Strength training seems to have killed my cycling fitness

I spent a couple of months running up to the end of the year doing Strong Lifts 5x5 as my main focus. So lifting 3 times a week. This went fine - didn’t get up to massive weights as had a few niggles that slowed me down. Ended up with my squats just over body weight (and bench the same?!).

Whilst lifting I was doing some low volume base - riding around 2/3 my usual weekly distance.

Anyway, coming out of the strength focus I am struggling to get my cycling form on track. I’m down from a peak FTP of 280w to less than 250w… Out on the road I’m barely hanging onto guys I used to be able to drop.
I am still doing a bit of lifting but down to 3x5 twice a week max.

I guess this could just be a seasonal thing, but I was expecting big things from strength training - not having to struggle to get back to form…

Any suggestions?

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Chris-

Are you able to provide your training schedule in more detail? Perhaps break it down by day?

It would be helpful to see the timing of your weight training and how it lines up with cycling workouts and training phase as well (Base/Build/etc).

I also wonder about your training priorities. A lot of the recommendations here and through the TR content and podcasts talks of cycling first and weights second to support your cycling.

I used a cycling specific resistance training plan that included both gym work and cycling work. Definitely saw an increase in raw force production from the gym work, and that also appeared to cause a decrease in FTP and increase in HR. Without any facts, it seemed like my muscles were favoring carbs and producing a ton of lactate which creates an acidic condition in the muscles. Just a guess as to the cause, I don’t have any facts to back that up.

After about 6-8 weeks of base work (plus maintenance gym work) things started to get back on track.

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You dropped your cycling volume by a third, not surprising you lost some cycling fitness! As you ramp it back up you should find the fitness comes with it. Personally I’ve never really found strength training to improve my cycling directly. At best it helps make me more resilient and durable and hence better able to deal with big cycling volume and recover from it. YMMV.

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You shouldn’t have.

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Everyone seems to say you “have” to accompany volume with strength training, but for various reasons including the fear that strength training will have a negative impact on my workouts, I haven’t. I’m again tempted to fit it in, but I’m not so sure of the benefit either.

I’ve missed these OBNDY comments :slight_smile:

be patient, your cycling proficiency will come back when you get the volume back up.

And also, hate to say it but you may need to recalibrate the expectations for strength work. I believe it can give people marginal gains (and also can be good for mobility, stability, better quality of life and ovearll being a better athlete) but as my econ professor used to say, there is no free lunch.

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:rofl: I was going to say the same and then held off to offer up a similar experience

yup.

My 2 cents:

  • play the long game
  • periodize and coordinate your strength-in-gym and cycling training
  • don’t use generic strength plans like 5x5

I’ve bought and own two cycling specific plans (FasCat and ScientificTriathlon). I’ve got several books, if you want to program yourself start with this one: https://www.velopress.com/books/weight-training-for-cyclists-2nd-ed/

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And to add to that, it was off season right - there no reason to maintain ftp at that time.

Nor should you be “in form” now - its base building time right?

I’m not sure anything has gone wrong in your training, but maybe your expectation to see no dip, and simply get stronger month on month year after year could do with a look.

Either way, it will come back as you transition from strength/off season to base/build/spec :+1:

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This sounds very similar to what I’m experiencing. I began off season after my final XC race in late Oct.

I took 10 days almost totally off the bike. Then began heavy to me weight training and core work 2X per week, and consistently added weight to the lifts. During this phase I did 3-5 endurance rides per week, but overall a fairly large decrease in volume and no intensity. Other than the few indoor rides I wouldn’t even pay attention to power or HR data.

Now I’m starting my annual training plan and definitely lost some bike fitness. FTP dropped from 304 to about 270. While it’s not desirable I’d say this was the intended consequence of my plan. I made a lot of strength gains and lost bike fitness by taking a break from structured cycling and volume.

Now I’m back to structured rides and decreasing the weight sessions to once a week. Also adding one yoga session per week.

I think our fitness will return quickly after a few weeks of structured training, but we’ll also have the benefit of the strength training.

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agreed, you sometimes have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward

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No science to back this up, but how did you come to the hypothesis? Reason I am asking is because what you are describing is exactly how my legs feel. It was like a switch. I did a slightly harder than normal lifting session and then the next trainer ride my legs felt different than they ever had before. Not like they were tired, like they had way more lactate than ever before. It is still persisting a bit, several weeks later.

Well I added 2+" to upper legs and all that new muscle was saying HELLO!!! :rofl: You should see my aerobic decoupling after lifting for 3 months, it was off the charts with HR just continuing to climb up and up on ‘easy’ 60-90 minute zone2 rides. A bit disappointing at first, but I knew 6-8 weeks would fix it (and it did).

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I’m about to start my off-season, 6-7 weeks.

  • At most 3-4h of lento ride (indoor)
  • XC ski, snowboarding and running
  • 2 or 3 sessions of lifting this will be my focus.

I’ll update with results.

Most here probably know a bit about this. But since many people on the 'net seem to reflexively say, “…do 5x5 stronglifts or rippetoe” whenever the subject of weight-lifting comes up…

I did 5x5 weight training years ago, and I don’t think it’s at all compatible with cycling training. Once the barbell gets heavy, to the point that it really is close to a 5-rep max, it’ll take more than an hour to get through 5 sets of squats (and the necessary inter-set rest periods). Not to mention the time devoted to the other exercises. At that point, you’re spending six hours per week in the weight room.

I got Tudor Bompa’s book – Periodization Training for Sports – and it was an eye-opener. The strength-training ‘program’ in Joe Friel’s book seems to be based on Bompa’s recommendations.

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5x5 is a great starting point, especially if you get the form right. But once you get heavy, those squats are brutalizing. I would recommend reducing first to 3*5. Once that gets too brutal, start to alternate squats and deadlifts instead of squatting everyday. I only squat and deadlift once a week now, but spend an entire session around those two lifts.

So to be accurate, not cycling has killed your cycling fitness. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’m in the last 3 weeks of Fascat’s 10 week strength program for cyclists. I’m definitely dreading my first FTP test after it. However, I can already say that my 1min power and shorter have improved. My focus is cyclocross, so hopefully a useful improvement once I get my fatigue resistance back up.

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Just because I am interested: how much did you guys start squatting (to paralell or below) when you started lifting weights, and at what number do you think you’d be happy with just maintaining the squat numbers?

I come to cycling from a weightlifting/powerlifting background and those have been my main sports for about 10 years before finding cycling through triathlon. All time best squat was 170 kg at bodyweight of 83 kilos. Now I am happy just building up to a set of 100 kg for 5 once or twice a week, it keeps the muscle mass, and hopefully doesnt steel away from FTP gains

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I remember foolishly doing 5x5 along with a lot of running before I got into triathlon. Some days it would feel like my hamstrings were going to come out of the back of my legs.

The lifting that I feel most benefitted triathlon without harming my ability to do hard work on the bike and running was a pre-swim 30mins that consisted off:

Warm up
3 x 5 Front Squat at 50% BW (approx. 40kg for me, laser focus on form)
3 x (5 Hex Bar Deadlifts at BW straight into 10 box jumps)
CD and mobility