Women's Cycling: Four Key Reasons for Strength Training

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Sarah Hunter has coached a wide-range of athletes, from road cyclists right through to Ironman 70.3 world championship qualifiers. In this women's-specific article Sarah explains four critical reasons for strength training.

1. Decreased risk of osteoporosis

Did you know that after the age of 35 your bone density decreases? Sometimes a rapid decrease in bone density can be seen after the menopause (this can be up to 20% over 5-7 years). Any kind of weight bearing exercise such as strength training actually helps to build stronger bones by causing new bone tissue to form. As cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise is won’t really help to create the formation of any new bone tissue, but adding in some strength sessions to you week will help.

2. Reduce Risk Of Injury

A well structured strength training program will increase your ligament and tendon strength. Strong tendons do contribute towards overall strength and also protect you from strains and injuries. Tendon and ligaments need time to slowly adapt to the strain of a new workout, so if you are starting out focus on learning proper technique rather than how much you can lift.

3. Improve Performance On The Bike

There are plenty of research papers documenting the efficacy of strength training for improving cycling performance. This particular article explores the effect of 2 sessions of lower body strength training over a period of 11 weeks to complement the normal endurance bike training for female cyclists, compared to the control group who did just the endurance bike training.

Sarah assists a client with strength training. Image: Sarah Hunter FTP Training.
Sarah assists a client with strength training. Image: Sarah Hunter FTP Training.

Their test was a 5 minute all out effort at the end of a 2 hours endurance riding.
“The main finding of this study is that addition of heavy strength training to the regular endurance training of female cyclists improved cycling performance measured as 5‐min all‐out performance tested immediately after a prolonged ride. In addition, VO2 and HR were reduced during the last two hours of a 3 hour prolonged cycling trial after the addition of heavy strength training”.
To summarise then, strength training will make you faster on the bike, as well as improving your cycling economy when you start to get fatigued towards the end of a long ride.

4. Build More Lean Muscle Mass

Strength training doesn’t just mean getting bigger muscles. Most female athletes will find it very difficult to pack on muscle mass, this is because we are have 10-30 times less testosterone than men and testosterone is the hormone needed to grow your muscles. However, strength training will result in your muscles containing more mitochondria and these are the cells which burn energy. Have more lean body mass means that you need to fuel more of these mitochondria, which means you will burn more calories all of the time!

 

Sarah Hunter has coached a wide-range of athletes from road racing, mountain biking and Ironman 70.3 competitors. Having a background in Mathematics has made her a bit of a numbers nerd, which is great these days as we are almost drowning in data collected from powermeters and other devices. She loves translating the data from sometimes meaningless numbers to help clients understand their strength and weaknesses and achieve success in the training and racing.

An associate coach at FTP Training, where the bike coaching and data analysis blend together perfectly to enable her athletes to train smarter, race faster and hit PBs! Sarah is also the owner of Hunter PT, a personal training studio in Perth. Her focus is getting cyclists stronger so they can continue doing what they love doing.

Sarah has been racing for 8 years, starting off with the long stuff, Ironman and multi day mountain bike stage races, and now racing much shorter distances. "I know most people start with the shorter races and progress through to longer races- but not me!" she said.

Last year she won the Age Group Duathlon National Championships, and in August will be representing Australia at the Duathlon World Championships in Canada. Not just a fantastic place to race, but an awesome place to holiday afterwards as well!

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