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upper body muscle mass and leg strength development(12 posts)

upper body muscle mass and leg strength developmentcollegiateryder
Dec 4, 2003 5:02 PM
hey all,

ive been riding steadily for the past 4 months and dropped my weight by roughly 15 lbs from this summer. my current stats are 5'6 142lbs at approx. 8% bodyfat. i still managed to maintain some upper body mass in my chest,shoulders, and back through strength training but it seems that upper body mass serves little purpose in cycling. if i drop that weight i will be able to get down to the low 130 lbs range. i wouldnt change my diet, id just stop the upper body training at pushups and light high rep work.

ive come to the conclusion that this drop in weight will be far more effective in improving my riding (assuming my fitness keeps improving) than any weight-saving or aerodynamic upgrades to my bike could possibly be.
am i heading in the wrong direction here?

also, ive been training a lot but i dont feel any stronger than when i started, i just feel more fit. my heart is definately stronger because i recover from hard efforts much faster than i did 4 months ago but i dont feel like i am able to put out more force per stroke. ive been doing squats over the past month and a half to remedy this but it seems like this is only slowing my pedal turnover and not helping me develop more force. to illustrate this ill give you an example of a sprint ive been doing. its about 100 meters long. i did it 2 months ago from a standstill and was able to reach 31 miles per hour (yeah i know thats slow but im not a big guy). i did it today and got up to 28mph. that doesnt make sense to me. i know conditions like wind and how hard i had ridden prior to the sprint affect( two 10 minute intervals mixed with a regular 2.5 hr ride) it but in four months i should have been able to overcome those factors, no?

should i discontinue the squats and focus totally on harder gears to develop on-the-bike strength?

i apologize for the long post and for appearing to be totally ignorant of these things but ive only been involved in road cycling since the end of summer so have patience.

thanks in advance for any help.
Drop the upper body weight...zero85ZEN
Dec 4, 2003 8:37 PM is useless in cycling.

Last season I went from 142 pounds in the May to 135 by July (I'm 5'10) and the difference in my climbing ability was amazing. Training every day and going to bed a little bit hungry every night is a great formula for cycling fitness.

Leg strength can be improved with proper interval training. Keep your cadence high, its more efficient. As a former racer once told me, spin first, then spin bigger gears, that's how you go fast.
As Tyler shows, the upper body is of no use....Bruno S
Dec 4, 2003 10:08 PM
If you can drop several pounds of upper body muscle it will help you more than upgrades to your bike (At least it will be cheaper).

As the picture shows, pro-riders aim for the T-Rex look and do not carry anything that weigths more than a couple of pounds.
He's not grimacing from the effort it took to win a 200 km stagehrv
Dec 5, 2003 8:39 AM
but rather the effort it's taking him to hold that hand up with those girly arms!

Lose the weight, see what happens. Worse thing is you'll be struggling to do simple things like brush your teeth!

Might be gaining climbing power and losing sprint power at the same time, need to be careful. Not many people can excel at both.

As Tyler shows, the upper body is of no use....BikeViking
Dec 5, 2003 10:48 AM
Cycling is a HOBBY for the most of us! As much as I love the powerful aerobic system and legs, I don't want it at the expense of having a "most girls could kick my a$$" upper body!

No offense ladies!! :o)

Well, yeah--but are you just a cyclist, or a human with a life?Cory
Dec 5, 2003 9:44 AM
Upper body weight is probably wasted for a cyclist (I used to carry about 30 pounds of it, and I know it didn't do my cycling any good at all). At least for me, though, maintaining strength with weights makes the rest of my life so much more pleasant that it's well worth the tiny loss (if there is one--I'm talking about tone, not 12 pounds of pecs). I notice it every day, in everything I do from lifting my bike onto the rack to getting dishes down from the top shelf. That guy in the picture looks like he couldn't comb his hair without a spotter
re: upper body muscle mass and leg strength developmentMShaw
Dec 5, 2003 10:19 AM
Depemding on what kind of racing/riding you're doing, it may or may not make a big difference losing the upper body.

If you predominately race crits, I wouldn't bother. In fact, having an upper body may be slightly advantageous. Weight isn't quite as big an issue, its aerodynamic efficiency THEN power to weight ratio.

Climbing races/rides are another story. Any and all weight that is extra on your frame is slowing you down. Check out for more info on this one. I outweigh a friend by 50#. If he and I were to put out 250w climbing a 3km hill, he'd be ahead of me by about 250m at the top... I think I figured out I need to put out 350-400w to keep up with the little bast@rd!

Are you doing these inteval/sprint rides now? While lifting? If the answer is yes, STOP! Pick one or the other, not both. Your legs are being broken down lifting, then not being allowed to rebuild because you're out hammering. If you're lifting heavy, ride slow and concentrate on spinning.

Actually, if you're doing interval and sprint rides right now, stop anyway. Unless you're racing for something serious in Jan/Feb now is not the time to be doing intervals/sprints. Save that for Feb/Mar if the racing season starts in Apr/May. More is not always better!

There are several workouts on the bike that simulate sprints. One is going up a moderate hill (3-5%) in a big gear (big enough that you're only turning 40-50rpm) keeping your heart rate below 60%. Go up the hill for 10min, rest for 5min, repeat 5x. Once you get into the meat of training season, go ride around for half an hour, then repeat the hill intervals.

Best piece of advice I can give you is to talk to a coach. They'll be able to help you channel your workouts to a specific purpose rather than shotgunning things. Worst case, go buy Friel's book and program out your own year.

That help?

Question for you, collegiateryderwaynebo
Dec 5, 2003 12:45 PM
It is admirable that you want to improve as a cyclist...but at what cost? You want to drop into the low 130's? That is pretty skinny at 5'6". I do not see a strong correlation between bodyweight and success in cycling. You either have the engine or you don't. Look at Armstrong, Ullrich and Indurain. All at least 155#. LA and JU were dropping guys 15-20# lighter in the big mountains...why? They got the engine and tremendous strenth to weight ratio. Why sacrifice your upper body strength? Look at X-C skiers. One guy, a Swede named Per Eloffson is 5'10 and 165#. He ran a 10k in which he averaged sub-5:00 miles. Sure he'll never win a marathon but he'll smoke the Ethiopians in a 10k X-C race because their pathetic upper bodies. He rides too and I bet he'd do quite well in a classic. Course his VO2 max is in the lower 90s and a World Cup champion but I think you'll catch my drift.
You don't see a strong correlation between...zero85ZEN
Dec 5, 2003 1:42 PM
...body weight and cycling? Have you ever watched a pro bike race? Come on, man. Lance Armstrong has won 5 Tours because he is 20 pounds lighter post cancer. And it is all in his upper body where he lost that weight. News Flash for you, Armstrong's 155 pounds is carried mostly in his LEGS. Check out his upper body in July and see if there is much there. And you seem to be forgetting how Ullrich struggled in the mountains.
If you are going to cycle up hill then power to weight is EVERYTHING. And a guy that is 5'6" and is a cyclist SHOULD be in the mid to high 120's if he is going to be a great climber. Tyler Hamilton is an EXTREME example. I'm slightly over 5'10" and weigh around 135 when I'm in top cyling shape and I don't look even close to as skinny as Hamilton. Just do some push-ups in the off season every day and you will avoid looking like Tyler.

If you don't cycle up any inclines upper body weight doesn't matter one wit.
You don't even need big legs...Dwayne Barry
Dec 5, 2003 3:32 PM
I bet half the cat 4's in the country have legs just as big and strong as Armstrongs. Endurance is about being able to produce a long force over and over and over...

Which is dependent on the fatigue resistance of the muscle, which is primarily determined by the cardiovascular and muscular adaptations that lead to increased oxidative capacity. Oxidative capacity of a muscle would probably be reduced by increasing its size (and therefore strength).

I'm with you, if you want to ride faster lose weight, until you're ripped with lots of veins showing you're not skinny enough.
re: upper body muscle mass and leg strength developmentxxl
Dec 5, 2003 2:29 PM
Are you looking to race? IMHO, upper body mass/strength is really quite useful to the nonracer (i.e., the vast majority of us), as it's going to help prevent crash-related injuries. Those upper body muscles don't just look good, they help hold things together. Of course, if I were getting paid for my times, I'd probably go for the Dachau look, too, because the upper beef will slow you down a tad. As for boosting your strength, you'll find all sorts of advice on what to do, but it really boils down to your goals, and body type. Training fads come and go, so take what you are told with a grain of salt. BTW, do you think you'd really drop that much weight upstairs if you scaled back to pushups and high rep stuff? You're pretty lean now, and ten pounds seems like a lot, but you know your body better than anyone. Personally, I'm a big fan of pushups and high reps; strength without too much mass, perfect for the club cyclist.
re: upper body muscle mass and leg strength developmentcollegiateryder
Dec 5, 2003 4:38 PM
i appreciate all the replies guys,

im actually gonna be racing in the northeast this spring, all Division I collegiate. probably starting out in Category C doing both crits and road races. I think im gonna stop the squats right now because they make my legs feel like deadweight when im in the saddle. it makes the most sense that on-the-bike strength should be developed on the bike.

and to reply to xxl, i think ive come to the descision that ill keep the upperbody weight and just work on building my legs with hard riding.

thanks for the patience guys, this board rules.