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eeping Fit

Strength Conditioning for Cycling

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series


Although cycling involves mid-range movements of the leg muscles and static contractions of the upper body muscles, it is beneficial to perform full-range strength exercise. For performance purposes it may be acceptable to do part-range movements, but for safety purposes it is advisable to do full-range movements. Weakness in the ends of the movement range may reduce joint integrity and increase the injury risk.

Cyclists should perform rotary exercises, such as leg extensions, from the fully stretched position to the fully contracted position. However, pressing movements, such as leg presses, should end just short of the lock-out position. Locking out the knee joint against heavy resistance increases the potential for injury and is best avoided.


In my experience with cyclists and triathletes, stronger muscles lead to better cycling performance. Because every pedal revolution requires a certain percentage of maximum leg strength, more strength is of considerable advantage. After strength training, many of our cyclists are able to use higher gears at the same pedal frequency, thereby increasing their road speed.

When developing a sensible strength training program, I recommend that cyclists carefully consider the following exercise guidelines:

Exercise Selection:
One exercise for each major muscle group.
Exercise Sets:
One set of each exercise.
Exercise Resistance:
Approximately 75 percent of maximum resistance.
Exercise Repetitions:
Between 10-15 controlled repetitions.
Exercise Progression:
Increase the resistance by five percent when 15 repetitions can be completed.
Exercise Frequency
Two or three exercise sessions per week.
Exercise Speed:
Moderate to slow, typically two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering.
Exercise Range
Full-range movements, but avoiding lockout position on pressing exercises.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA., and author of several books including the new releases Building Strength and Stamina and Strength Training Past 50.

©2001 Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. all rights reserved

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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