6 Reasons Cyclists Should Start Strength Training

Balance and Coordination

No doubt about it, riding a bike takes a decent amount of balance and coordination. However, once we learn these basic skills (usually when the training wheels come off), the simple act of riding no longer challenges our neuromuscular systems to improve. Resistance training, especially with free weights and various balance implements (physioballs, BOSUs, foam rollers) can help improve your balance and coordination to make you a safer rider and stronger person.

This is particularly important as we age and the risk of falls becomes a real concern. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.

In addition to strengthening your muscles, resistance training has a positive effect on your nervous system. Muscles can't act by themselves—they need signals from the brain via nerves to function optimally, and resistance training enhances this communication, which can improve balance and coordination.

More: 8 Core Exercises for Cyclists

May Help Minimize Overuse Injuries

It's impossible to completely prevent injuries, but strengthening your muscles and connective tissues with resistance training may help prevent some of cycling's common overuse injuries (tendinosis, ITB syndrome, neck pain, low back pain). Resistance training cannot only help make you a stronger rider, it can make you stronger for life's other demands.

More: 3 Leg-Strengthening Exercises for Cyclists

Optimal Muscular Function and Posture

Sitting—whether in front of a computer or TV, behind the wheel or at a coffee shop, wrecks havoc on posture and causes important muscles to shut down. Think about it like this—what would happen if you sit on your hand for 30 minutes? It'll probably "go to sleep". Well, when we sit on our butts, the same thing can happen to our Gluteus Maximus, a very powerful and important hip muscle.

Sitting for long periods of time causes "Gluteal Amnesia", a term used by Stuart McGill, PhD., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON, Canada) in which your glute muscles lose their ability to function properly.

Cycling is not the best activity to promote good posture. When riding, you're typically locked into relatively few positions for long periods of time. Combine that with long periods of sitting, and you may eventually develop some problems such as forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Fortunately, a simple resistance training program and some corrective exercises can help improve your posture and muscular activation. With better posture and muscles working the way they should, you'll move better, feel better and look better!

There is no one magic bullet to designing resistance-training programs. Get a room full of strength coaches or personal trainers together to design a program for somebody, and you're likely to get many different options. Program design should take into account goals, limitations, available resources and fundamental training principles.

More: How Cyclists Should Approach Strength Training

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