Winter Gym Sessions: Yes or No?
By: Michele Ferrari
Published: 12 Dec 2008
As mentioned in two of our previous articles (November 14th 2003 and December 31st 2004), a cyclist tends to lose strength when exclusively pedaling on the bike.
The pedaling gesture is in fact essentially a CONCENTRIC effort, with muscle fibers working in shortening, whereas ECCENTRIC muscle efforts are the most efficient ones in order to develop strength, with fibers working in lengthening.
Exercises such as the Leg Press and the Half-Squat, if performed properly, are rather similar to the movements involved in pedaling and comprise an eccentric phase: the “return” phase for both these exercises is in fact working in lengthening.
Obviously it is opportune to simulate the articular movements typical of the pedaling gesture as accurately as possible: for example, trying to avoid the complete extension of the knees and the flexion of the thighs on the calves, and limit the range of the movement to approximately 30-40 cm, according to the length of the lower limbs.
The distance of the feet should also be similar to the one on the bike: 15-20 cm for the leg press, 20-25 cm for the squat exercise.
The loads, the number of repetitions and series and the frequency/speed of execution all vary in accordance with the characteristics and exigencies of the athlete, and it is opportune for the latter to be advised by an expert and careful trainer.
Generally a sprinter, suiveur or finisseur would prefer working with heavier loads, quick movements, with the goal of recruiting white/fast fibers mostly.
A climber may instead choose for lighter loads with slower movements, focusing on working prevalently with red/slow fibers.
Moreover, nothing prevents a sprinter wishing to improve his climbing skills from using a schedule suited for a climber, and viceversa.
- Circuit Training
Performing in rapid succession a series of Leg Press, a series of Squats, 3-5’ of pedaling on stationary bike at 100-110RPM is a typical example of working “circuit training”.
Doing a total of 4 up to 8 “laps” without recovery, the cardio-circulatory effort keeps high, with heart rate values up to Medio Intensity workouts.
Adding 3 to 5 minutes of spinning to the circuit helps with “transferring” the strength developed with the exercises to the pedaling gesture.
It is also possible to include other exercises such as Sit-Ups and Back Extensions, always trying to limit the recovery time between each exercise.
Gym sessions should be done with a frequency of 2-3 times per week for a total of 6-10 weeks, usually starting November until January, but can also be included in the schedules along the racing season if necessary.
Not all cyclists are used to working out in the gym to maintain or improve their strength: those living in areas with mild winters may prefer to pedal with LOW CADENCES in order to increase the force peak for each pedal stroke.
As previously illustrated in the 53x12.com article dated May 11th 2003, pedaling at 300w with 90 RPM the force peak for every stroke is equal to 30-35kg, while with 60 RPM it gets up to 55-60kg.
Utilizing lower pedaling cadences we’ll get even higher and more exasperated force peaks.
I suggest alternating some minutes at low RPM with others at high RPM, either to “transform” the strength into agility, or to limit articular and muscular-tendinous overload.
Such specific workouts with low cadences can be performed regularly during the season and are often utilized to “recall” the gym work done in the winter.
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