Weight lifting: Transition from strength to maintenance & technical skills with squats

Weight Lifting-Turn Training into Racing

With many of my clients shifting focus from general fitness gains to race specific gains in strength, a topic that comes up a ton at this time of season is when and how to transition away from lifting into straight racing and cycling specific strength building in the muscles. During the off season, if lifting is done well, a cycling specific regiment will be focused on the major movers, so multiple muscle group exercises like squats, dead lifts, push ups, sit-ups etc. Single muscle workouts will just bulk up single muscles and is a tedious waste of time with minimal or no gains in cycling, or even general fitness, those workouts results are found at the beach…

At the same time these major mover exercises are general fitness focused, they build muscle fibers for generally moving those muscles, and are not as specific to pedaling a bike as high intensity intervals on the bike. Maintenance of the strength built up in the off-season is good, but attempting to continue building up those muscles through resistance training tends to compromise maximum effort into cycling specific intensity sessions, as well as take away resources to build up resistance training muscles rather than building strength and endurance in the cycling specific muscles needed for racing.

Once race season is here, it is time to sharpen and peak out the most important tools for racing.  Lifting big weights for 10-20 seconds at a time will not do that for an endurance focused athlete. For the track cyclist or pure sprinter, big weight sessions may still be necessary to maintain peak form as their most crucial exercise system is around 10-60 seconds, but most cyclists do not need this kind of focus any longer.

Example of Maintenance Lifting with Tech/Balance building

My wife Lindsay has great power on the bike, but has struggled a bit with reactive and intuitive balance in technical sections, sometimes causing her to lose time to competitors on balance/skill rather than fitness . The exercise below is a great example of transitioning from weights to just body weight exercises and adding a bit of technical balance building into the exercise.  Getting the most out of the time used in the gym for each exercise and back on the bike without spreading time too thin in the gym. With all this in mind, we have progressed Lindsay’s maintenance squats into the exercise below.


These squats are used for gaining huge amounts of reactive balance in the legs and body due to micro reactions needed in muscles to the sudden minute changes in weight distribution to stay upright. The squat is added for both resistance training and active muscle contraction similar to the sport of cycling, while the muscle is also learning balance, similar to riding technical trail and pedaling a bike at the same time.

To get to this stage

First comfortably completing sets of single legs squat without balance assistance.
Second using a half ball for two legged squats without balance assistance.
Third with spotter and then always with something to grab like in video, moving onto full ball.

Always try to keep good squat form obviously with a straight back and weight focused on middle to heels for resistance mainly being pushed into the hamstrings and glutes.

For more info on coaching with Vision Cycling, make sure to check out my coaching tab here: Vision Cycling Coaching

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