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Leg Strength for Cycling

An Australian research team has shown why training for strength is important for cyclists. Untrained men who were not cyclists used a hack-squat apparatus (a weight-lifting machine used to strengthen the legs and buttocks) to lift 85 percent of the heaviest weight that they could lift once, five times in a row. Then they rested and repeated the sets of five. They did this four times, in three sessions per week. They did no cycling during the strength-training period of the study. They were given cycling endurance tests before and after. The study concluded that the strength training made men far more efficient in cycling (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2005.)

Efficiency is the amount of energy a person uses to perform a certain amount of work at high intensity. However, strength training did not improve the men's aerobic capacity: the ability to use oxygen or circulate blood. So strength training did not improve heart or lung function, but it did give the participants extra power to push the pedals harder, which helped them ride faster.

Top-level competitive cyclists train for endurance by riding for three to eight hours a day. They usually cannot push heavy weights with their legs because their cycling schedule does not give them time to recover from strenuous weightlifting workouts. Since this study used untrained cyclists, it does not suggest that professional cyclists should change their training methods. Competitive cyclists gain tremendous leg muscle strength just by climbing steep hills very fast, which exerts as much force on their leg muscles as weightlifting and makes them very strong.

Checked 4/1/15

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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