Weight Training For Cyclists: Go Slow to Ride Fast


Toolbox: Halloween is just around the corner, which means the vast majority of cyclists are now turning to the weight training in an attempt to get faster. Today, we look at the importance of slowing down the movements, to help you get far better strength, stability, balance, and power for cycling


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How much you lift is irrelevant

Unlike most sports, which are usually accompanied by “Strength Standards”, or target weight to bodyweight ratios for the major movements that one “should be able to do” as a demonstration of the necessary minimum strength for performance, cycling doesn’t have a linear correlation to weights moved.

This may come as a shock to many, but it’s the truth.

In part, this has to do with our sport’s positions as well as its unique “pulsing” strength requirement, accompanied by our feet being attached to the pedals. These position-specific demands make it very difficult to determine what relationships there are between weight used on the bar, and the results on the bike.

HOW you move, however, is a huge determinant of on-bike performance.

Slowing Down to see power and speed increases

Movement quality can be a tough thing to quantify, especially to those new to strength training, which is one of the many reasons why “strength standards” tend to be the go-to. Yet, when one takes the time to learn how to create stiffness in the right places and in the right amounts, while getting movement from only the necessary areas, the performance improvements often come surprisingly quick.

But to get there, we must slow down our movements, make better mind-muscle connections, as well as hone our unconscious ability to know where our body is in space.

Think about a new mountain biker trying to learn how to use the big chainring to help him or her roll over a tree trunk on the trail. In order to do this successfully, one has to create just the right amount of arm and trunk stiffness to keep the bike upright and moving forward, while also staying relaxed at the hips, yet still push down on the pedals with enough force to keep rolling.

xpedo cxr pedalbanner with Brian McCullough

Easier said than done.

How does one learn how to do it?

We slow it down, and break down each of the skills into a segment (and subsequent fall, in the author’s case, lol!), allowing us to learn the skill.

The same goes for strength training.

Putting 3-1-3-1 tempo into use

While we want to slow down to gain better mind-muscle connection, improved movement quality, and to give us the push towards better performance on the bike, it needs to be done in the right way, at the right time. And for this time of year, early base strength training, using the 3-1-3-1 tempo is the way we want to go.

There are a number of ways that we can slow down in our strength movements to get better positioning and performance, and a number of tempos which can be used for a variety of specific training adaptations. I talk about these in more detail in chapter 11 of my new book “Strength Training for Cycling Performance”, which I’ve pulled an excerpt from here:

3-1-3-1 tempo: Learning movement control, core control, and preparing the body for heavier, more explosive training

The 3-1-3-1 training tempo is a fantastic way for you to begin your strength training program for a number of reasons. It will:

  • Expose breakdowns and weak points in the FUNdamental 5 movements
  • Help you learn how to produce core control while moving
  • Build tissue strength and resiliency with more time under tension
  • Use more of your muscles’ motor units as you fatigue
  • Use lighter weights to see great results

The 3-1-3-1 tempo is a great place to start your strength training cycles in the fall or winter, as it will help get you on track quickly, giving you lots of great feedback while you build up the tissues’ and nervous system’s abilities to be ready to handle your upcoming training. The 3-1-3-1 tempo has also proved itself to be an all-star for mid-season strength for those who travel a lot, or who have high demands on their time.”

An example of using this tempo is in the video below


Don’t fall for the traditional trap of thinking that you need to jump into heavy weights to see cycling results and improvements. Instead, take the time to learn how to move better, and to have more efficient and effective movements…as covered on my Podcast, THIS is the golden ticket to performance improvement, and longevity in the game of cycling and life.

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