Hope for Gym Haters

Interesting study that may give a bit of encouragement to the more elderly of us that don’t like gyms or doing weights.

“… participation in RT [Resistance Training] remains low, likely due to numerous factors including time constraints, a high-perceived difficulty, and limited access to facilities and equipment.”

I’m not sure if that’s the case with cyclists or runners. There are quadrillions of videos and guides on how to do easy strength workouts with minimal time and gear.

Nevertheless, it would be great to organize a poll targeted at endurance athletes with a question like: “What is your excuse not to do resistance training?”. With answers, it would probably be easier to come up with ideas on how to persuade athletes of all ages to do some strength work.

1 Like

Would you class it as hate? I’d just describe doing weights, or visiting gyms as dull even though we know it’s good for us.

We often do the exercise we do because we enjoy it, not because it’s good for us. For instance I love rock climbing and the climbing wall is a great strength balance, stretching and flexibility workout. But asked to do the same with weights I’d be bored senseless.


I’m probably not the best case to illustrate this love/hate relationship, as I had been working as a personal trainer at the gym for some years. Though, this experience brought me to the point where I’m quite certain that most endurance athletes are not into lifting weights because of two main reasons:

  1. They see no connection between the work they do at the gym and their main sport (and that’s the problem with programming).

  2. Their strength workouts are not made to fit their (for a lack of a better word) personalities. To put it simply - there are more ways to skin a cat than doing the barbell squats for months.

Enjoyment would be a massive force bringing people to the gym, but we have to state something straight - enjoyment is a function of skill. To bring an example - I don’t enjoy swimming that much, as I’m not a great swimmer.

So I see a 3 step way to change endurance athlete’s approach to strength work:

  1. A coach should tailor the workout to make it fit the athletes’ personality and by doing this, frame the gym work as something cool and even fun.

  2. A coach should focus on teaching skills, so the athlete can get more comfortable working out - that’s when the enjoyment comes because you don’t feel that awkward doing exercises.

  3. A coach should be able to change the exercises in a way that keeps the athlete interested and makes all the process goal-specific.

After all, we’re not only enjoyment-driven but results-driven as well and even if one enjoys his strength work but sees no difference in his cycling or running, he/she would probably end up giving up lifting.

1 Like

I may not be the typical non gym goer but the main reasons I don’t go and I don’t like strength training are basically.
I. I don’t know where to start. I go to to the local gym and am “ inducted” by some young minimum wage personal trainer who ignores any information I give him and gives me the standard guff and workouts that he’s gives to everyone who he deals with. I get some perfunctory instructions as to how to use the machines. I wouldn’t trust him telling me how to use free weights, which brings me to:
2.Fear of injury which prevents me from doing what I love for a short or extended period of time. Every time I’ve started some strength training I’ve ended up hurting myself so to say I am wary would be an understatement.
3. What I need I feel is a limited period of time 1 to 1 with someone who knows what he is talking about and understands cycling and it’s unique requirements.
I appreciate the help of places like Fast Talk but realistically their market is not 66 year old complete beginners and I feel I need some hands help to show me the correct way to do things.
Youtube videos? Just looking at the muscle bound YouTubers puts me off.

I see what you mean, and that is exactly why the steps I’ve mentioned are all about stuff coaches need to do. I find it counterintuitive to blame endurance athletes, or any sort of athletes, for not being into weight training when those who should let them enter this world with ease are not doing their job effectively.

There’s a light at the end of a tunnel, though, as I see more books on the art of coaching. Just look at The Language of Coaching by Nick Winkelman. This whole book is basically about teaching coaches how to coach their athletes. How to speak in order to effectively teach movement.

1 Like

There are probably lots of gym users that would like to do more stuff like cycling, and feel exactly the same way about our sport - high cost of entry, lots of uncertainty over equipement and what/how to use it, and finding it tough when they start - remember when you first started riding and thought 10 miles was a loooong ride!

I think the right environment and right coach(ing) is key here. It’s taken me far too long to dust off my kettlebells and start throwing those around again. I even visited my local gym recently with a view to joining and was put off by the slight fear of not knowing what the heck to do with half the kit on display. It was also clear from my initial chat with the manager that he had no idea how to develop a programme for an ageing cyclist, although I’m sure he could have done a good job when it came to general health and fitness goals. I plan to try again at the end of this year with a view to a more serious period of strength training next off-season though, but I now know it will need to be driven by more self-study before I start and for me to walk through the door with more knowledge.

1 Like

There are many personal trainers that cater to over 40 or 50 people. I’d look one up.

I’ve been exploring resistance training these last couple of years. I’ve been intrigued by a few ideas sold by some strength an conditioning coaches:

  1. that you can be a faster cyclist
  2. that you could replace cycling time with less weight training and be just as fast

I also don’t really want to go to a gym and make it a big time suck. I just want something I can do at home 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes.

I’ve been doing a lot with dumbbells. One can do all sorts of squats, lunges and step ups. One can search google or youtube for body weight exercises and find all sorts of things. I also bought a kettlebell and have been experimenting with that.

I got a jump rope. I’m not sure if it helps the cycling but it’s kind of fun and it’s astonishing how much I’ve improved. I could barely do 10 jumpropes at first but now I can easily do multiple sets of 50 or more.

I’ve also been experimenting with blood flow restriction bands both on the trainer and using them with the dumbbells. There are lots of studies on them showing positive results.

The bottom line is that one can do a ton of stuff at home with minimal equipment. I didn’t even mention plyos, ballistic jumps, or band exercises.

1 Like

And that’s what I find to be a problem with many endurance athletes. As I’ve mentioned above - most of us see no transition between gains at the gym and results in the goal sport. It’s especially apparent at the first stages of strengthening, when most of the “strength gains” are actually movement gains. One is not getting stronger muscle-wise, but becomes better at given movement.

With your example - you most probably haven’t gained any “objective strength” but became much better at jump rope movement. You’ve learned to use the strength you have more effectively, and that’s mostly a matter of the nervous system. At that point, it’s pretty much impossible to transfer the gains to cycling, as the gains are specific to jump rope.

The actual strength gains would come weeks later, but for many, it would be too late - they’d simply quit strength training, finding no transition to cycling results.

So I agree - you can do all kinds of stuff at home with minimal equipment, but… see no true benefits with your cycling, running, etc. And it’s not like everyone would enjoy or have time for training experiments.


Thanks all. Your replies have inspired me to search out (ie Google) Personal Trainers in our local area. There seem to be quite a few one man bands who appear to be properly qualified who have equipped a gym in their garage or somewhere and are offering either 1:1 or small group sessions. I’ll check a couple out. I suspect they previously worked for commercial gyms and were furloughed during the lockdowns and have decided there is a market out there to go it alone.

1 Like

So, do you have any advice on when an endurance athlete will see gains in their sport? And what type of resistance training facilitate those gains?

FWIW, I’m reading Dr. Philip Skiba’s book right now. In the section on strength training, he says that:

the scientific literature runs 3:1 to 4:1 against strength training being any performance benefit to endurance athletes

He recommends a basic plan of strength and flexibility training mostly for health and injury prevention.

He does cite a few studies that show small benefits in performance. Hickson et al (1988) showed that TTE increased from 71 to 85minutes at 80% of VO2max for cycling. Running performance was unchanged despite a 30% increase in strength from the strength training.

He cites another study that showed an increased proportion of type IIa fibers and a decrease in IIx benefiting cyclists. He cites a couple Ronnestad studies that showed improved economy in cyclists, another that showed an increase in 5 minute power after 185 minutes of cycling, and another that showed a decrease in 40km ITT times. Finally he says that strength training can increase W prime.

He talks further about plyometrics being especially good for running and possibly showing some benefit in cycling.

My conclusion so far is that strength training will obviously be good for me but it probably won’t increase my FTP by 20%. But maybe it will increase my TTE by a small percentage.

I’m going to go back and read the studies he mentions but I haven’t got there yet.

I think this is why committing to strength training is hard for the average recreational athlete with maybe 8 hours per week to train. It’s hard to find that extra 2-3 hours per week to go to a gym. If one is an elite athlete then the commitment is probably worth the benefit of an 8% greater TTE or the better 5 minute power after 185 minutes. The later could obviously help one with that race winning move at the end of a race.

If you want to do strength training and don’t have the time to go to the gym, you can also squad at home.

First, I’d try to distinguish the exercises which are better at “mimicking” the way our muscles are used while cycling. Let’s stick with jumping rope as an example. It seems a fine choice for runners as it utilizes the stretch-shortening cycle, which means that most of our jumping power comes from using the energy of landing. It’s pretty much similar to the way we use our muscles when running - we’re jumping from one leg to the other, using the energy from every ground hit.

It’s not that similar to cycling movement, though. When you’re putting force on your pedals, your calf muscles are mostly used to stabilize the lower part of the leg, making the force transition from the quads as smooth as it can be. There’s no hitting on the pedal, so you are not able to help yourself with the energy from the landing, and the eccentric work of the quads is not loaded. What’s more, you work with your knee bent, so the power brought by the calves is covered mostly by the Soleus, not Gastrocnemious muscle.

And so that’s the first step - to make yourself a list of more and less cycling-related exercises. Those more related can be used as a benchmark to check your progress, and the less related can be used in a block of overall strengthening exercises or as a warm-up.

To put it all together - I’d much rather use jumping jacks as a warm-up exercise and not care at all about getting better at it, and focus my attention on an exercise like tempo half squats. “Tempo” means that I’d try to do the lowering phase slower and the extension as fast as possible. One can even add a little pause to reduce the benefits of a stretch-shortening cycle that normally appear when squatting dynamically.

Last but not least - we’re speaking about exercises taken out of context of full preparation, and we should all remember about that. The whole strengthening work should be based on rational progression, with the athlete’s experience taken into account. It may be that the athlete would have to start with air squats, then go through goblet squats and full-ROM barbell squats, building his/hers ability to lift correctly. Only then we can try heavy-loaded dynamic work.

Sooooo… it’s a really fascinating, but way too large a topic to simply put it into a couple of paragraphs.

In case it wasn’t clear, I never expected jumping rope to give me more watts. It’s just kind of a fun 5-10 minute warmup. :slight_smile:

This is interesting to me. I’ve been listening to Menachem Brodie. He talks exactly about this technique.

1 Like

Well, it is a good example for me as I really like to use jumping rope with my running athletes :smiley:

Speaking of tempo as a component of an exercise prescription - it surprises me that it’s still underutilized, though many coaches are speaking about it for years.

Anyway, I’m not fully convinced to elongate the concentric portion of a lift. It seems counterproductive, as the dynamics help to engage more muscle fibers. Elongating the eccentric phase seems fine as it promotes hypertrophy, but I can’t think of a single benefit of elongating the concentric, other than working with injured athletes with movement control problems.

For cyclists, you can do resistance training by changing gears and thereby cadence. Then the movement pattern is specific and any gains might transfer into actual race performance.
Everything off the bike should be chosen with care, or it might be a waste of time.

If there is little to none sprint in your target match (or target group ride) I wouldn’t spent to much time on it.

One might also consider the duration of the target event. If it is under 90 minutes, increasing maximal strength may benefit the entire ride if you spread out your W’.
But the again, you can practise sprints on the bike too.

I wanted to pick this topic back up. I was listening to an Upside Strength podcast (one of the many featuring Evan Peikon). Sorry, I can’t remember the exact one.

Anyway, it was just a small point in this podcast but the comment was about slow twitch hypertrophy. It had never occurred to me that you could weight train in a fashion to hit primarily the slow twitch muscles.

This sounds like the point of the tempo squats mentioned above.

It makes me wonder why I’ve never heard of a cycling coach talk about this. Is it just too esoteric or too far into the marginal gains area? It seems like this work should be a staple of endurance athletes.

I found this paper that talks about type I hypertrophy with <60% of 1RM and increased time under tension.


The importance of off-bike work was made clear last year on a 20%+ grade. The part that was complaining the most wasn’t my legs – it was my lower back.
I look to off-bike work to both enhance my cycling and to balance it. Cycling is a repetitive movement with a very limited range of motion. Overall fitness requires a greater variety of work.
If one hates gyms, one can do a lot at home with bodyweight/dumbbells, or go enjoy other outdoor activities. I’ve found hiking with a pack to be a fun way to work some of the lower body that cycling doesn’t. Paddling hits upper body and core. Cycling-specific exercises like single-leg bridges and squats and a variety of planks are easy to do at home, and one is unlikely to injure oneself with bodyweight exercises.
There’s definite benefit to lifting heavy – I can feel the difference with regular work with a squat rack – but don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

As a 40+ man I know strength training improves my performance and enjoyment on the bike and even more so running (less breakdown later in the ride and less back, knee pains when the milage goes up). But do I do it consistently? Nope. Why? Because it is mentally difficult and uninteresting for me… Even 20-30min. Since COVID I also usually only get 1 block of time a day to exercise so I always prioritize what I enjoy.

However I’m a lot more motivated after getting humbled on a recent ride. 200km, 4000m climb… My back was the weak link that stopped me hard at the end… So strength training it is