In the last article, we touched on the importance of strength training for cyclists. One of the primary reasons mentioned is the impact of strength training on bone health.
There are several articles in scientific journals that have examined bone density levels in highly competitive cyclists and the results are quite alarming—some riders had bone density levels that were actually lower than sedentary controls!
This is not meant to scare you, or make you believe that your bones are going to deteriorate just because you are a cyclist—unfortunately there's not a lot of conclusive information available, and further studies are certainly needed to investigate the precise mechanisms behind this loss.
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However, despite all these studies, there's one thing that you can do to help maintain your bone health, and that's strength train. While any strength-training program can help, there are a few things that you can do to make sure all that work in the gym is translating to stronger and healthier bones.
Before we get into specifics, let's take a moment and discuss how exercise affects your bones. When you exercise, bending, compression and torsional forces are placed on your musculoskeletal system. In response to these loads, osteoblasts (bone cells) migrate to the surface of your bones and lay down additional collagen (structural proteins) fibers. These collagens eventually mineralize and your bones become thicker and stronger.
So, with that information, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as you strength train to help ensure optimal bone development:
Specificity is Important
Bone density development from strength training is site-specific. Lower body exercises will have an impact on bones of the lower body while exercises for the upper body will affect the upper extremity.