Answers, finally …

Have you ever submitted a question to an online advice forum? I’ve put questions into the cyclingnews fitness forum before, but I’ve never seemed to get an answer.

Just the other day, I got to thinking about taking mountain biking seriously next year. It’s really just a fantasy, but I’d love to get into mountain bike racing–maybe do the Knobby Tire Series or something. Of course, that would change the game of training a little, I figured. After all, mountain bike racing involves hitting higher peaks and lower valleys in terms of intensity. Since my wife bought me a weights set at a yard sale the other day, I got to thinking maybe weights would be a good solution. But, as you probably know, weights are pretty controversial in the world of cycling.

So I figured I’d take my question to an expert, this time on MTB Race News. And this time, pro mountain biker/cyclocrosser Kathy Sherwin actually answered my question.

Here’s the text if you aren’t in the mood to go check it out yourself:

Hey Kathy,
I know you’re still in your ‘cross season, but I have an off-season question for you: Do you lift weights during the off-season? If so, what do you do? Do you fit it in before your base phase or during?
Iona, Idaho

Hi Mike,
I used to lift weights in the 2006 off season through the 2007 season. Back then I started first getting my body used to lifting weights by doing sets with little to no weight and then slowly adding weight week after week. I did a combo of squats, lunges, hamstring curls, leg press machine, dead lift, bench press, lat pulls, push ups, sit-ups and back extensions. I did that for a few months and it was pretty low key while I got my body used to lifting. Once my body adapted, I moved onto the transition phase of weight training where I did high reps and started adding more weight to the lifts on the second and third sets.

After about a month of the transition phase I began the strength phase which lasted about 2 months. During that phase I did the first set with very little weight as a warm up set and the second and third set were as much weight as I could lift.

The power phase of lifting was next which included high reps, low to moderate weight and a high-velocity muscle contraction. I only did this phase on the lower body.

Once the start of the mtb season rolled around I began my maintenance phase. Throughout this phase I did sit-ups, push ups and back extensions every day too. And then once I got into the gut of the mtb season I ONLY did back extensions, sit-ups and push ups.

BUT after all this hard work, losing a good amount of weight and getting better defined muscles I wasnʼt convinced that it did much of anything for me on the bike unfortunately. I didnʼt necessarily feel stronger on the bike although I new I was stronger overall. That said, we modified my weight training program this year to only include only minimal lifting and to instead spend more time doing weight lifting workouts on the bike. And that has worked for me.
So now I only do sit-ups, push ups, and back extension throughout most of the year in addition to going to pilates or yoga when possible. And once the mtb season begins I cut down to only doing yoga and pilates. This change in my weight lifting routine has really been working for me but you may find that you feel stronger and faster WITH weight lifting. Every ones body is different.

If you decide to lift, it is important to really be careful as you will need a spotter on most lifts. In addition, you really need to be aware of any pain you are experiencing in your joints and making sure you have good form!!

Good luck to you!

Interesting, eh? I think I can see her point. From my experience, I’d say weights, specifically leg press, may be helpful for producing an out-of-the-saddle sprint. But, of course, that sprint doesn’t last long, so it’s not all that helpful for your overall. From a fitness standpoint, weights do help your bones to stay dense, which is something cycling can’t do for you. And, as she pointed out, it helps keep your bodyfat low.

After reading her response, though, I’m thinking I need to incorporate some back extensions into my regular workout routine. Someone just invited me to take part in a ‘cross race at the end of the month, so I’m feeling the need to get back in some kind of shape.


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