Strength training: shorter and more frequent or longer and less frequent

What’s the stance on strength training. I do mostly upper body when not on the bike. Typically 2 days per week for close to an hour. Is there any difference in keeping this schedule vs doing the same weekly volume over more days…ie shorter workouts each day.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a difference if you keep the workouts the same. Honestly working out every day just sounds like a bit of a pain considering commuting to the gym etc. if you are really maxing out your workouts you could look into timing but most of us are already well below that last 5% of optimization.

What @Hariburgler said. :+1:

If you’re keeping volume the same it makes sense to just lift when it’s convenient, so long as it’s not less than twice a week. If you’re going heavy, twice a week gives you maximum recovery time btwn sessions.

I think this will largely come down to what works for your genetics. I’ve done a lot of weight training over the years and have found that I get better gains with less volume. Longer workouts drain more energy and require longer recovery times for me. Shorter workouts give the stimulus to the muscle to grow, without causing much damage which needs to be repaired as well.

I used to do the standard hour in the gym, but being time crunched I started reducing it down to 45mins, then 30 minutes, now I’m at 20 minute workouts. Shorter workouts didn’t seem to affect results. I’ve reduced the number of sets I do of each exercise/lift to 2 sets. Work hard, get it done and get out/go home.

My overall goals in the gym have changed over the years, I now only do 2 x 20min workouts a week, and thats enough to maintain/ make slow gains. More workouts a week would be required for more growth/gains.


Care you share your current 20 minute routine? I’m looking at starting to incorporate strength training and curious what the most effective exercises are to maximise gains on the bike

try, going shorter more frequent made me very tired but your mileage may vary

Whatever fits in best with your schedule/personal preference and is therefore most likely to keep you consistent. I.e. the good training that you always do is better than the theoretically optimal training that you don’t always do. That’s somewhat true of all training, but even more so when talking about upper body strength work as a cyclist which is a good thing to do for health and injury prevention reasons but likely to be marginal at best in terms of making you faster.

Personally I prefer little and often with strength training so that I can fit it in easily without taking away from time on the bike. Rarely spend more than 40 minutes on strength work, and during race season it’s more like 20-25 minutes. Often do 3 sessions/week, or even more if you extend the definition of “strength training” to include core, mobility and activation exercises. But I also have the luxury of being able to do all my strength training at home, so have no overhead of getting to the gym and back. If I had to go to the gym I suspect I’d do everything that needed gym equipment at least in 1-2 sessions of more like an hour.

I agree with everything Cartsman said above, my upper body routines are not so much about gains on the bike, they’re more about general health, happiness, posture, etc. If you want to do short workouts, then focus on a couple of key compound exercises, and then add a few accessory lifts to round it out.

My current workouts are:
Pull Day
Close grip chin-ups: 2 sets of max reps without failure. That extra failed rep at the end of the set causes most of the damage, leads to soreness. I find I do better without it. Also depends how heavy and strong you are as to how many reps you can do, I end up around 8 reps which is perfect, you could do a lat pull-down variant instead if needed.
Wide grip rows: 2 x 10 reps. I do these like a reverse push-up, where I pull up to a bar. There’s lots of different ways to do it, but the main idea is to hit the rear delts and upper back.
Bicep curls for the girls: 3 sets, any variation. Limited benefit on the bike, looks good off the bike.
Abs: 2 sets of whatever is quick

Push Day
Push ups: 2 sets max reps. This could be bench press or a chest press machine for more or less reps.
Dips: 2 sets max reps. Dips are awesome, highly recommend doing these if you can.
Triceps: 2 sets hitting the long head, ie use the rope, overhead extensions or similar.
Delts: 2 sets overhead press or lat raises.

Leg day
Squats: 2 sets. I like to aim for 10 reps, many people like less reps. I find I don’t need to go anywhere near failure to see gains on squats. Go too hard and your riding will suffer for days.
Deadlifts: 2 sets. I like Romanian deadlifts, do what is comfortable for you.
Abs: 2 sets of whatever.

If you want bike gains, then I recommend getting a fixie and riding it up steep hills. My legs got bigger and my jump and sprint improved tremendously after doing these workouts.

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Twice per week for legs after your hard days on the bike…assuming you will have a recovery/easy day afterwards.