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Strength & Conditioning (S&C) is an important training tool that helps develop the bio-motor skills that underpin cycling performance – and in recent years, S&C has slowly but surely started to get more popular with cyclists of all ages and abilities looking to include it alongside their endurance training. Which as an S&C coach who also rides is awesome to see.


However despite the increased research focus and popularity in this area of training, a lot of misbeliefs or fears still surround the thought process of S&C for cyclists with the role and application of S&C within cycling being one of many contributing factors to the various conflicts that can exist between coaches, athletes and within the sport in general.


Cyclists aren’t famous for their bulging muscles as athletes, however being strong and robust is super important. S&C will help give you the capacity to express your athleticism by helping raise the capacity of the muscular system so that it can produce and resist higher levels of force whilst you’re on the bike. S&C can also help in being a preventative step in the soft tissue and load related injuries that are common due to the fixed positions and repetitive nature of the sport. 

Brodie Chapman
Matt Trautman
Ashleigh Pasio

This robustness that being stronger provides will help increase the odds of being able to handle higher training loads with less fatigue, therefore maintaining better health throughout a long and strenuous year. Something of which, is easily overlooked.


Being stronger and more powerful will enable you to produce more force through the pedals, therefore being able to reach peak torque earlier in a pedal revolution, and capable of going faster for less effort. A riders Peak Power (Wingate and 6s Sprint), Time Trial Performance and Power at Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA) (4mmol.L) are three endurance outcomes that are deemed as key predictors of cycling performance have repeatedly shown to improve across multiple studies.

However, be careful of adopting the traditional approach of only conducting S&C in the winter as it’s important to understand that if you stop strength training for an extended period of time then these benefits will soon be lost. The observed time frame of detraining and starting to lose the athletic qualities of strength and power can happen in as little as 4-6 weeks which will ultimately negatively affect your endurance performance and the characteristics required to be explosive on the bike. So keeping it a regular part of your training is key.


The purpose behind S&C in any sport is to help develop the athletic qualities that participating in the sport doesn’t give you but are necessary to help support the demands of the sport.

It is important to not get wrapped up in too much ‘sport specificity’ away from the bike and trying to mimic the sport of cycling either via endurance or the positions we hold whilst riding. Whilst you may think it’s useful, you’re actually limiting your own or your riders potential of developing the athletic qualities that help support high performance on the bike.

So try not to get sucked in by a common belief that as cyclists are endurance athletes, if they are going to undertake any form of S&C, then it must be done with high reps to help replicate the endurance demands of riding a bike.


Instead it is important to focus on developing strength and power as well as restoring adequate mobility from being in such restricted/repetitive positions. Building and developing strength is general in nature and the exercises, ranges of motion used and the body positions you’re in shouldn’t look like you’re riding a bike.


The average rider, from amateur through to professional, has years of cycling in their legs. Which means the sport itself is giving you all the muscular strength endurance you need as no matter what gear you are in, you are always pushing against some form of resistance. In fact if you pedal at 90rpm for 60mins, that’s 5400 repetitions, something that you’ll never replicate, or should even think about trying to replicate inside of the gym.

With low body mass being deemed the most optimal for performance and cyclists often being weight conscious, it’s understandable why many don’t like or want to participate in any strength training or haven’t seen any real benefit. Especially when high reps creates too much fatigue that is harder to recover from and are also deep into the muscle building range attempting to promote unwanted muscle and with it, extra body mass. Exactly what most cyclists do not want.


If you don’t get the balance right, you’re going to be in a constant tug of war battle between fatigue and performance and it is the management of fatigue that is of a high priority when it comes to programming S&C in cycling as we want to help support performance and not hinder it. Careful exercise selection based on a riders training age, set/rep schemes and utilising different ranges of motions at different times of the year is important to ensure you can keep strength training a regular part of your training routine no matter the time of year.


Too much volume in the gym is the killer when it comes to fatiguing you as a rider – so lower rep ranges to help increase your overall muscular strength and power and maintain a high neuromuscular drive is key to your performance on the bike.


However, that being said if you are new to strength training then starting and staying within the 8-10 rep range would be a better idea. This will enable you to learn the skill of exercising whilst helping build the necessary strength and capacity of your muscles and connective tissues to cope with heavier loads further down the line.


Then as your training age develops and the more skilled and experienced you become, staying within the 3-6 rep range will help you build the necessary strength and power to help support your cycling performance in a safer way without having to truly max out with single rep lifts. Of which are completely unnecessary to do.


Ideally, full body routines should be adhered to and depending on where you are at within your annual training cycle, this will determine how frequently and consistently you can get sessions in. A mantra I have is; twice a week when possible and once a week as regularly as possible. There will always be times when it isn’t possible but if you build up enough previous consistency, you have around a 4-6 week grace period before you lose your benefits. But I personally feel these should be seen as guidelines to provide comfort in not getting to do it all of the time and not targets to try and hit. Essentially, use it or lose it.

Now there are no ‘must do’ exercises as its not the exercise that matters, it is how you move within a given exercise that matters most, known as the ‘intent’. I.e., the concentric pushing part should be as fast and forceful as possible. That being said, there will be exercises that are more suitable to you depending on your training age, current needs, or the time of year in relation to your goals but I’d recommend getting some support of a professional to help you identify the right plan for you.

Your exercise choice will matter once you know the movement patterns you need to train and which category an exercise falls into. The movement patterns being as follows; squat pattern, hinge pattern, single leg, upper body push & pull, core/carry. If you adhere to the principles of selecting one exercise that fits into each of those patterns and doing 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps then you won’t go far wrong with your programming to get stronger and improve performance.

To conclude, cycling is an amazing sport steeped in history and culture, something of which as an avid rider and fan of the sport, I fully agree should never be forgotten. However with the knowledge that we have around S&C and cycling performance, is it now time to rethink how we approach this training methodology? How do we start to move away from the past and stop letting it continue to govern how we develop and look after the performance of a rider? Will the sport ever fully put to bed its concerns and misbeliefs surrounding S&C and evolve like the other sports who initially showed resistance have? With companies like Science 2 Sport being at the forefront of rider development, I really do think so and that S&C will end up being a fully integrated part of training. But it’s still going to take some time.

about the author

Chris Peden MSc

Chris is a former Physical Training Instructor in the Royal Navy and holds a Masters Degree in Strength Conditioning and Rehabilitation from the University of Portsmouth.


He works with professional cyclists in both the Men’s and Women’s World Tour as well as keen amateurs looking to challenge themselves in local races or sportives.


You can see more of his work or contact him to find out more about working with him on:@combinedathleticperformance


(Aagaard et al., 2011; Rønnestad et al., 2015, 2016, 2017; Gil-Cabrera et al., 2021; Valenzuela et al., 2021; Rønnestad, 2022)


Matt Daly
Jan 27, 2024 at 10:01 am

Hi Kris, thank you so much for this article as it helps to frame my own understanding of the role of strength and conditioning into my cycling and triathlon. I have a question regarding power and of the movements you described separating a focus on strength and power and how this is best done. For example in my head, I’m thinking that the squat would focus on strength, whereas when I performed the hinge I can use that to generate for speed similarly, with some of the pool motions for Swimming, where I need to pull with power I can introduce speed to my pole manoeuvres would be grateful for your thoughts on this?

Chris Peden
Jan 27, 2024 at 8:06 pm

Hi Matt, it is quite an open question and without knowing any finer details about you individually and the training you do, it will be hard for me to give specifics so I’ll try my best to answer.

So in its simplest form, Strength development is often seen as heavy weights moved (concentrically) as fast as possible but you move at a slower speed and Power development can be seen as light to moderate weights moved as fast as possible but you move at faster speeds. However depending on your training age, strength and power can be developed together without too much specific focus on one or the other.

Also it is the choice of exercise that fits better into developing either strength or power and not necessarily by the movement pattern as you described. That being said, it is wise to cover both squat and hinge based movement patterns to cover vertical and horizontal force production. The exercises used will be determined by your training age, level of skill and what area of your athletic development needs to be addressed the most (do you need more strength or do you need more power/reactive strength.

Then finally in terms of swimming, lat strength is one of the most important qualities to develop with pull ups, pull downs or pull overs being advantageous to help transfer over into speed in the pool. Hopefully that helps but if there’s any more I can help with please let me know.

KInd Regards,



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