Strength & Conditioning: Tips for the time-crunched cyclist.
We speak to Dave Clarke of Hybrid Performance Strength and Conditioning as he runs through the importance of a good strength and conditioning routine for cyclists, especially for those that wish to compete at the very top of their game:
Be a better athlete, not just a better cyclist
This may not be what you want to hear, however, too many athletes focus on trying to find the best cycling specific exercise or programme and in all honesty, it doesn’t exist.
When putting a strength and conditioning programme together; concentrate on improving your athletic qualities such as your max strength, power, mobility, stability and local muscular endurance, whilst using movements that compliment cycling such as a split squat.
Improving these will make you a better athlete and having a direct impact on you being a better cyclist.
Work + Rest = Success
Recovery is fundamental. When at rest, focus on the ‘Big Three’ – these being Nutrition, Hydration and Sleep.
Regarding nutrition, make sure you are taking in the right number of calories, as well as keeping an eye on your levels of macro and micronutrients.
With hydration – make sure you remain hydrated at all times, not just when training or racing - but daily. It is possible to keep tabs on this by following the well-known ‘urine test’, if it’s clear and straw coloured, you’re good!
Sleep - is probably the most underrated performance enhancer, and yet the one we can most easily neglect. 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep really can make a huge difference. If this is something you struggle with, then it’s worth introducing in a bedtime routine, ensuring your room is cool and dark, and switching off your phone/TV/Ipad 90 minutes before you go down for the night if it’s possible. And if you have young kids – it really does get easier!
Once you have consistently nailed these, then perhaps look at introducing other recovery strategies, such as hydrotherapy, hot and cold therapies, massage, meditation and compression.
When it comes to your S&C programme, injury prevention is goal NUMBER ONE.
Whatever your sport, or level of competition - an injured athlete is not a competitive athlete.
DO NOT go on your bike as part of your S&C session - instead spend the time focussing on your weak points, and getting them in balance. If you have an injury or on-going issue, then look in to how, and indeed why you have got it. And focus on what can you do to reverse it.
Non-impact Injuries are normally caused by an imbalance of some sort, through high speed or forces, that the body just can’t tolerate. I like to train my athletes using all strength qualities, from high-speed movements, like sprints and plyometrics, all the way through to the slower maximum force, maximal strength exercise like a trap bar deadlift, whilst using a variation of unilateral, bilateral, linear and lateral movements.
This should cover all bases making you a stronger, and more robust athlete:
Stimulate – don’t annihilate
It doesn’t take much to increase your power or to get stronger. Think in terms of minimal dose for maximum effect; three to five sets at the correct % for your desired outcome, should do the trick.
Below is an example of what you could build a simple programme around.
Movement based warm up
A1 – Plyometric
A2 – Medicine ball
B1 – Lower push unilateral
B2 – Upper pull bilateral