Squats, ripping my legs to shreds

So it’s a basic point, I’ve been cycling for 25 years or more, legs should be pretty resilient by now but what is it about squats which totally destroy my quads?
I’m over 50 so about 6 months ago I made a commitme to myself to stuck with the resistance training off the bike but there is no other exercise which hurts on the following few days than squats.

Just stick with them and hope for adaptation?

Welcome to squats? :+1:


Mark Rippietoe has made the point that the eccentric (lowering) portion of the squats can be particularly tough for cyclists.


What sort of weight and volume are you doing on your squats? Also, technique and frequency?

The worst my legs have been after squats was doing bodyweight stuff at a seemingly endless pre-season rugby practice.

The form is the key issue.

Assuming you are doing it properly, what is the minimum angle you are reaching? 90 degrees should be more than enough for a cyclist.

Have you tried split squats? They are a bit more specific and focused.

I’m mostly going from past experience but recently I’ve bought a rack/barbell stand which will enable me to start doing them again ( a broken collar bone has left me fairly limited with what I can realistically get over my head onto my shoulder area). So far I’ve only done practice sets of 10 on 3 different days with 43kg being the heaviest so far and have been going fairly deep so beyond 90 degrees.
Eventually I’ll be aiming at 10 x 10 bit at a far lighter weight than that.

I don’t feel like squats put me in a bad place for training rides the next day. I’ll usually aim to do 3 sets of 5 at as high a weight I can manage. So not much volume but near-maximal force production. At first, I was deeply sore for days afterwards. But after a couple months, that kind of workout doesn’t really slow me down.

Maybe you just need to give yourself more time to the training demands and you’ll feel better.

For reference, I’m 35 and I started lifting heavy in October of 2018.


TBH as much as I dislike failing a session at the moment I’m not overly concerned as I’m not really training to race, it’s just for fitness sake. I’d rather go through the pain to get to the point where they don’t hold me back on the bike.

I can’t quite tell from the OP;s post whether they are just starting to squat after a while of resistance training, or whether they have been at it for a while now?

If you’re just getting into it…Welcome. It should subside somewhat.

If you’ve been going at it for a while and it still is trashing your legs, see if you can make your hard days hard and easy days full recovery. This means TR workout and squats/DL on same day, and take the next day fully off. I find that results in better overall results than trying to heap even a recovery ride on destroyed legs the day after.

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Hi Rondal, just getting back into them, have been on the weights for about 4 months now but not really doing much leg work, mostly calf raises. Now doing DLs and am about to start doing squats too. As stated above, and to clarify, this is with no thoughts of them making me a better cyclist, it’s more a general health thing. I just know how I’ve responded to them in the past.

Start light, up the protein intake a bit and work through the DOMS. If it means easing up on the bike for two weeks and it won’t impact your riding too bad give it a shot.


I’m 58 and was doing squats only once a week last year and seemed like it got me no where except being sore and affecting my bike riding. So I started squatting TWICE a week now and my body seems to have adapted well after about 4 months. It seems to make a difference increasing my power, especially when I do a TR workout right before hitting the gym. Then I would do another TR workout the next day because I don’t get too sure until the 2nd day after squats. That’s my rest day.

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The aim is to do them 5 to 6 days apart, I guess I’m just going to have to suck it up and gradually up the sets and see if I get to the point where there is no soreness. All the other exercises I do just leave me with that nice feeling of fatigue and no soreness.

10x10! Dude for a cyclist that protocol is not very relevant and will leave you super sore Your goal in the gym should be to build strength. That is more of a mass building program.

In a periodized plan sets of 10 have their place at the beginning of a program with light weights. You are training here to really learn the movement and more importantly to prepare your joints and connective tissue for the heavier work that will come. If you are new to strength training I would say 4 weeks minimum in this phase with 8 being ideal.

In your strength phase reps are 3-5 with 2-4 minutes recovery between sets. The long recovery is the key.

I would hire an experienced trainer to work with you. Hearing that your quads are what is most sore is a bit of a red flag. Yes quads are engaged and doing a lot of work but your glutes are where you should be most sore. Being overly quad dominant on the bike (and in life) comes with it’s own problems. If your glutes and hamstrings are not firing right at best you are leaving watts on the table and at worst you will develop really bad movement patterns that will injure you. Add some hip bridges to your warm up or weighted hip thrusts as your primary move in a session.

Final note. In 30 years as a strength coach I have yet to meet anyone whose leg strength is the limiting factor in on bike performance. Think bigger picture. If your midline is weak you are bleeding watts. If your upper body is weak you are bleeding watts. If you grip strength is weak you are bleeding watts. I may be assuming too much here as you have not mentioned what your total program looks like. If so my apologies.


They way I do my squats is I start with a light weight to warm up my joints. About enough weight to do 20-30 reps. Then I increase the weight on every set until I can only do 8-10 reps. I do the last set twice. I found that it takes awhile for the legs to adapt. I also do leg extensions prior to doing squats because they warm up my knees a lot better.

You haven’t met me yet. I can’t even squat my weight on the barbell. And I only weigh 118lbs. Well, not yet…I’m working up to that.

I always do a few with just the bar to check my form. That torn muscle feeling isn’t noticeable until too late

I bet you can move that much in a leg press.

Go lighter and take more time for the adaptation. I’m 50 and got back to lifting 3x/wk in October. Just now I feel like I can do 2-3 heavy sets at 8-10 rose and not be super sore the next day. 3 1/2 months adapting to lifting…it’s pretty sad but we’re 50 dude, it’s different than when we were 20.

U eating enough protein?


I stopped doing leg presses years ago because it seems to be too stressful for my knees.