The Short Answer is:
Cycling is not resistance training, but it can be a form of strength training that builds overall muscle endurance, strengthens connective tissue, and improves core strength. Strength training has many benefits for cyclists, including improving core strength, which is a key ingredient in bike handling skills and can make or break your efficiency on rugged terrain.
Cycling is a popular form of exercise that offers numerous health benefits, including increased cardiovascular fitness, improved joint mobility, and decreased body fat levels. However, there has been a long-standing debate among cyclists about the effectiveness and necessity of strength training for endurance athletes.
While cycling primarily targets the lower body muscles, it is important to have a strong core and upper body to maintain correct posture on the bike and to prevent soreness and injury caused by being unprepared for activities of daily living.
In this article, we will explore the topic, “Is Cycling Resistance Training” and whether it is worth incorporating into your cycling routine.
Table of Contents
The Nature of Cycling as a Cardiovascular Exercise
Cycling is a popular form of exercise that offers numerous health benefits, particularly in terms of cardiovascular fitness. While it is primarily an aerobic activity, it also provides some endurance and strength training benefits.
Here’s a closer look at the nature of cycling as a cardiovascular exercise and its impact on aerobic and endurance benefits, caloric expenditure, and cardiovascular health.
Aerobic and Endurance Benefits
Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that it provides a workout for the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. It increases cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility, and improves joint mobility.
The activity can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to older adults, and can be done at various intensity levels. While it may not be considered resistance training, it does offer some endurance and strength training benefits, particularly for the leg, core, and glute muscles.
Cycling is an effective way to burn calories and can contribute to weight loss or maintenance. The number of calories burned during a cycling workout depends on various factors, including the individual’s weight, intensity of the activity, and duration of the workout.
On average, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes of moderate cycling and about 391 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous cycling.
Regular cycling can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
A large prospective study followed more than 53,700 Danish older men and women ages 50 to 65 years for 20 years and controlled for underlying health conditions to observe the effect of cycling on heart health.
The results showed that participants who changed from no cycling to cycling had a 26% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who never cycled. Cycling also helps strengthen bones, decrease body fat levels, and improve posture and coordination.
Resistance Training Fundamentals
Resistance training, also known as strength training or weight training, is a form of exercise that involves using resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. The following are some of the fundamentals of resistance training:
Building Muscle Strength
Resistance training increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger.
Improved muscle strength and tone can help protect your joints from injury, maintain flexibility and balance, and help you remain independent as you age.
Resistance training is an anaerobic exercise, meaning it involves short bursts of intense activity that do not rely on oxygen for energy.
This type of exercise can help increase muscle mass, power, and speed, as well as local muscular endurance, motor performance, balance, and coordination.
Types of Resistance Exercises
Resistance training consists of various components, and there are different types of resistance exercises that can be performed to target specific muscle groups. Some common types of resistance exercises include:
- Free weights: Using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells to perform exercises such as squats, lunges, and bicep curls.
- Weight machines: Using machines that provide a guided range of motion and allow for easy weight adjustments to target specific muscle groups.
- Resistance bands: Using elastic bands of varying resistance levels to perform exercises that mimic the movements of free weights.
- Bodyweight exercises: Using your body weight as resistance, such as push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, to build strength.
Incorporating a variety of resistance exercises into your training routine can help you target different muscle groups and avoid a training plateau.
While cycling can provide some benefits for muscle strength, it is recommended to include traditional resistance training exercises for optimal results.
Combining Cycling and Resistance Training
Combining cycling and resistance training can be beneficial for cyclists as it can improve their overall performance, reduce injury risk, and help maintain physical function throughout the aging process. Here are some ways to combine cycling and resistance training:
Off-Bike Strength Workouts
Performing strength training exercises off the bike can help cyclists build muscle and improve their overall strength. Some recommended exercises include rotational sumo squats, multiplanar lunges, planks, deadlifts, push-ups, and pull-ups.
Hill Climbing and Terrain Variation
Hill climbing and terrain variation can be a form of resistance training for cyclists. These types of workouts can help cyclists build strength and endurance in their leg, core, and glute muscles.
Resistance Biking Equipment
Resistance biking equipment, such as a stationary bike with adjustable resistance, can be used to combine cycling and resistance training. Cyclists can adjust the resistance to simulate hill climbs and sprints, which can help build strength and endurance.
When combining cycling and resistance training, it is important to prioritize cycling training by doing it before strength training. If combining both strength and endurance training on the same day, it is recommended to separate them by at least six hours.
Additionally, it is important to keep at least one rest day each week and to find out what works best for you when combining cycling and weight training. It is also important to remember that any strength training is better than none.
Advantages of Cycling as a Resistance Exercise
Cycling is not considered a traditional form of resistance training, as it primarily involves concentric muscle work without a clear stretch-shortening cycle. However, it does offer several advantages as a resistance exercise:
Low-Impact and Joint-Friendly
Cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity, making it easy on the joints and suitable for individuals with joint pain or those recovering from injury or illness. It can help increase muscle strength and flexibility, improve joint mobility, and strengthen bones.
Continuous vs. Intermittent Resistance
While cycling may not provide the same level of resistance as traditional strength training exercises, it does offer continuous resistance throughout the duration of the workout. This can be beneficial for building muscle endurance and improving cycling performance.
Accessibility and Versatility
Cycling is a time-efficient mode of transport that can replace sedentary (sitting) time spent driving or using public transportation with healthy exercise. It can be done at various intensities, making it suitable for individuals of different fitness levels and goals.
Additionally, cycling can be a fun and enjoyable way to stay active, which may increase adherence to regular exercise.
The Limits of Cycling as a Sole Resistance Workout
Cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise that can improve endurance, burn calories, and strengthen the lower body muscles, but it has its limits as a sole resistance workout. Here are some reasons why:
Cycling primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which can lead to muscle imbalances if these muscles are overdeveloped compared to the opposing muscles. This imbalance can result in poor posture, increased risk of injury, and decreased overall strength.
Targeted Muscle Development
While cycling can help develop lower body muscles, it may not be sufficient for overall strength gains. Strength training exercises that target specific muscle groups, such as the upper body and core, are necessary to achieve a balanced and strong physique.
Comprehensive Strength Gains
To be a faster and stronger cyclist, it is essential to have a strong overall body. Strength limitations are often a performance limiter, and incorporating strength training into your routine can help address these limitations.
Weight training can improve cycling performance, reduce injury risk, and help maintain physical function throughout the aging process.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cycling as Resistance Training
How to combine cycling and weight training?
Combining cycling and weight training can be beneficial for improving overall fitness and cycling performance. It is recommended to start slow with little or no weight and focus on proper form if you are new to strength training.
The offseason presents the best time to begin strength training for cyclists, and at least two sessions per week of good strength workouts will suffice. Here are some tips for combining cycling and weight training:
- Pair strength workouts on your easy-to-moderate cycling workouts to avoid burnouts.
- Focus on your important zones as a cyclist when doing strength training.
- Perform two to four lower-body weight training exercises, combined with core exercises targeting the trunk and hip musculature, to elicit a cycling performance response over eight to 20 weeks.
- Balance weight and cycling training as much a scheduling issue as a recovery one.
- Plan your strength training on the day you’re going to have enough energy to sustain during workouts.
It is important to remember that any strength training is better than none, and balancing weight and cycling training is as much a scheduling issue as a recovery one. It is also important to pay attention to how your body responds to the combined training and adjust accordingly.
How does cycling change your body?
Cycling brings about various changes in the body, both internal and external. It is primarily an aerobic activity that improves cardiovascular fitness, increases muscle strength and flexibility, and enhances joint mobility.
Regular cycling also leads to decreased stress levels, improved posture and coordination, strengthened bones, and reduced body fat levels. It can help with weight control by raising the metabolic rate, building muscle, and burning body fat.
Additionally, cycling can prevent or manage diseases, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve both physical and mental health. Some of the external effects of cycling include weight loss and the strengthening and/or increase of leg and gluteal muscles.
What are effects of cycling on female body?
Cycling has numerous positive effects on the female body. It is an aerobic activity that improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, and increases flexibility.
Regular cycling can help with weight management by burning calories and reducing body fat levels. It also has a positive impact on mental health, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Additionally, cycling can lower the risk of serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. It is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints and can be integrated easily into daily life.
Conclusion on Is Cycling Resistance Training
In conclusion, strength training can be beneficial for cyclists of all genders and ages. Adding strength training to a normal cycling training routine can improve cycling performance by increasing power output and allowing athletes to perform at a higher workload throughout their race.
Strength training can also improve overall cycling performance, including sprint and endurance performance. Additionally, strength training can help cyclists develop a more well-rounded musculoskeletal system, which can reduce the chances of experiencing soreness and injury caused by being unprepared for activities of daily living.
Finally, strength training can increase bone density, which is crucial for lifelong cyclists. Therefore, cyclists should consider incorporating strength training into their training routine to improve their overall fitness level and cycling performance.