Weight Lifting for Cycling

Originally published at: https://fascatcoaching.com/tips/weight-lifting-for-cycling/

by Frank Overton

Increase your Functional Threshold Power this winter with a resistance training plan. Weight lifting for cycling also known as resistance training ‘works’ and we’ve been coaching cyclists thru the following 4 phase, cycling specific resistance training program for more than 15 years. During these 4 phases of weight lifting, cyclists first build new muscle (hypertrophy phase) and then train that new muscle to produce great force (strength phase). Most importantly the 4th and final phase trains that new muscle capable of producing great force to contract at speeds specific to cycling (power phase). “Speeds specific to cycling” is the secret sauce of this program and this weight lifting is made cycling specific by the velocity of the lifts plus the neuromuscular sprint workouts that are coupled to the Strength and Power Phases.

At FasCat Coaching, we offer a variety of offseason weight training plans focused on increasing your FTP this winter:

Our Philosophy on Resistance Training for Cyclists:
  • Sprinters should follow a weight program for at least 2 years to develop the muscle adaptations necessary for sprint power.
  • Time Trialists, Mountain Bikers, Cyclocrossers, Triathletes, and Road Racers will increase their Functional Threshold Power with this Resistance Training. They will also increase the amplitude of their short-term power output to attack, counterattack, respond to surges in the peloton and carry momentum over technical terrain.
  • Masters athletes benefit from resistance to prevent age-related declines in performance
  • Resistance training needs to be speed specific and has accompanying neuromuscular work coupled to the gym workouts.
  • “Combining endurance training with explosive and heavy strength training will improve endurance performance due to the delayed activation of less efficient type II fibers, improved neuromuscular efficiency, conversion of fast-twitch type IIX fibers into more fatigue-resistance type IIA fibers” Ronnestad BR, Mujika I Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Aug 24 (4) 603-612

Now that you’re on board the weight lifting for cycling to improve your power output you need a plan because successful resistance training involves more than just a lot of squats. You’ll want to break down your time in the weight room into four phases each having a physiological purpose. And couple those phases with on the bike training to take the strength gains from the gym out onto the bike. Neuromuscular sprint and standing starts help achieve this adaptation. Here’s a brief description of our 4 phase cycling specific resistance training plan:

# 1 Adaptation: acclimate your legs to the weight room

#2 Hypertrophy: build new muscle

#3 Strength: train that new muscle to produce great force

#4 Power: train the new muscle that’s now capable of producing great force to do so at cycling specific speeds.

What makes our resistance training program cycling specific is the neuromuscular sprint work that is coupled to the lifting in phases 3 and 4. Listen to our Podcast here:

Phase 1: Adaptation
Your resistance program should start off gradually with an adaptation period of approximately three weeks. During these 3 weeks your training goals are to develop proper and safe squat technique and let your musculature and joints adapt to forces much different than they encounter on the bike. Focus on three primary lifts: the squat, the leg press, and the hamstring (leg) curl. The hip thrust may be added for athletes with prior weight lifting experience. Start with 4 sets of 8 repetitions (reps) per set, taking 2 minutes in between each set, three times per week. Gradually increase the weight over the course of the three weeks in a way that is challenging but not so hard that you cannot finish each set nor find yourself ‘sore’ in the days following.

Phase 2: Hypertrophy
After three weeks you will be ready for the big time: a muscle building phase. Because muscular size is closely correlated with muscle strength, the primary goal during this training phase will be to build muscle. This is where you can revel in the fact that you are creating those opposite sex attracting legs. Its OK to gain some weight during this phase! In power to weight terms you are increasing your power far more in the ratio that 1 – 4 pounds. Like your adaptation phase, perform 4 sets of 8-12 reps per set with a 2 minute rest period up to four times per week. Set your 1RM (1 resistance maximum) and for the 6 sets lift 65% > 70% > 75% of your 1RM. With each set increase your weight by 5% and select weight that is hard but allows you to just finish the four sets. Plan on 2 weeks for maximal adaptation to this phase. You will notice that what was once difficult will become easier so increase the weight to keep you legs responding to the training stimuli.

Phase 3: Strength
Once you’ve put on a few lbs of power producing leg muscle, it’s time to train this muscle to produce more forceful contractions. Without going into a physiology lecture on nervous system stimulation, that’s the goal in this phase of resistance training. To teach your brain how to “enervate” (aka contract) the musculature you built in the previous hypertrophy phase. Thus, fewer sets, less reps and heavier weight is the name of the game. You want to increase the frequency and the magnitude at which the nervous system can stimulate the muscle to contract. To do this, drop down to 6 reps per set and bump up the weight (in a safety conscious way!) big time: 70% and up to 100% of your 1RM. For an even greater training effect, add weight with each additional set but drop the number of repetitions in the set. Note: this type of training produces great stress and training progress will only be seen with adequate recovery often involving up to 2-3 days inbetween lifting days. Plan on a 2 week “force” phase of 4-5 workouts before moving on to your final “power” phase. Starting in the Strength phase we couple neuromuscular sprint intervals with the gym work to transfer the gains made in the weight room out onto the bike.

Phase 4: Power
In the final phase comes the fun part. Muscle strength is speed specific and up until now we haven’t been lifting at speeds specific to cycling. In your power phase drop the weight significantly to “almost ridiculously easy” (45% to 60% of 1RM) levels and concentrate on performing each lift as fast as possible. The squat will become the “jump squat” as you accelerate out of the squatting position so fast that you actually jump off the ground. Once again please exercise extreme caution and safety in the weight room during this time. One recommendation we make is to find a “smith machine” to perform your jump squats on. A better recommendation is work with a personal training to learn proper jump squat form and technique. But the smith machine does have built in safety features unlike a free squat which is nice. Like the “force” phase allow 2 weeks of 4-5 workouts with 2-3 days of rest in between workouts. Similar to the Strength phase we couple standing starts to the gym workouts to transfer the speed specific gains from the gym to the bike.

There you have it, more power for you to put into the pedal. When given enough time in the off season, our coaches will split an off season into 2 parts with the first half including this 10 week resistance training but still planning for 8 – 12 weeks of sweet spot/aerobic endurance training afterwards. Here’s how a 32 week off season program would look that includes 10 weeks of resistance training

Off Season training Plan



Ronnestad BR, Mujika I. “Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review.” Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Aug 24 (4) 603-612

Buy Our 4 Phase Cycling Specific Resistance Training Program for $49

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been prescribing weight lifting for cycling for over 15 years. To begin your cycling specific resistance training program with coaching, you can email frank@fascatcoaching.com , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation. Or you may simply buy this 10 week, 4 phase plan for $49 here. Either way, look forward to increasing your power output on the bike!

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Can anyone post a screenshot or PDF still of the resistance training excel spreadsheet? My ancient laptop doesn’t have excel on it… Thanks!

You should be able to open an Excel sheet using something like Google sheets.

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Hey Guys –

Does anyone have access to the link to the video on YouTube? I have the 32-week plan, but don’t have access to the video. Its marked as private. Here is the link I am trying to access. http://youtu.be/4BOTvaRaD


You can find it on this thread.

Thanks Isaiah! Really appreciate it.


Just out of curiosity, when would you suggest incorporating high cadence intervals with this resistance plan?

During the Strength & Power Phases :: weeks 6 - 10 of our weight lifting training plan with the neuromuscular sprint and standing start intervals that are coupled to the weight lifting workouts.

Hi Coach Frank,

First, I hope no one has ask this somewhere else but, as I am considering buying the plan, but I am concerned that I would not have the equipment. Could you please elaborate on the equipment required for the resistance part of the plan. Considering the current movilization restrictions accesing a gym is quite difficult where i live, thats my main concern.

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Hi @jcrodriguez - you will need a squat rack, a leg press and a leg curl.

Seeing that many have to goto the gym for that equipment and many gyms aren’t open nor safe, you may want to select a different type of training plan, one without lifting.

You could get creative with the squats via kettlebells but there just is no substitute for the leg press.

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Hi Frank,

I’m on the ‘at home’ plan and just entered the hypertrophy phase. I see that we are going back-to-back on (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday). Given that conventional wisdom suggests giving muscle groups 48hours rest before hitting them again (M, W, F seems pretty typical), why is it that we’re lifting on consecutive days, twice per week?

I lifted yesterday, and just looked at my quads and they sternly questioned whether or not we should go again today…just 24 hours later. They aint happy.

Can you elaborate on this thinking and approach? I reminds me of a bike equivalent of fatigue dependence. Day 1 is really hard and day 2 is just slightly less hard.


Follow the plan as described - this is how you make the adaptations and listen to the podcast where I explain + read the training tip:

In short FtFP, its hard work and if it were easy everyone would be doing it. This is your edge for next Spring and the ticket for more watts

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Thanks, Frank. Hypertrophy session #2 IN THE BANK! #FTFP


Hi all

Really enjoying the 10 week resistance plan and hoping Covid does not shut my gym before I finish! I am in the hypertrophy stage and find minimal fatigue from the weights. However when I get to the Sat Z2 ride and Sunday TSS ride that’s where I really feel it. However despite being shattered after Sunday I feel good to go on heavy Monday.

Is this expected?

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Yes you are recovering from the weight lifting - so by Monday are recovered.

But on Saturday and to some extend on Sunday your legs feel like wood, cement, cider blocks :wink:

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Thanks Frank

I’m really starting to see how the plan and it’s structure works. 3x7 tempo ride today was incredibly tough after 2 days in the gym.

I’m actually looking forward to the gym and apprehensive and about the bike rides! :joy:


Just to follow up here with a better answer, the conventional wisdom I learned from NSCA and the Olympic Training Center, and USA Cycling Coaches Conferences is that to build muscle (the goal of the hypertrophy phase) an overload needs to be applied and that overload is applied using a 2 days on 1 day off 2 days on block. Laboratory studies have corroborated this approach + the athletes who have gone onto to increasing their power (read the reviews) from completing the Hypertrophy Phase.

So you gotta work hard, no doubt. DOMS is to be expected but that’s how you make improvements and in this case build muscle. That’s why I jest that if you aren’t sore, you are not doing it right. “It” being the hypertrophy phase.

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@FRANK @Lacey_Rivette Just about to start week 6 of the strength plan and have the seated sprint intervals this week (Tue and fri). I will be doing them on a turbo trainer - can you advise whether I should have ERG mode on or off? I assume probably off.


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That is correct. Off for sprint work. you want full control of those efforts. Always keep erg mode off for sprints and full gas efforts alike.

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Quick question. I am a college student and cant really afford coaching at the moment. there is a marathon mtb race im going to be doing in mid-march. i really want to perform well at this one. would you recommend doing a strength program to fit in before this race? or just skip straight to sweet spot and race specific workouts?

thanks, spencer

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