Make it Happen Mondays – Lifting Weights


Last Monday we published our Loving the Bike Cycling for Optimal Weight min-e-book and have been very pleased with the feedback received so far.  Each Monday in January we’re going to spin off from what’s included in the book and provide you with additional information to help achieve your ideal weight….and we’re calling it “Make it Happen Mondays“.  If you haven’t already downloaded your free copy of the Cycling for Optimal Weight e-book, you can do so now by clicking right here.

One aspect to achieving your optimal weight that wasn’t included in the e-book is lifting weights.  When I worked as a personal trainer, I would tell my clients that there are three key factors involved with getting the body in the shape you desire; weights, cardio, and nutrition.  The same applies to cyclists, but in my opinion the rules change a little when you’re spending a lot of time on the bike.

During the outdoor cycling season, weight lifting can be kept to a minimum so you can keep your focus on riding.  In the off season (if you have one), lifting weights gives you the chance to strengthen your cycling muscles, but it’s very easy to waste unnecessary time and energy.  To make sure you keep things productive and efficient, I’ve brought in my friend Heather Nielson to lay out a great weight lifting program for you to toss into your winter season training.

How does lifting weights help get you lean? The more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolic rate will be….and this helps create less fat.

At Home Workouts: Off-Season Conditioning for the Cyclist


The weight lifting focus for the avid cyclist, should be working on muscle imbalances and weaknesses that develop.  The sport of cycling depends heavily on the power to weight ratio more than most other sports.   Cyclists are often concerned about whether the extra weight gained through weight training will be off-set by the advantages gained in building force and muscular endurance.  By utilizing a program that does not add anymore bulk than is necessary and concentrating the strength building in the lower body, the advantages gained will more than likely off-set whatever extra weight gained.  Form follows function however, and one of the most common mistakes cyclists do for their off-season weight training program is follow a friends’ body-building routine.  That sort of program is simply not appropriate for the cyclist.  The muscle movements during cycling require a weight training program that not only trains the muscles to produce further force, but also trains the synchronization of their muscle recruitment at the neuromuscular and molecular level.  As a result of doing exercises that include many muscle groups at the same time, the actual time spent doing a weight training program is lessened as it’s not necessary to do a large number of exercises.

The general flow of a weight program for a cyclist should start with spending more time in the off-season and then tapering off to a maintenance type level as the race season (or regular riding season) approaches.  Additionally, the beginning of the weight training program starts off with lighter loads and more repetitions so that the muscle groups can adapt to the addition of the program in a more progressive manner.  A rule of thumb for every weight training session is to include warm up and cool down to aid the muscle groups in adapting to the work load.  It’s also a good idea to have a ‘library’ of exercises from which to choose so that your body doesn’t become too accustomed to the same program.  Also remember, recovery is the most important part of training!

In the beginning phases of the weight training program, you’ll want to do about 2-3 sessions a week.  You can do this for about 3 months.  You’ll want to do anywhere from 8-10 total exercises and do 2-3 sets of each.  Start off with a weight that will allow you to do ~20 repetitions.  The beginning phase can last up to 4 weeks.  After that, you’ll want to decrease the number of exercises for the lower body to about 4 or 5, and increase the weight slowly to eventually allow for 6-8 repetitions.  The upper body exercises can remain at 15-20 repetitions.  You can still do 2-3 sessions a week for the remainder of the off season.  As spring approaches, male athletes can get away with nearly eliminating weight training from their program while women and those 40 and older should continue to lift year round as the lower levels of testosterone in women and in older athletes is lower than for men in their physical prime, so muscle mass is generally lost slowly over time. (Note from Darryl: Even if you’re only doing a couple effective exercises per week…it’s definitely going to help you out)

Below is a list of exercises to choose from.  Remember to listen to your body, do what you enjoy and add variety every 3-4 weeks!

Lower Body:

1-Step-up using a stable bench or chair with or without free weights in each hand held at the side, alternating legs with which you step up with.

2-Walking lunges with or without free weights in each hand held at the side and walk across the floor.  Make sure that when you perform these, the knee doesn’t extend past the foot.

3-Squats with or without free weights held resting on top of the shoulder; again making sure the knee doesn’t extend past the foot.

4-One-legged squat : A variation on the traditional squat and is a great exercise that utilized core stability.  Only do this if you don’t have knee problems!  Hold your body and free weights in each hand resting on top of the shoulders like you were doing a squat, but lift one leg off the ground and extend behind your body.  Be sure that when you squat that you don’t extend your knee past your foot.  Complete one entire set on one leg before switching to the other.

Upper Body:

1-Chest fly lying on your back on a stable bench using free weights or tension band .

2-Chest press lying on your back on a stable bench using free weights or tension band.

3-Push-ups with or without knees on the ground.

4-Pull-ups ; this is a great exercise but only if you happen to have a supported bar already installed in your home.

5-Extended Row : Do these by bending at the waist slightly, having knees slightly bent, and holding a free weight in each hand, arms next to the body and elbows bent at 90º.  Extend your arms out front and then pull all the way back squeezing your back muscles.


1-Back extension on a stable bench lying face down with the torso hanging over the edge, while balancing yourself with your hands holding the bench (or exercise ball), extend as far down as you can and only lift back up until body is straight again; do not hyper-extend the back!

2-Plank: Support the body on the elbows at a 90º angle, with the body in a straight line.  Hold for as long as you can!

3-Bicycle Crunches: Variation on the theme of the regular crunch and a regular favorite of the avid cyclist!

4-Side crunches using a medicine ball:  Sit on the exercise ball with hands behind the ears and sit up and down at opposite angles to work the obliques.

5-Reverse pike on the exercise ball :  This is probably one of my favorite core exercises but it should be noted that it requires a lot of stability and if you’re not sure you can hold your body in the air then don’t attempt them.  Facing the floor with your knees over the top of the exercise ball, back straight and holding your body up with your arms straight, roll the ball across your shins all the way to the point of your toe, bending at the waste.  If you can do 10, I’d be super impressed!

6-Cross-toe touches with or without free weights in each hand while laying on your back.  Hold a free weight in your hand above your head and with the opposite leg, reach up and touch your foot with the weight in your hand while stabilizing your body with your other arm out to the side.

7-Regular crunches laying down but with legs crossed in Indian style: this opens up the lower abs so that you can get a more utilization of the abdominals.

8-Scissor kicks: This exercise works the hip flexors by opening them up and moving them in a different direction than what the cyclist is used to.  Lay down on your back and put your hands, palms down, underneath your lower back to support it and raise your upper body slightly off the ground and scissor kick your legs, alternating which leg goes over the other.  Do as many as you can.

Heather Nielson is a Level 3 USA Cycling Certified Coach and races for Touchstone Climbing, an Elite Women’s Team based out of Northern California.  She co-founded The Run4Kids in the fall of 2001, an annual event in St. George, UT that continues to date.  While attending Southern Utah University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology Zoology with double minors in Chemistry and Nutrition she also served on the student government board for Athletics and Recreation and was President of the Southern Utah University Mountain Biking Club from 2002 to 2004.  She currently works as a Chemical Engineer for a fuel cell company based out of Northern California.  To contact Heather for coaching, e-mail her at:  You can also follow her on her blog: and on twitter:!/shitcyclistsays

Enjoy Your Ride

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3 Responses to “ Make it Happen Mondays – Lifting Weights ”

  1. Simon on January 5, 2011 at 8:22 am

    This is something I’ve neglected for too long. Thanks for a great guide!

  2. Clive Chapman on January 5, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Loving that post mate. Very useful for this old knackered fat bloke! 🙂

  3. PedalmanTO on January 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Fantastic post! Great advice and very thorough with all the written and visual instruction on proper exercise execution.
    Terrific segment. Thank you.


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