Here’s the thing. If you want to improve, you need to push yourself. Resistance, of any kind, tests you. Helps you grow. You either rise to the challenge, or succumb to defeat.
I want to get more powerful, at least on the bike. I want to climb faster, longer, and more easily. And, to do that I need stronger legs. Stronger gluts, quads, hamstrings, and calves. These are the pedalling muscles.
This winter I’m trying something new. I’m lifting heavy. In prior years, I would lift lighter weights completing more repetitions thinking I was building endurance, and toning the muscles. And, to some extent, this worked. I’m certainly a stronger, faster cyclist now than I was a year ago. But this year, I want to climb more mountains, and climb them more easily.
Several times a week I lift heavy. What does that mean? Well, for me at least, it means 5-6 sets with each set heavier than the previous. Each set I complete as many repetitions as I can, with the last one being next to impossible. Each subsequent set, I increase the load by 10-15%, and complete as many repetitions as possible. I keep doing this until I can only complete 4-5 repetitions, maybe fewer.
I focus on three exercises – leg press, hamstring curls, and quad extensions. Every now and again, I will do squats and one-legged lunges but for the most part I use the stacked weight machines at the club. I prefer using these machines, rather than free weights, because they are safer, faster, and more convenient. I can complete a full-body workout in 45 minutes, or legs only in 20-25 minutes.
I have been doing these exercises with heavy weight for almost a month now, and already notice a difference. I can lift heaver than when I started, and more importantly, I notice I am already faster, and stronger on the bike.
Lifting heavy is a relative term. One day, while cooling down on the spinning bike, a young woman entered the gym. She was in her early twenties, and an accomplished racket player. I could tell by the sponsored clothing she was wearing and the expensive rackets in her bag. She was short, but muscular. Very muscular, particularly her legs. She proceeded to the leg press machine, and began lifting with one leg what took me two. Clearly, heavy is a relative term.