Should I lift weights instead?

Hi,

I have about 5-8 hours every week dedicated to trading.
My question is simply: Under what circumstances would it be more beneficial to use 1 or 2 of these hours lifting weights instead of doing the same time on the bike?

Would 1 hr in the gym generally be better if my goal is to achieve the highest possible FTP?
or
Would 1 hr in the gym be better than 1 hr on the bike if my goal is to become a better sprinter?

Please help me understand how to think about gym vs bike time.
I understand that this question might not have a straight forward answer but rather a lots of ifs and buts.
However, as a new user with access to gym equipment, should I under no circumstances skip an hour or on the bike to instead be in the gym?

Thanks

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Hm. If you’re strictly looking to increase FTP, I think you’d be better off spending that time on the bike given the amount of time you have available. Or you could opt for a more “minimalistic” strength program- a few carefully chosen compound exercises and maybe some core work is probably more appropriate for your goals than a 1 hour gym session, and carries less fatigue/time commitment.

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Hi Ludberg, welcome to the forum!

This is a great question. I think the short answer is that you should be fitting some gym time into your training plan for sure. Where it gets complicated is working out how much and when. If you are in base phase then you can do maybe two or even three sessions a week of weights. But when you move into build you may find that your legs get toasted with that much gym time so you’ll need to cut back.

I would say that you don’t really need that much time in the gym either, as the two exercises for your legs that will really help with your watts are squats and deadlift. You then only really need to add a torso push and pull (bench press, rows) and a vertical push and pull (shoulder press, lat pull down or pull ups).

I can do 2 sets of 8 - 12 reps plus some core work and be out of the gym in 40mins.

Long story short - Yes to gym work, not too much during build phase, short gym sessions work best.

Hope that helps?

Honestly with the time frame you have there, the best way to get better on the bike is to ride the bike. If you want just overall fitness sure add gym strength. Even when I’m riding 15-18 hours I do not incorporate strength training because I know riding is going to make me better on the bike not picking up something heavy.

This.
But: If you already did a season of 8h/week training, it will be beneficial to ad a different stimulus. So 2x30min strength training in the winter can be great.
But if you are new to the sport or did mostly Z2 Training, structured training on the bike will be a strong stimulus.

I suppose that for increasing FTP you won’t need strength training. For sprinting stronger and more explosive legs will help, but in my opinion even more important is a stronger upper body / leg coordination and whole muscle chain to keep great control and transfer your power to bike and road.

For being a stronger overall athlete and avoiding dysbalances, there is no way to avoid strength training…

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If you want to be faster on the bike I wouldn’t cut anything out of a 5 hour week.

Strength and general conditioning does help and it’s worth pursuing. I’d find a way to do 20 minutes three times per week at home so that it doesn’t cut into your on the bike time. You can do a lot with kettlebells, dumbbells, body weight exercises, plyometrics, etc.

I do the exercises from Maximum Overload for Cyclists. You can do 90% of it without a gym and a set of dumbbells. That’s all I do. I was going to join a gym but I never got around to it and then covid happened.

Similar dilemma for me albeit I have an extra couple of hours a week to train.

I am opting to do a strength programme for 8-10 weeks as my offseason (never been to gym before).

This will mean much lower cycling hours than usual as a consequence. However, my rationale for doing this is to be stronger for when I start My base plan after the 8-10 weeks. I will no doubt lose some base but hope to get this back fairly quickly in the base phase, with the gym work providing the foundation to increase my ‘ceiling’ which is quite low. (I excel at SST, but struggle >125% ftp workouts).

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A full on strength program is great but you can get some real benefits both on the bike and for normal day-to-day life by just doing 10 or 15 minutes of core work 3 to 4 times a week. This can be fit in in to almost any lifestyle without cutting into the training time you already have available.

Long term, it depends a bit on your lifestyle but if you’re sedentary other than the time you ride (e.g. desk job, no other exercise), some off the bike strength and mobility work is necessary for long term health. Decades of only cycling will eventually take a toll.

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First off, do a strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats analysis of your cycling and you goals.

Theres no one true way for anything, but if your primary goal is to cycle faster its likely 8h of cycling will get you there quicker.

To decide if strength is a weakness, have a look at Chad’s strength targets for cyclists.

Then weigh it up against all your other challenges; consistency, sleep, nutrition…and so on. If youre missing 20% of a 5h trainjng week, increasing it to 8h may not be effextive.

Remember that strength training is a secondary, supporting activity to cycling, you absolutely cannot swap an hour if ine for an hour of the other and expect equivalent benefits.

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With only 8 hours to train I would focus my time on the bike over the gym.

What type of racing do you do?

Take a look at coach Chad’s strength training benchmarks - on those are you already strong enough for your discipline?

I hadn’t been in the gym for more than 10 years but in 15min 2-3x/wk I went from worse than any of the levels to meeting the Level 2 benchmarks in four months of offseason with limited impact on my cycling workouts. I gained ~2-3 lbs. seemed like a good trade off for an MTB racer.

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A very very big thanks to all of you who took the time to reply - greatly appreciated.

After reading Chad’s recommendations it turns out I’m plenty strong (ie Sprinter). Maybe it comes from having easy access to weights but my conclusion is that perhaps I should dial down on the weights and focus more on the bike.

If I have the time and feel fresh I’ll probably squeeze in some gym time during my base/build phases that are fast approaching.

Again, big thanks for your help!

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Everyone will find their best option.

I would suggest if you opt for an off season of weights (Say 10 weeks) , as many advise, that you stick to it and trust the plan. There will be plenty of time (42 weeks) to get riding build gains on the bike.

I am doing this for first time ever this year. Dropping probably >50 hours of riding over 10 weeks (Compared to my usual at this time of year). I won’t know until well into next year whether this has been worthwhile But if I don’t experiment I’ll never know.

Thats good. I would just look for stuff like squats not too heavy, so you get the posterior chain benefit without taxing the legs too much. I do 5x5 session (30mins), squats at only about 75% bodyweight for example.

Season wise I think focussing on strength in the winter, then paring back as you start base, and minimising diring build and speciality can be a good idea.

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I personally try to get in 2 strength sessions a week and 2 mobility sessions. Depends how I’m feeling, if I’m tired I skip the strength and do some mobility. I’m trying to play the long game, sure I could just ride all the time but I feel a lot better when I’m functionally strong.
I try to fit the strength days at the end of Tuesday and Thursday so I get a full day off ( except Wednesday petit ride)
Like I said it works for me and makes me feel better.