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.
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