Following a strength training routine, particularly focusing on compound movements comes with a vast number of benefits and is a great ‘get fit quick’ method. The reason it is an important aspect of any programme goes beyond being able to put more power through your pedals and improvements to your cardiovascular system. It also decreases stress, increase your rate of recovery, boosts your immune system, improves inter-muscular coordination, strengthens your tendons and burns fat. This means that you will not only be faster on the bike, but you can stay on the bike for longer with less discomfort, be more efficient and have less down time due to injury and illness.
Muscular strength is defined as the muscles ability to exert force against resistance. Strength training, aims to increase the maximum force achieved by the muscle. As you increase your strength, you increase the work your muscles can put out per unit time i.e. you become more powerful.
When lifting, your heart rate will increase due to the increased demand for more oxygen. The intensity of strength training, however gives an additional benefit to your CV system. The sudden increase in demand put on your heart by suddenly loading muscles over your whole body, like when performing a compound movement, boosts this effect. This improves your cardiovascular system faster as well as the bodies response to sudden changes.
Compound movements are particularly important as they improve your inter-muscular coordination, i.e. they improve the coordination between groups of muscles. Through compound movements you can ‘teach the muscle’ to coordinate contractions between muscle groups. This can improve your balance and movement efficiency in everyday life as well as on the bike.
For the same amount of work, stronger muscles have been shown to fatigue slower. This is due to the body activating fewer muscle fibres to produce the same amount of force. It has also been shown that this effect comes with no physiological effects on endurance metrics like VO2 Max and lactic threshold.
More energy with less discomfort
Augmenting an endurance program with strength training allows the body to produce more phosphocreatine and glycogen – important substrates for energy production. As well as reducing concentrations of lactic acid, preventing ‘the burn’. While you shouldn’t be looking to rip up the next hill during a 400km ride, you will certainly want every benefit you can when the going gets harder!
The stress that weightlifting puts on your body causes a large endorphin response, causing you to feel good about what you’re doing – like the runners high. This response is a lot more important than merely feeling good though. The longer-term effects of endorphins typically lead to a decrease in stress which will result in your body recovering faster, improving your sleep and even boosting your immune system.
A strength training programme may be more efficient cutting fat than cardio due to your bodies response to prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which is a common effect of cardio training.
All in all, augmenting your endurance training programme with some strength training can lead to a huge number of benefits. You’ll be faster on the next segment, have less down time off the bike, be less prone to injuries and feel better about doing it.
The idea of becoming stronger for longer is known as “strength endurance” click here to read more.
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For an example strength training for ultra-endurance athletes see here.