How to Build Strength for Cycling

How to Build Strength for Cycling

Christine D’Ercole shares the keys to boosting your Bike performance.

By Eric ArnoldUpdated August 12, 2021


We all learn pretty quickly that getting a PR in a 30-minute HIIT ride feels very different from a PR in a 30-minute Power Zone class. Most people are born to be naturally good at sprints or endurance rides, not both. In other words: There’s no one-size-fits-all regimen for building your cycling strength.

What there are, however, are several keys that unlock certain strength-building doors depending on what you want to achieve. Spoiler alert: What you do off the Bike is just as important as what you do in it.

Which Type of Cyclist Are You?

Instructor Christine D’Ercole is a champion sprinter. Sometimes her races are mere seconds long, which means her fast-twitch muscle fibers deliver big bursts of power in a short amount of time. Endurance cyclists, however, have slow-twitch fibers, which allow them to maintain a slower pace for longer.

That’s why you should try lots of different cycling classes and figure out what comes naturally, Christine says. Is it high-intensity classes like Tabata or endurance-driving Power Zones? “Experiment and discover what you might be built for,” she says, “and dig into that.”

Know Your Goal

Do you want to PR in a Tabata class? Do you have a race you’re training for? Do you want to boost your FTP for Power Zones? A clear goal dictates your training program.

“Making your goal specific and attainable—and maybe slightly out of reach—is the best way to stay committed,” Christine says. Noting your progress along the way, she adds, will keep you motivated.

Take It to the Mat

What you achieve off the Bike helps you progress on it. Christine recommends working three rides, two strength sessions and a yoga class into your weekly routine. (And don’t forget to make time for a recovery day too!)

That off-Bike strength training is essential for a performance boost. “A balance of core, back, arms, lower- and upper-body strength will help improve your stamina,” Christine says, and you won’t sink your weight on your joints during rides. If you have a sprint goal, she suggests heavy weights and short reps; for endurance, lighter weights and higher reps.

Warm up and Cool Down

Warm-up classes help you last longer and push harder in your main class, and cool-down classes help calm your heart and bring your circulation back to normal. Both help you maximize your workout. Recovery rides are important too, for helping your body heal. If you don’t take the time to warm up, cool down and recover, you risk injury and even losing your motivation. Speaking of which…

Get Your Head Straight and Stay Positive

Your mental strength is an essential ingredient, which is why Christine recommends meditation classes, which help with attitude awareness.

“When I have … an attitude of curiosity instead of judgement and comparison, I always come out on top,” she says. “Winning is finishing something you didn't think you could finish, regardless of where you land on the Leaderboard.”

“The numbers are not there to have power over you,” Christine adds. “The numbers are there to empower you.”

Go for it! Build your strength in a Peloton Program that suits your goal.

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