Author: Jim Cotton
As a whippet-thin road cyclist that suffers on the flats when the bigger, heavier riders go to the front and crank up the intensity, building leg strength and power has always been important for me. To address this, from the end of my peak season in 2018, and through til now, I’ve been supplementing specific bike workouts with sessions in the weights room in a bid to build muscle and explosive power.
My training involves just a couple of sessions in the gym a week, along with around 14 hours on the bike. I combine big compound lifts such as deadlifts and back squats to work the whole kinetic chain and build all-round robustness, with moves that require anaerobic ‘snap’ such as hang cleans and box jumps.
In the first months of returning to the gym back in October last year, I both loved and hated the sessions. I enjoyed the change of focus and a different type of challenge that lifting weights provided, but I loathed the after-effects. My initial sessions in the gym having not done any proper lifting since early 2018 left me with almost debilitating DOMS. I’d feel almost incapable of climbing stairs due to the pain in my glutes, or would be rudely awaken in the middle of the nights as my calves and hamstrings cramped. Sure, it was a sign of a solid session in the gym, but that soreness would impact hard on my ability to ride to any form of intensity the following day. And with that, my consistency and quality on the bike was suffering. Given cycling was my prime sport, I was considering jacking in the weights to allow me to progress and focus on the all-important bike sessions.
Riding with that feeling of muscular damage that is so unique to the soreness after lifting is no fun. Swinging my leg over the saddle to start a ride the day after the gym was occasionally enough to bring out a minor groan in pain as my battered glutes and hips were forced into action. No matter how well fuelled you are, or how perfectly designed your training plan is, you can’t perform your best on the bike when your legs are in shreds. The soreness would really throw the dampeners on my performance mentally – trying to ride at any intensity is hard enough on the brain as it is, and warming up already feeling battered was never a good way to start a hard session. And whatsmore, riding when still that sore from lifting would just impact my recovery time after the bike session, and it would all spiral out of control from there.
I’d been using AMP PR lotion for a number of years for my work on the bike, applying the cream before key sessions and events to hep buffer the build-up of lactate, and using it afterward to mitigate the ache and soreness of a hard day in the saddle – something that was crucial when racing multi-day events such as Haute Route. Initially I struggled to understand how the PR lotion would help me with lifting – I couldn’t help but associate the lotion with something specific to endurance athletes.
However, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The DOMs that I’d feel after a day racing my bike in the mountains is just the same from a physiological perspective as the DOMs I’d feel after nailing a new PR in the weight room. Lifting, just like cycling, causes a build of acidity in the muscles. The intense strain placed on specific muscle groups when performing any hard exercise in the gym would cause a production of acidic free radicals in the cells, which, if left uncleared, would cause muscle damage and soreness. The bicarb in AMP’s magic potion alikilinizes these toxins, thus mitigating one of the key factors that results in DOMs.
Now, I don’t want to go making out that AMP on it’s own mitigated the DOMs – I wasn’t able to just finish a workout, throw the weights down, slam on some lotion, and walk off fresh as a daisy. As I lifted more and more, I developed a range of tactics to keep the muscles pain free, enabling me to train as I’d wish on the bike. The recovery routine that seemed to work best for me included:
- A proper warm down, predominantly involving static stretching as well as some yoga flows for more active release.
- A short and super-easy spin on the bike – 10-15 minutes was typically enough
- It wouldn’t be a blog touching on workout recovery without mentioning it – the intake of protein soon after the session
- Muscular release with a foam roller and lacrosse ball
- And, of course, the application of AMP PR to all the muscle groups that I worked, immediately after my post-workout shower.
One thing I did notice was that applying the lotion as soon after the workout as possible, that is, immediately after showering at the gym (as opposed to leaving it until getting home or before going to bed), boosted the benefits. Catching and alkalinizing those free radicals whilst they were most concentrated and ‘freshest’ in the bloodstream prevented them from doing their damage, thus minimising the DOMs thereafter.
Before I transitioned to using AMP pre and post weight sessions, I’d see myself progressing in the gym, but losing training consistency and quality on the bike. Now I’ve taken to getting AMP-ed up before and after a lifting session, ensuring that all the working muscles are well treated, the DOMs is all but totally gone. I’m now able to incorporate my sessions in the gym into my training plan for the week, without having to worry about the deleterious effects that a weights session may have on the bike.
I’m now in the gym twice a week, and training just as effectively and un-hindered on the bike as I was before I got back to the gym work at the end of last season. And most importantly of all, I can feel the benefits of those gym sessions taking hold, with my lean muscle mass increasing, and my explosive power on the bike taking an upward curve.
Combining my gym work with a focus on short, maximal power efforts on the bike, perhaps I won’t be getting dropped so much this season. Thank you AMP for making me able to do both of these to my best ability.
About the author:
Jim Cotton is a British cycling journalist and passionate rider. When not writing for Cycling Weekly and Velonews, he specialises in racing European Gran Fondos and stage races. You can read more from him at www.mountainmutton.com