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Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - September 7, 2011

Christoph Sauser at the gym.

Christoph Sauser at the gym. (Image credit: Gary Perkin)

Topics: Weight training, Specific sprint training, Optimising your warm-up, Out-turned foot issues

Got a question for the fitness panel? Send it to Try and include as much relevant information as you can think of. The more details you can provide the better the panel can tailor their response to your question.

Emails may be edited for length or clarity, but we try to publish both questions and answers in their entirety.

To find advice that relates to you more easily:

Weight Training

Specific sprint training

Optimising your warm-up

Out-turned foot issues

Weight training

Hi Cyclingnews,

My question is in regard to weight training for cyclists. Firstly is it beneficial for cyclists, more specifically sprinters? Secondly, which muscles should be targeted, any upper body? And thirdly how many reps and how should they be preformed for explosive strength? Finally which part of the year should I be engaging in weight training and can a day at the gym replace a day riding?

Thanks for the advice,


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Jeffrey,

Yes, weight training is beneficial for cyclists, especially for sprinters. Target the power muscles (glutes, calves, hams, quads), the core muscles and the muscles of the upper body that you use when you sprint. Emphasize multi-joint exercises that require you to use small muscles for posture and coordination over machines that isolate particular muscles.

Start your strength training when you start your off-season training. Two or three days per week is appropriate for road cyclists. Track sprinters will do more. Start with short sets and trivially light weights for a week or two while you learn the motions and then build up. Adjust to lifting with four weeks or so of lifting that feels challenging but not hard. Then make it hard by extending sets and adding weight. Make all changes gradually. The exact design of the program is not so important as the philosophy of starting with plenty of anatomic adaptation time and then building up gradually. It's not unreasonable to be working towards sets of 50 or more reps on the power muscles.

I suggest riding at least 40 minutes on at least two of the lifting days if your schedule allows.

Weights and sprinting

Hi Scott,

Thanks for all the advice, but I was hoping that you could clarify a few thing. Firstly, which upper body muscles are used when sprinting; back, biceps, triceps, chest? And secondly, should I continue weight training throughout the racing season?

Thanks again,


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Jeffrey,

To sprint effectively you need to be able to stabilize the pelvis against the huge forces you'll be developing below the waist. To do that, you need to be able to anchor yourself to the bars and make your chest and abdomen a nearly motionless platform. That means you need to be strong in the biceps and triceps and all the muscles of the trunk.

What to do about tapering depends on whether you are focused on a few races or trying to be strong for a few particular races. If you are a typical roadie who wants to be strong for an extended block of races, taper to one day per week of relatively light lifting a few weeks before those races start. If you are focused on one particular race, lift hard into the racing season, but quit weights entirely about six weeks before you main event.

Optimising your warm-up

To this layman, the exercise physiology texts seem to suggest that you reach an aerobic steady state within a few minutes of commencing endurance exercise. However, it takes me about 50 minutes to feel comfortable at my maximum sustainable output, and even as much as two hours to feel really great. What's going on in the interim, assuming I'm typical? Is there a way to expedite this warm-up period? If you must stop riding, such as before a TT, how long will a warm-up "last?" Thanks, great feature of the site.


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Richard,

There are many processes we know about going on during warm up, and probably some that we don't. At the least, body temperature is rising, blood vessels are dilating in muscles and constricting in the kidneys and gut, fatty acids are being released at increasing rates from fat tissue for use as fuel in muscles, and levels of various hormones are rising or falling.

As fitness level increases, warm up generally takes longer. It's not clear whether this is because more experienced riders are more sensitive to their being not entirely warmed up, or maybe the experienced rider body in some sense doesn't take the ride seriously until it's been going on a for a while. In any case, it's common for experienced riders to need 45 minutes or longer to feel completely warmed up. I recommend a standard 1-hour warm up for all racers except in hot weather or for races that will certainly start slowly.

I don't know of any way to speed up the warm up. There are rubs that promise to speed up warm up, but the real research on them says that are placebos at best.

Being fatigued will slow warm up, or at least delay the moment of feeling good, so if you seem to need much longer to warm up than other riders do, you might benefit from an examination of your overall work-rest balance.

Out turned foot

Hey guys,

I'm recovering slowly from a comminuted right hip fracture. I had surgery in Spain but it had to be revised back home because it was not done well. The first operation left my leg about 3 cm short and in varus (angled medially). The second procedure fixed these problems but the leg is externally rotated by 15 - 20 degrees. I am a month or two before I'll be able to use a wind trainer and the road is further away.

I use Shimano pedals with floating cleats. I expect the cleat will hold my leg in an internally rotated position and stop my heal contacting the chain stay. That would not be good for my knee at least and I can't imagine it would be a comfortable or powerful position. What are my options?



Scott Saifer says:

Hi David,

Steve may have more for you on this, but I'll jump in and say that if you adjust your cleat to keep your heel from rubbing the crank, you'll probably end up toasting your knee. Better you should get some pedal axle extenders so you can let your foot take it's new neutral angle. Good luck.

The Cyclingnews Form & Fitness panel

Scott Saifer ( is head coach, CEO of Wenzel and has been coaching cyclists professionally for 18 years. He combines a master's degree in Exercise Physiology with experience in 20 years of touring and racing and over 300 road, track and MTB races to deliver training plans and advice that are both rigorously scientific and compatible with the real world of bike racing.

Scott has helped clients to turn pro as well as to win medals at US Masters National and World Championship events. He has worked with hundreds of beginning riders and racers and particularly enjoys working with the special or challenging rider. Scott is co-author of Bike Racing 101 with Kendra Wenzel and his monthly column appears in ROAD Magazine.

Steve Hogg has owned and operated Pedal Pushers since 1986, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions. He can be reached at:

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+.

He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Pam Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an associate professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of energy balance on bone health. She has published on the effects of cycling and multi-day stage racing on bone density and turnover.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is a three-time Missouri State Road Champion.

James Hibbard progressed from the junior to the professional ranks as a rider and has over 15 years of competitive cycling experience. He is a former Collegiate All-American track cyclist, trained as a resident athlete at the United States Olympic Training Center, earned international medals as part of the U.S. National Team, and was a member of the powerhouse Shaklee and HealthNet Professional road cycling teams.

He has earned 13 National Track Championship medals, as well as numerous junior, U-23 and elite California State championships on both the road and track. Since retiring from full-time racing in 2005, James has focused on his development as a coach.

David Fleckenstein, MPT, OCS ( is a physical therapist practicing in Eagle, ID and the president of Physiotherapy, PA, an outpatient orthopedic clinic focusing in orthopedics, spine, and sportsmedicine care.

His clients have included World and US champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his Masters degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University and is currently completing his doctorate at Regis University.

He is a board certified orthopedic specialist focusing in manual medicine and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilisation musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.