that it’s impeding my adaptations from cycling. Getting faster on the bike is my primary goal and I’m on the bike 7-8 hours a week, 3-4 days a week. My powerlifting sessions are relatively short, twice a week at 30 minutes per session.

Even with the reduced strength sessions I’ve gained about 3kg in the last 2 months, appetite has gone up significantly, and lifting has improved significantly (12% load increase in a month).

Fitness on the bike has also gone up but not enough to overcome the extra weight I’ve put on. For example, I just put out my best 20 minute power up a climb but was slower than my fastest time due to my weight.

I’m doing weight training to maintain bone density, muscular health, and overall quality of life. But since weight training is setting me back in my main goal of getting faster on the bike, should I cut weight training back to once a week or even once ever 2 weeks?

Thanks all!

You are gaining weight because you’re gaining muscle. That’s a response to increased strength/training with heavier weights. If you’re only weight training for the (perfectly sensible) reasons you list, I’d imagine dialling back the weights, not looking for progressive overload, and maybe look at more superset type workouts than powerlifting: you don’t need a 5 plate squat to maintain bone density :grin: But ultimately, do what you enjoy dude. If improving your times on the bike will do that, then maybe change. If you’re enjoying being strong as well as fit, then carry on.

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I second this! Dont stop lifting if you feel like its adding to your overall well-being, maybe just refocus a bit and try some lower-weight higher rep lifts that still give you the benefits you’re looking for without bulking up!

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This is it for me as well so I wouldn’t drop the lifting at all. I would think about what kind of lifting you are doing. I try to pair the kind of lifting I am doing to the phase of cycling training I’m in. If I’m 8 weeks out from a big event I’ll still lift 3x a week, but I’ll go into a maintenance mode without any increases in the amount I’m lifting the entire time. I’ll even decrease weight on certain lifts during this time.

If it’s base training time I’ll lift heavier and not worry about any weight gained.

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A few things, to add maybe a different perspective:

First, if you’re eating over your maintenance, you’re going to gain weight regardless. On the flip side, you can do all the lifting in the world and you won’t actually be able to gain bodyweight if you aren’t fueling that surplus. So lifting can stay in, even if you’re trying to lose weight.

Second, if you’re gaining noticeable muscle and strength on just two 30 minute sessions per week, that’s AWESOME. I would also argue that’s probably a good sign that it’s a weak point for you - in other words, that’s good bang for your buck to keep that up. If your body is in a state where progress can be made smoothly like that, that should lead you to potential for good watts as you keep it up. Don’t be surprised if you hit a point where that isn’t enough stimulus to keep things moving forward though. In that case you would start weighing how much energy you want to spend on that vs. bike.

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I’m definitely eating more, that’s for sure. I know I’m putting on extra fat too, my Withings scale shows 20% when prior to lifting I was at 15%. On the other hand, the scale shows 76% muscle whereas prior to lifting I was at 60%. So definitely more muscle than body fat.

I’ve actually been powerlifting my whole life, I stopped after I started cycling in 2018 and my weight dropped from 240lbs to 205lbs. I picked up lifting again a couple months ago and it’s like my body is super compensating for the time off :stuck_out_tongue:.

To be honest, I’m more interested in putting on the watts than losing weight. When I dropped down to 205 lbs I was super hungry all the time and my performance on the bike suffered.

Ah okay! That totally makes sense. I was kind of imagining a smaller skinnier rider who just added lifting in for the first time and seeing that beginner boost, so my bad on that.

I’m actually right there with you on that side of things, then. I’m training for raw power and not planning on being any less than 100kg, and very okay with sacrificing the climbs and some general speed to hit my overall long term athletic goals. The bigger problem that I run into is the amount of energy and recovery it takes to make good lifting progress at this point. It’s a tough balance if you’re really trying to push forward to lifetime bests in each pursuit.

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Pulling out the Joe Friel Cyclist Training Bible it has a general recommendation of 14-21 weeks of resistance training, with the rest of the year doing maintenance once a week at 60-85% 1RM, 2 sets, and 6-12 reps per set. Pretty sure my other book Base Building for Cyclists has similar recommendations. A coach would adjust that of course, for example I bought the Scientific Triathlon plan and it is a 19 week plan with 2 sessions a week.

Digging one level deeper, do you have a specific objective (e.g. sprint power) or is “my main goal of getting faster on the bike” pretty generic?

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Thanks @bbarrera.

Haha, very true as to the generic statement. My goal before the end of the year is to hit 300w for 20 minutes. Long term is really to get my FTP as high as possible.

If the only reason you’re thinking of dialing down strength training is because you think it’s making you slower (or hindering you getting faster) you may want to be really sure this is the case before making any changes. There are dozens of examples I can think of from my own rides where power was up but speed was down and vice versa. It’s not only about power and weight.

Another thought: if you made lifting gains of 12% in one month, it sounds like you might not have spent months and months doing it (when gains would tend to be lower). This isn’t meant to be a slight, just that it might be too soon to fully gauge where your body will stabilize in terms of strength adaptations and any associated changes to the bike. Adaptation is often not linear.

My own view is that strength training is really beneficial, and it’s hard to imagine that two 30-minute sessions per week would be a hindrance to improvement on the bike. If you think it might be in your case, my final advice would be to get some input from a coach or trainer that knows how to structure a strength plan to supplement endurance training. For this, I have found DialedHealth.com to be about the best resource out there.

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I’ll toss this article out: https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-dont-do-this-after-lifting-weights and there are more like it.

basically same conclusions as this pubmed article that starts off talking about Hickson: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4213370/

:+1: best recent decision I made, tried self-coaching and it just wasn’t coming together.

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I know this is just one example but I’m surprised about this “When trainees rode the exercise cycle after strength training, their increases in bench press strength were a lot less than with resistance training alone (12% compared to 24%).”

Then again, I kind of question how applicable this is to someone with experience, if the people were getting +12% and +24% on their bench in 8 weeks anyways! That aside, I would tend to agree that doing both back to back is probably not the way to go, in a perfect world. Though it does seem like plenty of obstacle course racers and Crossfit type folks seem to combine both into the same workout with huge success. But they are of course not trying to be as specialized.

It’s really a shame there aren’t more coaches and athletes out there really trying to excel concurrently. Many examples of people being beginners in one while being excellent at the other, or people who retired from doing one and swapped to the other (while being nowhere near their old performances in the initial discipline), and so on. Not many actively trying to compete in opposing fields and make genuine progress in each in the same weeks. Would love to read more about that sort of thing.

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Higher reps would be counter productive, imho. Fewer reps will elicit more strength gains and less muscle growth (bulk)

My tip would be to stay low reps, 1-5. Cut back on the sets, 1-3, and don’t increase the weights until you want to get even stronger. Do still lift heavy, just don’t have any progression unless you want.

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Strength gain is a consequence of progression; if you keep lifting the same weight for 3-5 reps, week in week out, then the lower rep range won’t produce more gains than the higher one just because a heavier weight is being used. Moving to higher reps might well cause loss of neural adaptations (which are a big part of strength increases in the lower rep range), however.

I think it’s all about what the OP wants to achieve. I totally see the value in resistance training for general health, especially in the over 40 crowd (shortly to include me :grimacing:). But if that was what I was aiming for, then powerlifting would not be my choice; it’s not that it won’t work, I just think it’s a relatively high (recovery/stress) cost, high risk way of achieving those goals. It’s a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, if you like.

If on the other hand the OP enjoys powerlifting, has no designs on the polka dot jersey, then he should in my opinion crack on. We’re all here for fun and to get/stay fit and healthy.

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Thanks @RecoveryRide. Yes I enjoy powerlifting, it was my exercise of choice for the last 15 years before I started cycling a couple years ago. My other sport was kickboxing, but bruised quads and shins mix less with cycling than powerlifting :stuck_out_tongue: