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Weight training for cyclists who are cutting body fat.

Friday, December 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Yesterday I didn’t have a great deal of time, so I decided to get a fairly brief, but intense, weight training workout in. I used moderate weights, took 60 second rest between sets and 2 minutes rest between exercises. I performed 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps for each of the following exercises: incline bench press, clean and presses, Bulgarian split squats and body weight wide grip pull-ups. Great workout!

My dumbbell rack

My dumbbell rack

This actually segues nicely with today’s topic: weight training for cyclists. Every single cutting phase I’ve done in years past was done using various “body builder-style” weight training plans. I’d generally train with weights anywhere from 3-5 days per week, and always using training splits (for example, Monday: chest, delts and triceps, Wednesday: legs, Friday: back, biceps and abs).

These days I very rarely do isolation exercises, and I no longer split my muscle groups into distinct training sessions. My athletic goals no longer have anything to do with bodybuilding or hypertrophy, and I’ve found that 1 or 2 strength training workouts per week consisting almost entirely of compound exercises to be satisfactory.

Of course the majority of my physical activity these days consists of cycling and mountain biking. These activities are very intense from a cardiovascular standpoint, but they also tax many of the muscle groups as well. I’m not suggesting that riding a bike extremely hard and over a long distance is the same animal as a heavy squat session: they are both challenging activities, but in different ways.

Weight training with the goal of hypertrophy and while cutting body fat is a very familiar and comfortable subject for me. Weight training in support of cycling–especially while cutting body fat? Not so much. In fact, I’d consider myself a neophyte on that subject.

I’ve been doing some research, and I’ve found that strength training for cyclists is hotly debated topic: some are strongly for it, some are strongly against it, and some feel that it should only be done in the “off season”.

I am of the opinion that strength training while cutting body fat is critical (second only to proper diet), and so clearly I’ll be training with weights while I’m cutting. What is less clear to me, however, is how much weight training I should do, and how intense it should be.

My cycling training during this cut will be very, very tough. I’ll be doing difficult TrainerRoad workouts, long group rides, intense solo rides, endurance mountain bike rides and technical mountain bike rides. I plan to ride at least 5 times per week, perhaps even 6 times per week.

Again, I don’t care about size and hypertrophy at all. I have two goals with my weight training: 1) cycling performance 2) reduce catabolism while I’m in a caloric deficit

So my inclination is to do just one weight training workout (full body, compound exercises) per week while I’m cutting. I think that would be sufficient to support my two weight training goals, and would not interfere with my cycling training. I would likely schedule a lighter ride the day after the workout.

I’m very interested in hearing thoughts from my fellow cyclists, especially those who lift.

John Stone Fitness Comments

3 Responses to “Weight training for cyclists who are cutting body fat.”
  1. I’m interested in hearing responses as well. I have only lifted with the goal of building muscle in the cycling off season. During the season I would do higher reps with lighter weights on days off the bike. This year with the Tri training I really dont have time to lift, nor does my coach think it is necessary. He has suggested some core strengthening. Right now, I’m training about 10 hours a week, often with runs or trainer sessions in the morning and swimming in the afternoon, I expect to be training close to 18-20 hours a week in the two months prior to my half Ironman.

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  2. What you described in your first paragraph is how I worked out for 5-6 years. Knowing I was never going to be beastly in size, and that I could get myself very lean… this was the only way to fly (for me). It’s very similar to the workout plan a certain somebody once pedaled ’round these parts. Get in, get sweaty, get done, get results. I need to get back to it myself.

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