Biking Fitness: Cross
Training and Strengthening
When setting up a sport-specific training program,
remember the principle of specificity: if you want to improve at a
particular activity, you need to train at that activity. So if you want to
become a better biker, you need to bike. Sounds like common sense, but
there are many people who do anything BUT the activity. Yet on the other
hand, you can improve your biking performance by cross-training in other
|Weight training helps strengthen your
body for the abuse that occurs in biking, whether falling off your
bike, taking big drops, or just hammering down on the trail. Weight
training thickens your tendons, and toughens the tendon's attachment
to bone. This is important for injury prevention.
||Specific exercises, such as knee curls
for the hamstrings and biceps femorus, knee extension for the
quadriceps, and push-offs for the gastrocnemius, have a direct
carryover to bike climbing and sprinting.
To get good results from weight training you need to do
it at least 3 times a week. Often, there isn't time to work out. So you
think, if you work twice as hard, you can make up for those missed
sessions. Unfortunately, your body only changes with consistent
stimulation. That means, a great day at the gym will be beneficial only if
it's followed by two months of the same. Then you'll see a difference.
After working as a strength coach and personal trainer for years, I can
tell you this is the biggest hurdle: being patient while waiting for gains
and sticking to a program. If you'll do that, you'll have success.
Participating in other non-bike activities is great,
too. Other sports can keep your mind fresh, so you're less likely to get
biking burnout. And by participating in another sport such as basketball,
tennis, or gymnastics, you "round out" your body's ability. Let
me explain: When biking on the flat, all of your body's effort is oriented
in a front-to-back direction. Your side-to-side muscles aren't getting
trained. When you hit that root and are thrown sideways to the ground,
your crosstraining in gymnastics will pay off as you roll to a stop amidst
the dead leaves and horse biscuits.
||Crosstraining also helps you focus.
Whether playing basketball with the boys or a competitive match of
tennis with the neighbor, you gain coordination and flexibility.
Your body learns to respond to the stresses of fatigue, heat, and
taunting (well, in our games, at least). Games that require quick
reaction teach your brain and body to react to the new situations
that pop up on the trail.
Putting it Together
Let's talk about programs. One of the most important
things is balance. Maybe you know a guy at the gym who has a a huge chest
and arms, and is always working on them, but his legs would look right at
home on a twelve-year old girl? He doesn't understand that all the muscles
in our body have opposites -- muscles that do the opposite thing. If you
don't train these opposing muscles equally hard, you'll not only look
funny, but you won't function correctly and will be risking injury and
health problems. So when you work out, include exercises that strengthen
the opposite group. Examples: bench press vs. seated row; pull-ups vs.
military press; arm curl vs. triceps press-down. Maintain balance.
Without getting too long-winded: It's important to have
variety as well as intensity. Variety is the spice of life. It's important
to mix up your routine. But don't think you need to do a new program every
week. Typically it's good to maintain a program for 3 to 8 weeks, while
you vary the weight, number of repetitions, and the order of the
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