Should I still do leg workouts during cycling season?
July 7, 2014 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on combining cycle commuting with gym-based workouts.

I'm a 41 year-old guy in reasonable shape. I hit the gym about 3x/week where I do a pretty basic weight machine routine. For six months a year, I commute to work by bicycle, racking up about 10k/day. I'm not sure if the cycling is enough of a leg workout on its own, or if I should still be doing leg presses, calf raises etc. I don't want to totally physically exhaust myself. So, any/all advice on combining regular cycling with weightlifting would be welcome. Thanks!
posted by sevenyearlurk to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would say no. "Real" exercise is much better and well rounded then the muscle-group-specific gym routines.
posted by H. Roark at 10:47 AM on July 7, 2014

Kinda depends what you want to achieve, IMHO. Cycling (mostly aerobic exercise, unless you're hitting serious hills etc) and weight routines are kinda not very much the same thing. Depends on whether you just want to get "some exercise" (and I guess in winter the weights are your only exercise? No cardio at all?) or you have specific goals. All I can tell you is that when I added weights to my routine, my running (speed, fatigue etc) improved drastically. But if all you want to do is "keep active", you're probably better off cycling in winter too! (or doing other cardio work)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2014

Joe Friel recommends year-round weight training, periodized appropriately (so 1 session/week of strength maintenance over the summer; for cyclists it's like 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps of squats, bench press, step-ups, and ab work, with moderately heavy weight but nothing killer).
posted by disconnect at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a bike racer & commuter. From my POV, you should keep the leg work in your gym routine. 10k/day isn't much, and chances are good that though you're using your legs, you're not building strength. So if that's your goal, you ought to keep your gym work.

If you do 10k/day regularly, then it's not going to exhaust you.
posted by entropone at 11:18 AM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I bike commute, and found adding weight training made hills easier and gave me some nice muscle definition. Don't push as hard at lifting when you start bike commuting if you're really worried, but you shouldn't be exhausted.
posted by momus_window at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2014

I'm a bike commuter (20k/day with serious hills) and I lift weights 3 times a week.

10k/day on your bike is not at all comparable to a leg workout in the gym. It's half an hour a day. Unless you have some crazy hills you're getting an ok cardio workout but zero strength workout.

The big challenge for me was that when I started squatting regularly my commute the next day was hell. But now that I squat regularly 2-3 times a week I don't find that it affects my commute very much. I only get DOMS if I take a couple weeks or more off from the gym, and it only really affects me on the hills when I need the strength. The key is to stay consistent with your workouts, I think.

So expect an acclimatization period but you'll probably be fine in a week or two, and then you'll probably see some nice improvements in your cycling as well.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:02 PM on July 7, 2014

As others have said, 50 km/week isn't much cycling, unless your commute has lots of hills. I usually get in about 200 km/week in the summer (down to 80-100/week in the winter), and I squat 2-3 times a week. I'll ease off on the squats if I've done an exceptional amount of cycling, or if I'm running up lots of hills.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:21 PM on July 7, 2014

As a cyclist who has done 30-40mile rides on a regular basis in the past (I've since switched to mostly running), I can honestly tell you that even the most experienced cyclist needs cross-training in the form of weight lifting or pilates.

I have what I thought were strong, mighty quads, until I tried a beginner's ballet class (I'm a chick) that used killer static positions for muscle sculpting. Sure, my quadriceps were hard and firm from years of combining road cycling/running/running up several flights of stairs over and over, but holding my thigh up in the air and bouncing it in small, slow movements for 5+ minutes showed me just how relatively "weak" I was. It was clear that if I cross-trained and combined some ballet exercises with static pilates exercises, plus weight training (I'm fond of kettlebell squats), I'd have a well-rounded set of muscle groups that would make me an even better cyclist. Those small muscle groups that don't get worked as much when cycling will be able to help out more when you're trying to cycle faster or climb a hill.

Cross-train, cross-train, cross-train. And the P90x muscle confusion theory has its merits, which you don't have to have the P90x DVDs to do if you just pick three or four different methods to jump around week to week. Having only one dedicated cardio program will make you good at that cardio program, but it won't push you forward.

And no, I definitely don't see the squats and related exercises as something that will wear you out. Some cyclists even recommend doing them immediately before you hop on your bike.
posted by nightrecordings at 2:48 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, thanks for the reality check everyone! No more shirking for me.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:03 PM on July 7, 2014

Just jumping in to add that the glute machine is specifically good for cycling.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:01 PM on July 7, 2014

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