There’s no question that developing stronger muscles significantly influences performance in any sport. This should always be accompanied by good nutrition to aid proper muscle development and prevent strain on the body.
Specific tests for cyclist performance quite often get carried out, and there are a lot of bike workouts and programs around. Here’s a brief summation of some tests that have been done and what was found out .
At the University of Maryland, Ben Hurley ran a trial with ten men. All were in good health, but not serious athletes . After 12 weeks they had improved their endurance while cycling by 75%. V02max ( the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen ) improved by 33% and lactate threshold ( the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream ) lifted by 12%.
This is what was in the training: bench presses, hip flexions, knee extensions, knee flexions, press-ups, leg presses, lat pulldowns, arm curls, parallel squats, and bent-knee sit-ups.
A study of eight experienced cyclists was conducted by R. C. Hickson at the University of Illinois in Chicago . He added 3 days of strength training per week to their regular endurance routines for ten weeks. This had a significant impact on their cycling performance improving their short-term endurance ( ability to continue working at a very high intensity ) by about 11% and increasing the amount of time that they could pedal at an intensity of 80% V02max from 71 to 85 minutes, which was a 20% improvement.
The training was:
- parallel squats (five sets of five reps per workout),
- knee extensions (three sets of five reps),
- knee flexions (3 x 5),
- and toe raises (3 x 25),
- Resistance was increased steadily as strength improved.
However a test conducted with endurance cyclists , although there was a good gain of strength, tests of a 40 Km race showed that they slowed down. The cyclists said that they felt “heavy” and tired during their workouts.
This test was carried out by James Home at the University of Cape Town with seven endurance cyclists . They each cycled on average about 200 kilometers per week and had three strength training sessions per week incorporated into their routine. The training was three sets of up to eight repetitions of hamstring curls, leg presses, and quadriceps extensions using fairly heavy resistance.
My impression from these three trials is that you can easily see the difference between aerobic and anaerobic performance. I’ve read of this distinction in other sports as well. Particularly with running, you observe that sprinters have much larger more powerful muscles than the long distance runners . The training is based on and tailor-made to the duration of the run. If you are looking at improving your own cycling performance, you can check here for more info on bike workouts.