Strength Training 103: Impact on Cycling Economy
The quest to give a more complete view of strength training and endurance sports continues!
In my first two articles in this series, I discussed the impact of strength training on your ability to consume oxygen (no major impact) and the impact on running economy.
In the article on strength training and running economy, I explained how 8-12 weeks of 2-3 sessions/week is required to see any change. Heavy weight, low rep exercises seem to trump plyometrics and high rep exercises. On top of this, masters and female runners are more likely to be responders. I also discussed how simply running more, if you are a low volume runner, should be the first step in trying to get faster (of course there are other benefits to strength training if you are thinking beyond speed).
Now, since there are so many multisport athletes who read this column, I thought I would address how strength training impacts cycling economy specifically. Surprisingly, the relationship isn’t quite as clear!
Intuitively, you’d think it would almost be the opposite in the minds of most- that strength training would be more helpful to cycling than to running. It kind of makes sense to speculate that cycling requires more powerful, larger muscles to smash big gears, while running requires light legs and next-level cardio. Therefore, lifting weights should help cyclists more, right? Wrong!
When we look at studies like THIS ONE, we see that cycling economy isn’t something that’s nearly as difficult to develop as running economy. As studies like this one show, runners with no cycling training tend to have pretty good cycling economy, while cyclists have horrible running economy. Cycling economy isn’t hard to train, but running economy is!
That’s also why we see that V02max is a great predictor of longer cycling event performance, while V02max does not do a great job of predicting running performance.
So when we look at the studies on strength work and cycling economy, we get mixed answers.