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OK, Here's a hard one for you...(9 posts)

OK, Here's a hard one for you...Skip
Aug 29, 2001 10:50 PM
Is there a weight lifting exercise, &/or a bicycling exercise to strengthen the quads, that does not stress the knee? I'm sure I could squat or leg press a lot more weight, but I don't think my knees would feel good about it. Thanks.

proper form and muscle balancepeloton
Aug 30, 2001 7:19 AM
There are quite a variety of exercises that can be done to strengthen the quads without putting undue stress on the knee. The key really is good form when performing strength training exercises. Even the squat, which is maligned somewhat falsely, doesn't put much pressure on the knee if it is done right. I know a lot of Euro coaches who advocate even full squats to their athletes (the kind where the angle of the legs goes below 90 degrees). The full squat is safe so long as there is adequate strength to keep the hamstring from resting on the calf, the muscles have adequate strength for control and flexibility, and the weight is controled in a smooth fashion without bouncing and moving too quickly. It's an advanced exercise, but it proves that proper form can take much of the stress away from the joints.

What I would recommend isn't so much to look for a new exercise to crank up the weight with, but to make sure that you are doing the exercises that you are with absolute proper form. Lighter weights with good form get results. Heavy weights with poor form impress those who don't know any better, and get you hurt. Another thing to consider is your muscle balance. Most cyclists have strong quads, but relatively weak hamstrings, hip flexors, and even core strength (abs and lwr back). By making sure that your hamstrings are strong you stabilize the knee against injury, and create a stronger base on which to build your quads. Even just sitting in a chair all day does pretty bad things to your hamstring balance. Maybe try throwing in some leg curls, stiff legged deadlifts, or other hamstring building exercises. A good rule of thumb is that when you lift with one muscle group, you should do an exercise for the opposing muscle group- ie. quads to hamstrings. You should do even more if you know one group is weaker than the other, for example, more hamstrings if you know them to be weaker in balance to the quads.

In short, there are many exercises that you can do to build up your quads. It's really only poor form or other personal factors (alignment issues, injury) that put undue stress on your joints. It's hard to really convey how to properly tell someone how to stregth train without being able to see them in person, and work with them with form and tailor a program to fit their individual needs. For that reason, I would reccomend finding a qualified trainer to make sure you are getting the most out of your form and time. It is really worth the investment to get the most out of yourself while decreasing injury risk. If there are any specific questions you might have, I would be happy to try to steer you in the right direction.
proper form and muscle balanceJon Billheimer
Aug 30, 2001 7:55 AM
Excellent, excellent answer!! There's a great strength training article written for triathletes over at www.trainright.
com, Carmichael's website. It emphasizes some exercises to enhance joint and core stability, some of which could
be used as adjuncts to the more orthodox exercises such as the squat, leg press, etc.
here is another great link for strength trainingpeloton
Aug 30, 2001 9:51 AM

This site has a LOT of information on training, physiology, kinesiology, and a host of other topics. One of the great features of the site is a section that describes how to properly do different exercises with streaming video of how to properly perform said exercise as well. Just remember though, that is doesn't replace someone watching your form and helping make adjustments. Great site though, lots and lots of information.
proper form and muscle balanceSkip
Aug 30, 2001 11:28 AM
Thanks for your insight! (My first reply didn't get posted - I'll try again)

I believe that I'm doing them with proper form - keeping all joints in alignment throughout the exercise, easy push/pull to extension, hold for 1-2 sec., then a slow return to start controlling the weight. I do 3 sets of 12-15 reps, then 10-12 reps., then 8-10 reps, with 1 min rest in between. For the legs, I'm doing: leg extensions, leg curls, leg press ( a reclining curved seat with two position feet rests), and calf extensions. They also have a reclined chair/seat with inclined weights on rails, plus free weights with apparatus for squats and their permutations (scared of these). Still I occasionally feel stress in the support ligaments to the knee, and sometimes in the patellar and hamstring tendons. Thanks.
proper form and muscle balanceJon Billheimer
Aug 30, 2001 12:36 PM

Sounds to me like you may be doing too much too soon. Especially when it comes to the leg work.
For functional weight training (that is, weight training for sports performance rather than sheer muscle
mass) you generally don't need to do multiple exercises for one muscle group. If you're cycling as
well, you need to further reduce volume and frequencies and concentrate on basic strength
maintenance, core stability, and muscle balancing. Any of Tudor Bompa's books are excellent
resources for sports specific, periodized strength training plans. Ed Burke has also written some
very good material for cyclists. As well, Fred Matheny, former Team RAAM member and senior editor
for Bicycling magazine, now has a new website and e-publishing company at
He is putting out a ten or fifteen dollar e-book this fall on off season training for cyclists, complete with
a periodized weight training plan.

Whatever training protocol you settle on, remember that strengthening and stabilizing joints takes much
longer than strengthening a muscle itself. Which is why rather long adaptation and base periods are
often advisable in weight training prior to entering maximum strength phases. Hope this helps.
Jon makes an excellent pointpeloton
Aug 30, 2001 1:06 PM
Ligament and tendon tissue grows in strength at a much slower rate than does muscle tissue. If you have made some strength gains lately, it could be that your ligaments and tendons haven't yet caught up. That can be a cause of tendinitis and ligament sprains. That's the problem with exercise, is that sometimes the gains come slowly.
proper form and muscle balanceSkip
Aug 30, 2001 5:53 PM
Thank you so much (both Jon & peloton) for such insightful information. I have some books by Burke, but I will sure look for the others you mentioned. Very interested in the periodized strength training plans. Thanks!
proper form and muscle balancepeloton
Aug 30, 2001 7:47 PM
Keep us posted on how things work out. Good luck.