Cycling Fitness with Adam Copley: Strength & Conditioning
Hello and welcome to the ADAM COPLEY: PERSONAL TRAINING blog. Over the coming weeks I will be introducing you to the world of cycling specific fitness. Highlighting the importance of training on and off the bike. As well as covering mindset, nutrition and all things cycling.
As a keen cyclist and mountain biker. It is my passion to see cycling become as inclusive as possible. welcoming people into the world I love and also doing my bit to help these people be the best version of themselves.
Whether you ride for fun, fitness or to compete, I hope this blog will provide you with some interesting reading. Let’s get into it:
This week I am going to talk to you about training, and why off the bike training is equally as important as being on the bike. We will discuss the benefits, give you an insight into some mistakes people make and how to avoid this as well as revealing a few simple, but effective exercises you can do to get started.
So, let’s get into it. Starting with the benefits of off the bike training:
What are the benefits of training off the bike?
“Strength and conditioning (S&C)” is probably a term you have heard about. It is common practice in the sporting world for athletes to do some form of S&C work, but what is it? It is essentially developing your body, so it becomes better at what you want it to do. For us, this is cycling. Now strength and conditioning is not just something that can make you faster on the bike. It can also make you feel more comfortable, it can improve your posture, your breathing rate and yes, your performance on the bike. Meaning that your climbing will be easier, and your riding will be a much more pleasant experience.
Strength and conditioning isn’t about getting huge muscles, and looking like you belong on the cover of a magazine. It is about getting the best out of your body from a health, and performance perspective.
What mistakes do people make when trying S&C?
How many times have you heard the old story (you may even have done this yourself) of someone joining a gym, walking on the treadmill for a bit, going on a few weight machines. And repeating this process over, and over again until they realise it isn’t working, get bored and sack it off. I see it a lot in my line of work. Yes, the gym can be boring. But, it can also be a place of excitement and brilliant results. I want you to look at training with the latter, so here I will cover a couple of mistakes a lot of people make.
1: Not going into it with any research:
Just joining a gym and going at it willy nilly is a sure fire way to have a negative experience. It’s like when you get the bike out, with no idea where you are going, not really inspired so you either do too little, or just get bored and turn around.
We live in a world of information so research, look up exercises for cyclists and if necessary, hire a coach who can advise you and develop you at your own pace. Having a coach has many benefits but being given an education on what you are doing and the reasons why you are doing it is the one I am going to focus on here. So do your research, and don’t just “go to the gym”.
2: It does not relate to their goals:
This follows on from above. I talk a lot about your goals being so important to you (more on this in later weeks). But if you go to the gym and just go through the motions, you are not connecting the gym session to your goal. Whatever that is. When I walk into the gym, I go in there with the aim to make my body stronger, less susceptible to injury. More stable. These all tie in with my goals on the bike and that is key to staying motivated in the gym.
3: Looking in the wrong place:
If you want to improve your cycling performance, and you join a body building gym. You are not going to find inspiration. Likewise, the other way around. There is a reason I look like mountain biker, and train mountain bikers, not physique athletes.
I would 100% recommend looking around at gyms in your area, find one that is welcoming and preferably performance based. I would also recommend avoiding off the shelf plans, a plan needs to be tailored to your lifestyle and your free time. The time you are prepared to dedicate to exercise is massively important for a plan to be successful and trust me, it is worth spending the extra money on a proper plan or a gym that is a nicer environment.
So, there you go. A few mistakes people tend to make when trying out the gym, and adding S&C into their plans.
So, focusing back on the positives. How do you get it right? Below is where we cover exercises and how you can get the best out of your exercise. With a couple of easy, quick examples.
How to begin my S&C journey:
Whenever I take on board a cyclist who is new to S&C I aim to improve three things.
1: Their strength: This is a fundamental component of improving ANY athlete.
2: Their posture: Based on their job, and the time they spend on the bike, their posture may be hunched forwards.
3: Their lower back: Lower back pain is one of the most common causes of pain in the UK and is quite common with cyclists.
I can guarantee you that working on these three things will improve your cycling experience in a month. What’s more, they are simple and easy to work on, as I will show you now with three very easy exercises to help improve each of these elements.
Building strength in the body is a key component. It makes your climbing faster, and your upper body more capable of holding a stable and comfortable position. Two very simple exercises for this are the wall sit, and the press up. Basic as they come, and you need no equipment whatsoever.
For the wall sit all you must do is place yourself in a sat down position with your back against a wall. Looking forwards and hold this. Start at 30 seconds, with 60s rest and gradually up the time as you get stronger.
The same with press ups, you can start on your knees here if you need to. Adding these two simple exercises into your week 3x will improve your strength to start with.
Having a good posture is more than just being able to stand upright, having an open chest and being able to stand tall means you will be able to take in much more oxygen, a higher quality of breathing means you will be less tired, less quickly and ultimately be able to ride further. The Y raise is a great exercise for this (pictured). Simply complete five sets of these where you do 12 reps per set and rest for 45 seconds between sets. Keep the movement as slow as possible.
Lower back pain is horrible, whatever is causing it. It can be detrimental to your cycling performance and is detrimental to having a positive cycling experience.
When it comes to working the lower back, to add strength one of the best exercises you can do is the good morning (pictured). The good morning is an excellent stretch, and strengthening exercise for the lower back, glutes (bum) and the hamstrings (back of legs). I would recommend doing four sets of 10 slow reps with 45-60s rest between sets here. Remember, slower the better!
I hope you enjoyed this article, found it interesting and can see why training off the bike, for you’re on the bike efforts is so important. For more information on training on the bike, why not check out my Instagram page at @acopleypt.