The question: If I'm a total cycling nut, do I need to bother with leg exercises? I'd rather not do lunges and squats because my legs are already exhausted from riding three to four times a week. I can skip them, right?
The answer: As a triathlete, my legs are also often exhausted. I am not a huge fan of squats. Like you, I try to convince myself that because I run and bike I don't need to train my legs.
I will give you the same lecture that I give myself, which is that training your legs can lead to greater power, strength and endurance on the bike and can also help counteract cycling-related overuse injuries – such as patellofemoral syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome and patellar tendonitis – and muscle imbalances.
The next time you have the urge to skip your leg training, remind yourself you will be a better, stronger and less injury-prone cyclist if you strength-train.
I find it is useful to change the intensity, frequency and duration of my strength workouts throughout the year depending on the phase of training I am in. This is called periodization.
For you, I would suggest limiting your leg training to once a week during periods of high-frequency cycling. Focus on maintaining the weights you are lifting instead of increasing them. Aim for two to three sets of 12 reps of a minimum of three different leg exercises. Excellent options would be squats, lunges and step-ups.
During periods when you are not cycling as frequently, train your legs twice a week. Lift heavier weights and have a goal of getting stronger. Do a minimum of five different leg exercises. Aim for three to five sets of six to 10 reps. Try deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, single leg bridges and side leg lifts.
It's only once or twice a week. Once you get into the habit you will see strength-training is easy to fit in.
Trainer's tip: I lecture myself on the benefits of strength-training on a weekly, if not daily basis. It is hard to make myself weight-train because what I love to do is run and bike. Some weeks I listen to myself more than others. I am sure the same will be true for you. Finding the perfect balance of weights and cardio is a process. Don't beat yourself up if you miss a weight workout; just be proud that you are so active in the first place. Make your weight workout a priority the following week.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her web site is www.kathleentrotter.com.
Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.