I’ve never been clear about the role of the gym in improving cycling performance. It seems self-evident that cycling must use all the muscles that are necessary for cycling so weight training cannot be necessary to be a cyclist but that can’t be the whole story.
Looking at Chris Hoy, it’s possible to conclude that to be a top sprinter, you need really big thighs. Perhaps lots of cycling sprints would produce those but how long would that take? That suggests that weight training can have some real benefits in terms of isolating specific muscles that need developing and working on them faster than cycling would by itself.
For me, cycling is a hobby and I will never be a sprinter (being old and largely devoid of fast-twitch muscle fibres). If I’m anything, I’m a cyclist who does endurance and climbing – simply because those are the only things I seem to be OK at (and I do love cycling in the mountains).
So, to build extra muscle in the gym would only be useful for me if it pays its way when climbing. Vanity muscle that only adds weight will be no use to me for cycling – in the mountains, power to weight ratio is king.
The other key attributes for cycling are enjoyment, sociability, aerobic efficiency, bike handling and pedalling style – and weight training isn’t likely to help any of those – indeed, it can hurt them if weights sessions replace cycling time.
All that seems to suggest that doing weights in the gym would not be sensible for me if they replace cycling – but could be beneficial if they complement cycling and focus on the muscles that are most beneficial … which I assume are legs and core.
The gym sounds to be a more sensible during bad weather when it won’t replace ‘proper’ cycling. If it then tapers off and gives way to miles out on the road before taking on any testing rides, it looks like it might well work.
Of course, this is all entirely self-serving reasoning as a friend has signed up to the local gym and has suggested that I join him … I’m just looking for justification to do that. He cycles and runs and is hoping that some strength work will help him with injuries – I’m quite keen to see if weights will help with my cycling.
I’m conscious of the general ‘if you carry on doing the same thing, you get the same results’ theory, and guess that I don’t have a lot to lose.
So, situation normal – I don’t really know what I’m doing but I think I’ll give it a go anyway. I’m just hoping that the gym isn’t full of body builders who will make the efforts of this rather puny 62 year old look even worse than they certainly will be.