Noob question: How much does leg strength actually matter?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by AyeYo, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    Before I got into biking a year ago, I assumed having strong legs would make biking cake. Obviously that gets proved more wrong with each passing day of riding and the more reading I do about cycling training. Now I'm beginning to wonder if leg strength really matters much at all. I don't see much about racers doing significant weight training or at least not anything someone coming from a weight lifting background would consider significant. Does leg strength really matter or can someone with relatively weak legs but a strong cardio system easily out-bike a person with very strong legs and a lack of cardio training? I've consistently seen with my owning riding that my legs are often the last part of my body to get tired - whether it's normal group riding, hill climbs, or sprints, my legs do not feel taxed at all. It's always my heart/lungs/etc. that gives up first. Is this normal for you guys that are experienced cyclists or is this a sign of someone with an unbalanced body/unbalanced training?
     
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  2. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    You are on the right track by your observation. Cycling is an endurance sport and virtually on the opposite end of the force/velocity curve of strength training and "strong" legs. I am a former competitive lifter and lifting is still a high priority in my general fitness training just to let you know.

    Most of us have plenty of real life examples all around us to observe the obvious. For me I have seen plenty of very lightweight fragile in appearance dominate over someone like myself that has a lot of leg strength. Even from little children as an example that you don't have to put the child through a strength program in order to prepare them to ride a bike for the first time. I have a coworker that is a high level triathlete that is about a step away from looking anorexic and yet trains with guys that are naturally much more muscular and strong. Yet that doesn't hurt her ability to drop most of them and me. Her endurance training for many years and not strength is what helps her win.

    Some will claim that strength training in endurance cycling is necessary to be "balanced", but I think you will find that the majority of those who step up the ranks as a Cat level cyclist do quite well with simply sports specific training.


    I am sure someone who doesn't even lift seriously will want to chime in and say, "well cyclist "x" lifts and here is a picture." I would stick to what you are starting to observe that leg strength does not play a primary role in endurance sport.

    Best wishes
     
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  3. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    If the distance is beyond one kilometer, most likely. The chart below shows that beyond one minute or so the energy required to propel the bike forward is generated primarily from the aerobic system.

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    That's an interesting chart and explains why I can accelerate to 30+mph from a stop like a boss and then fall flat on my face (almost literally) after about ten seconds of trying to keep going that fast. Does that approximate curve hold true at any constant power level or is that assuming a sprint that dies out into a sustainable steady pace?
     
  5. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to take a guess and say it's referring to constant power. But your observation of ten seconds is valid... the energy delivery the body requires for a sprint (which comes from the ATP system) is depleted within 10-20 seconds.

    The key is developing the cardio system and riding skills (i.e. drafting) to deliver one to the finish line relatively fresh, which may be 40-100 kilometers away, so that then the ATP Creatine Phospate "nitrous" for a killer sprint can be tapped into. Mediocre cardio may deliver one to the finish line with the bunch but if the rider has spent too much time at redline on the way, there won't be anything left for the final punch.

    Getting your cardio up is as simple as adding lots of "slower" riding (65-75% of your maxHR for an hour or two) at least 4 or 5 times a week. 3x/week may be fine for general health but 4x/week or more is required to be fast on the bike. To be really fast some specialized training in different zones is needed.
     
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  6. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    That makes perfect sense. Thanks for the dumbed down explanation lol. Some of this training reading is written 100x more complicated than it needs to be for anyone that's not a doctor or physiology student. I was doing the 4-5x week multi-hour rides last year at a good pace, but nothing ridiculous. If this winter ever goes away (just got more snow today, wtf) I'm hoping to get back to it again. My beginning of season and end of season shape last year was night and day. After a long winter where the gym and crying about the cold took priority over the fluid trainer, I feel like I've lost the ability to put down any type of power for any length of time (asthma isn't helping either). Hopefully it comes back quickly. This is only my second year riding away, so long way to go training wise.
     
  7. Belovedad

    Belovedad New Member

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    Strong legs don't necessarily mean biking gets easier. Your legs being stronger only brings more power to go faster. If you have no stamina then your biking won't improve with just stronger legs.
     
  8. Kakashi

    Kakashi Active Member

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    It has to be balanced, you need leg power and upper body strength as well as stamina. You have to balance these three factors. Jogging, sprinting, and swimming are good activities to strengthen your body in cycling.
     
  9. reighn

    reighn Member

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    Yeah, you're right. It's not about he legs, it's not about the muscles, it's all about your cardio. Not all muscle man are strong it's all about the stamina. If you will push your self to the limit using your bike, you need to have a great cardio and not the leg.
     
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  10. Kakashi

    Kakashi Active Member

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    I learned a long time ago that having a pumped up buff frame you know, the body builder, muscle man type, doesn't mean that it'll help in cycling. For me it's all about stamina and the right muscle tone. Runners and swimmers make better cyclists than bodybuilders and weightlifters.
     
  11. treecko142

    treecko142 Member

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    Yeah, cardio really matters if you want to last longer and bike for further distances; I think strength matters but when you're going for speed, which won't really help you on the road since you want to bike for longer distances.
     
  12. ballyhara

    ballyhara Member

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    As many have said, is not about how strong your legs look, but how much endurance they have. So, if you want to improve you have to work on your basics, and you have to increase your resistance. One way to do it, is by working on cardio for legs, maybe swimming, walking, running. Also, is not about killing yourself for hours, but to increase minutes day by day, so you can gain resistance in a progressive way.
     
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