Strengthening & Conditioning – The Why ?
S&C is really all about improving & indeed progressing your functional strength – and functional strength is basically our bodies & minds ability to function both on a day to day level and in our chosen sport.
It is therefore training our bodies with exercises that are useful, not only will doing squats make your glutes, hamstrings & quads more powerful for your chosen sport, but on a day to day basis we need to squat to empty the dishwasher, lift heavy everyday items all sorts of activities which we take for granted – and if we are not squatting to do these every days tasks we are bending and putting undue strain on the back.
Therefore “functional” strength & conditioning is really for everyone, in modern life we may spend a lot of time sitting which is an unnatural position for the human body and can cause imbalances in our muscles and indeed tension, you can help the body recover by regular S&C training with focus on good technique & posture.
You’re not going to build glam muscles with functional strength training. Instead, you’re building strength to excel in your sport and in everyday life & of course you will look fit too!
Let’s take Cycling - Major Muscles Used in Cycling
The major muscles used in cycling are the glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors & quadriceps – but ignore the upper body & core at your peril - you need a strong core & upper body to keep you balanced & supported.
Your S&C program should cover all these leg & hip muscles in addition to core & upper body.
The programs I design are based on functional training which incorporate full body as opposed to isolation exercise, because let’s face it when cycling – your body needs to work as a fully functioning unit, the major muscle groups might be taking a high percentage of the load but the smaller supporting muscles are just as important.
Therefore an all over body training approach is in my opinion best, this of course is very dependent on good technique & posture. Our muscles are comparable to a memory foam mattress, you can train muscle memory to fire/support/assist/balance through a range of movement – this retraining process starts when performing your S&C program with good technique and will then follow into your sport improving performance, reducing recovery time & helping to reduce injury.
The beauty of an all over body approach is also time efficiency - 40 minutes once or twice per week working ideally in a high intensity mode is all you need.
I would also recommend investing time in a stretch/mobility & flexibility session twice a week, again 20 minutes per session is sufficient with a good program.
The more flexibly and greater range of motion will feed into your technique in S&C and into your cycling.
Every program (both S&C and Stretch) should work:
Glutes–Hamstrings– Calves- Hip Flexors– Core-Upper Body as Stars with exercises designed to ensure the surrounding muscles are co stars
The winter is the best time to develop and strengthen those cyclist muscles, so you can come back to the season stronger than last year.
The only bad news here is that you should change your S&C program every six weeks. the body is very clever & it adapts fairly quickly to new routines - its important to continue building strength by changing, challenging and increasing the load - if you continue to do the same things you will continue to get the same results, you need to challenge yourself outside your comfort zone in order to grow !
Happy Cycling !