Strength train this way for maximum watts

You need to challenge your muscles on a variety of levels to build more strength, power and stamina.
You need to challenge your muscles on a variety of levels to build more strength, power and stamina.

As a cyclist, you’d never saddle up and spin 25km/h around the same 50km loop three times a week expecting to make measurable fitness gains.

Yet many riders do just that in the gym: We go in and lift things up and put them down 10 times, rest, repeat, and wonder why we don’t seem to be getting any stronger.

Just as you need to vary your intensity on the bike with intervals, endurance and threshold rides to improve your fitness, you need to challenge your muscles on a variety of levels to build more strength, power and stamina.

You can start shaking it up – and boosting your results – right now by using a training method called daily undulating periodisation (DUP for short).

DUP training mixes high- and low-intensity exercise as well as volume into the same week, surprising your cycling muscles every workout with different sets, reps and weights.

In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, exercisers who followed this type of undulating plan for 12 weeks increased leg-press strength twice as much as exercisers who followed a more traditional strength training plan without weekly variation (56% versus 26%), though both groups performed identical training volume over the course of the study.

“By constantly challenging your muscles in different ways, they continue to adapt, so you’re less likely to hit a plateau,” says study author Wayne Phillips, PhD.

You’re also less likely to get bored. Here’s how it’s done.

Schedule your training days

The best training plan incorporates three degrees of strength workouts. On light-weight days, perform two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. On medium-weight days, perform three sets of 8 to 10 reps. On heavy-weight days, complete four sets of 4 to 6 reps.

Simply rotate through leaving at least 24 hours between strength training sessions.

Do the moves

You can apply DUP programming to your current strength-training regimen. Or try the quick-hit, cycling-specific workout below to put more power in your pedals, pronto.


If you want to ride longer, harder, try the squat: the king of cycling moves. One study found that cyclists who added squats to their regular training routine improved their cycling time-to-exhaustion at maximum aerobic power by 17.2% after just eight weeks.

Woman doing a squat in the gym

Do it:

1. Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly out. Hold weights at your shoulders or down at your sides.

2. Push your butt and hips back as if you were sitting in a chair and lower down as far as possible while keeping your weight on your heels.

3. Return to the starting position and repeat.


This often-overlooked move targets the glutes – notoriously weak muscles in cyclists – making you more stable and powerful in the saddle.

Man doing a deadlift with weights.

Do it:

1. Hold a barbell in front of your thighs, arms extended, palms facing in.

2. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and lower the weight toward the floor; allow your knees to bend slightly.

3. Keep the weight close to your body and lower it until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor.

4. Contract your glutes and push your hips forward to return to the starting position.

Plank row

The plank row is a must-do move for endurance cyclists. It develops core strength, upper-back strength and the stamina needed to support your torso during long days in the saddle.

People doing plank rows

Do it:

1. Assume a push-up position with your hands holding the handles of two dumbbells so the weights run parallel to your body. Position your feet hip- to shoulder-distance apart; the further apart they are, the easier the move.

2. Keeping your back straight, pull the right dumbbell to your right side, while pressing the left dumbbell into the floor for balance.

3. Return to the starting position and repeat to the other side. Alternate for a full set.

This article was originally featured on

Image credits: iStock

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