Editor’s Note: Last Friday, Peaks Coaching published their monthly training article entitled Strength Training for Cyclists. It was good, but very top level. Given that we’re headed into the off season for most racers (cyclocross excluded), I asked coach Bill McLaughlin to expand on his article with specific workouts. Below is a followup with two routines for the transition phase to heavier weights over the winter.

by Peaks Elite Coach Bill McLaughlin

The following workout is a typical transition weight workout to do following a week or so of body weight exercises. The body weight exercises are to help minimize soreness and prepare your body to handle weights. I have also included a link to ACE’s website that shows in detail the proper form to execute the exercises safely and correctly to achieve the maximum benefit from strength training. It’s short and to the point (a whole-body workout), and it’s really to be done for 3-6 weeks before moving on to the hypertrophy phase in your off-season weight training program.

I’ve also included an alternate circuit-training workout for those looking to maintain cardio fitness at the same time. Even if you elect to do the circuit workout, it is still greatly advised to move into the hypertrophy phase after 3-6 weeks. We still want to increase muscular strength, and that can’t be achieved to the fullest extent with circuit training alone due to the fact that the weights used just aren’t heavy enough. It’s really just a good general fitness routine, not a strengthening routine.

Ready? Here we go…

Warm Up: 15 minutes cardio and stretching.

Main Sets: 12-15 reps. Resistance 40-60% of 1 rep max. 1-2 sets. Follow this link to a 1 rep max calculator. (I don’t want you doing do 1 rep max tests, as these can be very dangerous and are not necessary for what we are trying to achieve as cyclists, but this will effectively put you in the ballpark). Then do the following 2-3 times per week:

  • Squats or leg press
  • Leg curls
  • Calf raises
  • Back extensions
  • Abdominal circuit (planks, side planks, leg raises)
  • Prone cobras
  • Bench press
  • One arm row
  • Shoulder press
  • Bicep curls
  • Dumbbell triceps extensions

This is a good link to review the exercises and see how they’re performed in the proper fashion.

Cool Down & Stretch

Circuit Workout

Alternatively, you could use a circuit workout in the transition phase. As I mentioned, circuit training is a good alternative to traditional weight training. In the transition phase, it can both prepare the body for heavy weights in the hypertrophy phase and help maintain aerobic conditioning.

If performed correctly, the following workout will take you to your maximum heart rate and push you close to your limit physically. The main objective of circuit training is to minimize rest between exercises. Do each exercise for 1 minute max or in a tabata fashion (see below for explanation). This is designed to be completed in 20 minutes, but if at the end you feel it wasn’t challenging enough, do it a second time. Choose light weights for max reps; you should just be able to finish the minute. Warm up first on a cardio machine at a nice steady pace for 5-10 minutes to help warm the muscles.

  • Bench press or pushups: 1 minute max
  • Squats: 1 minute max
  • Pull-ups or pull-down: 1 minute max
  • Spin bike, treadmill, or any type cardio exercise: 3 minutes
  • Military press/shoulder press: 1 minute max
  • Lunges: 1 minute max
  • Bicep curls: 1 minute max
  • Spin bike, treadmill, or any type cardio exercise: 3 minutes
  • Tricep extensions: 1 minute max
  • Step ups: 1 minute max
  • Leg curls: 1 minute max
  • Seated rows: 1 minute max
  • Plank: 1 minute
  • Spin bike, treadmill, or any type cardio exercise: 3 minutes
  • Stretch/cool down

You can change or modify the type of exercise depending on the equipment available to you, but try to hit all the muscle groups so you get a full-body workout. It may take you a few circuits to get the weight just right. Adjust the weights as you progress.  When you’re just able to finish the minute and not a second more, you know you’re at the correct weight.

The Tabata way: this workout is really quite simple. It’s four minutes per exercise and broken down in the following fashion: 20 seconds doing the exercise and 10 seconds resting continuously for the whole four minutes. You then proceed to the next exercise and repeat. You still do the 3 minute blocks of cardio mixed in, but not in Tabata; just at a good solid aerobic effort, then continue to the next Tabata exercise.

These workouts are designed to start you off on a good, solid, winter strength training program. Good luck in your off season training, as a good foundation in the off season can lead to an awesome 2014 race season!

About Bill: I have always led an active life, although my activities changed as I grew older. As a teenager I played sports, especially football and track and field. In my early twenties I was involved in weight lifting and the martial arts and won several trophies in my weight class. I thoroughly enjoy being athletic, as well as the thrill of competition. For me, the ultimate combination of both factors has been met in bicycle racing. I became involved in the sport well over fifteen years ago and have been completely hooked ever since. Cycling is a team sport, but in actuality you race as an individual. That, as well as the constant focus to improve and gain strength, speed, and fitness is what keeps me riding. I have now reached the point in my cycling career where I want to share my knowledge and pass on my love of the sport by coaching other riders who are looking to improve. I have been a member of the Somerset Wheelmen since 2004, and I’ve won several awards individually and with my team. I also found a love and passion to help others with training and racing. I am an elite cycling coach with Peaks Coaching Group since 2008 and have been personally trained how to coach with power by Hunter Allen. From his training I have earned the USA Cycling certification as a power-based training coach, and at this time I am presently the only USA Cycling power-based training certified coach in the state of New Jersey. I can be reached at bill@peakscoachinggroup.com.

Peaks Coaching Group has custom coaching for cyclist and triathletes, with over fifty of the most experienced coaches in the business to fit your needs in road, mountain, track, cyclocross, and triathlons. All of our coaches have been trained by Hunter Allen’s proprietary, data-driven training methods, complete with power, heart rate, and perceived exertion. Our coaching and training programs are individually designed by coaches using specific information we gather from you. We do not use cookie cutter programs! Please feel free to contact Peaks Coaching Group for further info.


  1. If we’re going to be pitching the idea of fitness specifically for fitness can we use a photo of someone doing DB deadlifts with better form please?

  2. Bicep curls?? WTF for??

    And shoulder press? When is a cyclist going to need to extend into an overhead position?

    This about functional strength training, movements and developments that will aid a cyclist with pedalling, core stability and shoulder stability.

  3. Jeffe – fixed the link, thanks.

    All – actually, that’s me (Tyler). Admittedly, my head should be down to keep my neck inline with my spine, but otherwise my form is good. I work very hard at it and have been doing much heavier deadlifts for quite some time with no injury.

    AP – bicep curls…yep, personally I prefer and recommend compound exercises. A drag curl tends to work more of the shoulders and traps as well as the biceps, making them more functional. As for shoulder presses, if done properly, they work a large group of muscles. Being strong all around helps prevent injury and makes for more functional human beings and less fatigue. And for those that don’t have a lower back extension machine, try “Good Mornings” or kettle bell swings.

  4. Sorry Tyler, but just on that pick, that’s not good form.

    Want some ALL ROUND strength – try some pull ups and chin ups. good all round exercise that with good form, will also strengthen core.

What do you think?