Cycling Knowledge Base Strength Training

Strength Training for Racing Cyclists and Triathletes

Strength training is a good complement to stamina sports. Here we explain how racing cyclists can set up a strength programme.

strength training

Strength training is a good complement for stamina sports. Here we explain how cyclists can set up a strength programme We should distinguish between general strength training, which strengthens the whole body and corrects unbalance – and specific training for the main sporting musculature.

General strength training can be achieved with little in the way of aids. 2PEAK coach Benoit Nave has developed a programme of 18 innovative exercises using a large gymnastic sitting ball, which improves strength, coordination and mobility. The programme was made for a group of world class mountain bikers. So you’ll be in good company if you follow these exercises.

» Here you can find the animated exercises

The 18 exercises can also be loaded in abbreviated form to your mobile phone’s browser and can be viewed anywhere:

A requirement for ball training is a large gymnastic ball, which can be bought in most sports shops for around 20 Euros ($25 at present) Here’s how to get the correct diameter for your height:

under 1.55m (< 5′) – Dia 45cm(18″) 1.55m – 1.65m (5’–5’5″) – Dia 55cm(22″) 1.65m – 1.75m (5’5″–5’9″)- Dia 65cm(26″) over 1.75m (> 5’9″) – Dia 75cm(30″)

If in doubt buy the ball larger rather than smaller.


For racing cyclists, strength-endurance is a main target for the sporting musculature, important for instance in hill climbing or generally for long speed sessions. There are two proven methods for achieving this, which can also be combined:

1. Specific strength training on the bicycle:

For this, you ride intervals between 3×6 and 3×15 minutes at a very low cadence (40-50 RPM) in a gear which brings you into the upper end of the high power range (Z3) according to power measurement or the middle of Z3 according to pulse. Since the efficiency of motion is especially high at low revs, the pulse is lower than normal for this power output. The component of strength is twice as much as at high RPM – i.e. The strength to maintain 250 Watts/50 RPM is the same as for 500W/100RPM! You can thus have a brief look into the professional world – in terms of strength anyway…

2. Maximum Strength Training:

Strength-endurance is closely associated to maximum strength, as shown in several studies. So increasing the maximum strength of the sport specific musculature is a good training gambit. For this we need the fitness studio. The least risky method is the leg press. Variations which also use trunk stabilizing muscles are one legged squats, alternate lunging, or squats with one leg on the bench to increase the difficulty. Advanced riders may increase the load using weights (to begin with only under expert supervision until the technique is learned).

Here is how a maximum strength cycle is put together:

Phase 1: Familiarization

Duration: 3-4 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 8-12 sessions in total Strength level: 40 – 60% of max strength (for one lift) Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 20

Phase 2: Below-Max-Phase

Duration: 1-2 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 3-6 sessions total Strength level: so high, that just 15 repetitions are possible Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 10-15

Phase 3: Maximum Strength

Duration: 3-5 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 8-12 sessions total Strength level: so high, that just 6 repetitions are possible Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 3-6

Circuit training

Ball training and specific sport strength training can be combined well with the home trainer.


20 minutes warm up on the home trainer at low brake setting in Z2. 10 minutes circuit training with ball and exercises 1, 2, 3 and 4. Back to the bike, 10 minutes smoothly at 100 RPM in Z3, then a further 10 minutes with exercises 5, 6 and 7 in that order. Again back to the trainer and specific sport strength training with a 10-15 minute interval at 50 RPM as in para. 1, above. Force up the RPM shortly to 120 RPM then do exercises 8 and 9 and finally wind down with 10 minutes easy on the trainer. You can do this programme with variations twice a week.

In this way you avoid home trainer phobia and still manage some useful training within a compact time span. You can vary the strength exercises with 9 stretching exercises. Before doing the specific strength training on the home trainer, you should always perform exercises 6 and 7.