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  1. #1
    Tre1nt
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    How much weight for squats?

    I'm not trying to start a pissing match here! There's a good deal of interest in strength training in this forum -- I know not everyone agrees it's useful, but many do. If you're anti-strength training you might want to stop reading here.

    Enough disclaimers. Strength training appeals to me because I'm a time-strapped guy, and because I'm tall and skinny so generating leg force doesn't come easily. Mid 40s and racing sport/expert x-c. I'd like to move from front-pack sport to podium, and to mid-pack expert.

    At 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, I'm getting pretty comfortable with squats in the 135-215 lbs range -- twice a week I do something like this: 135X12, 185X10, 215X8, 215X6-8, 135X10-12. I'll also do 2X12 split squats holding 25 lbs dumbbells and 2-3 sets of hamstring curls (and some core/upper body stuff).

    My questions boils down to this: Is it better to focus on increasing the weights or increasing the reps at this point?

    At 225 lbs, I start to lose form. I squat to parallel -- not interested in going deeper -- and lightly touch a bench or box at the bottom of the movement.

    Hoping to hear from some experienced race-oriented riders ... would you say these weight loads show sufficient power for my racing goals? Or should I keep working on maximal force by upping the weights?

    One weakness in my plan is that I probably haven't done enough with cycling the lifting pattern -- I've gotten stronger so far by upping the weights and have not tried taking many step-back weeks, other than those dictated by job/family.

  2. #2
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    If your not going beyond parrallel... why are you doing squats? Do them right or don't do them at all....

    IMHO

  3. #3
    is turning a big gear
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketrepairguy View Post
    If your not going beyond parrallel... why are you doing squats? Do them right or don't do them at all....

    IMHO
    I agree with this.

    Try mid range weight, practice full range of motion, and do the exercise with some explosiveness/ power. The amount of weight depends on how strong you are and nobody on the internet can really advise you on that.

  4. #4
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    Higher repetitioins is what you want! Mountain biking is an endurance sport not strength. I would stay in the 15 to 25 reps. If you want to take it to the next level try burpees! Hated by many, love by very few.

  5. #5
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    I've done somewhat the opposite of what you're doing. I used to do leg workouts quite regularly and have since switched to cycling quite a bit. My body can't seem to cope very well with both at the same time. That said, I think my leg workouts helped immensely in building up a decent base of strength on which to grow my cycling legs.

    When I was lifting for cycling (and not riding nearly as much), I did quite a few more reps than you're outlining (i'd say use less weight). I am 6'2", 165lbs. I'd use plenty of machines as well, but my big focus was on the free weights. I think with squats and lunges alone, you will get 90% of the workout compared to adding the machines and calf raises and all that other hoopla.

    Squats (5 sets):
    135lbs x 20 for warmup, then 155lbs x 18, then 175lbs x 16, then 195 x 14, then 225 x 12

    Followed by lunges (probably the most painful and helpful of the leg workouts). I'd normally do lunges the length of the gym which probably came out to 25-30 reps x 4 with 110lbs on the straight bar. Use dumb bells for bonus points and to help w/ the traps and forearms (but it's harder).

    I also just went to parallel on squats. Going below that really seemed to put a hurting on my knees, but I know most of my friends that were much more into lifting ( and a lot stronger) would advocate going below parallel. Use the most weight you can while still attaining the high reps and decent form. That number will be different for everyone. I am positive there is no way I could do those weights now that I've neglected the gym for so long. On the other hand, I can pedal better now!

  6. #6
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    Hmm, I suppose I have a different opinion than everyone else, so here's an alternate:

    5x5 for the squats, bringing the weight up and hitting a peak around set 3-4, back down on 5 if needed. Squats are for strength! Stronger legs = harder inclines. Your legs will get more endurance training biking anyways. You don't have to blast your legs at the gym every time either. In strength training, less is more.

    And do your squats below parallel, as deep as flexibility will reasonably allow (don't just sag down, keep the body tight). You'll end up working your hips, hamstrings and glutes more from it.

    Other lifts in the gym that will help riding - dead lift, power cleans or snatch, push press. 1 solid set of 5 dead lift per week is sufficient, and then reps of 5x3 on the cleans/snatch, 3x5 or 5x5 on the push press. This will help develop more power in your body as well as strength throughout the most used muscles in mountain biking! Pull ups and dips are good as well.

  7. #7
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    I also have a different take on this.

    I think it depends on your weaknesses and your body type. Sure you're 6 foot-165, but you can easily be either a mesomorph or ectomorph at that height and weight.

    If you're a mesomorph (like me), than your lifting is probably better served improving your muscular endurance, which is higher repetition, lower weight.

    If you're an ectomorph, then heavier weight and lower reps may yield more improvement. In my observations, it seems that ectomorphs improve more by integrating weight lifting to their programs (like Thomas Volker, who added 5 kilos of muscle over the years and is riding better than ever).

    I believe you can't go wrong with 3 sets of 10-15 reps of various exercises (squats, dead lifts, lunges, step ups. etc.). It's enough weight to strengthen the tendons, ligaments, and support muscles thus yielding a more injury free season; but at the same time light enough to produce less injuries from the lift themselves (heavy lifting yields injuries, especially for those in their mid-40's who haven't lifted in a while). I'm in my mid-40's as well.

    As far as the depth of your squat, I'm in the school of Joe Friel which preaches specificity in lifting. Try to emulate the pedal stroke in your squat, which means, you are far from legs being parallel to the ground. You're above that point.
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  8. #8
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    The best way to build strength without building size is high weight and low reps. Though this may seem like a bad idea, I can guarantee you that doing this once or twice a week is going to help you. I would suggest something like 3 or 4 sets of 3 reps for both squats and deadlifts. Do both of these with quite a bit of weight. A lot of cyclists forget about them, but if you're doing strength training, do deadlifts. They are just as helpful in creating power.

    Also, the best way to complete blow out your knees is to go beyond parallel. Just a bad idea, and it isn't going to help you.

  9. #9
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    You might want to look at

    Dave Morris, 'Performance Cycling'. He has a thoughtful discussion (though no scientific evidence referenced) of how weight training should be integrated into a yearly training program.

    His philosophy is that weight training is mainly an off-season activity that begins with light weight and many reps, moves to heavier weight and lower reps, with the final phase being explosive movements with lighter weights. My impression is that he believes competitive cyclists should have a one time squat max of 2-3 times body weight.

    Morris argument for the benefits of leg weight training seems to have two parts...(my interpretation)

    (a) LT performance can be more easily improved if the force applied on the bike is a lower fraction of maximum force

    (b) stronger lower body musculature is better able to respond to high intensity bike training, with recovery times reduced because stronger muscles are less damaged by on the bike work.

    Morris is a proponent of high intensity training (and long rest times). The thing he keeps emphasizing is that you race like you train, so you better go fast in training. Thus, he de-emphasizes long, slow distance work, or base training, relative to Friel, so it may be that strength work is more important to the Morris approach than other training approaches.

  10. #10
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    I am by no means a super fast, super skinny elite racer. I'm a bulldog. 5'7", 170lbs. But I can jump on my road bike tomorrow morning and hammer out a sub 5 hour century. Call me a fast all mountain rider.

    During the winter, my leg workout consists of.....

    Deadlifts @ 185lbs +/- 50lbs - to bring balance back to the neglected hamstrings, constantly changing weight and reps for muscle confusion

    Squats @ 185lbs +/- 50lbs - constantly changing weight and reps for muscle confusion

    Jumping squats @ 135lbs - for explosive power, yeah, I accelerate like a Lamb of God song this season compared to my training buddies. !!DISCLAIMER!! if you don't know how to do these safely....DON'T

    I will do pyramid workouts as well, I really focus on not doing the same thing every damn day.

  11. #11
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    Thoughts from someone who squats deep...

    1. The blanket statement that squating deep will destroy your knees is foolish
    2. The deeper that you squat, the lower your weight should be.
    3. Most of us could stand up right now and squat down and touch their butts to their heels 30+ times and wouldn't hurt their knees.
    4. Most injuries from lifting weights come from increasing weight too much too soon or using bad form
    5. Lifting weights can strengthen joints as well as muscles, but your muscles will usually increase strength at a greater rate
    6. Deeper squats put more stress on your glutes and less on your quads
    7. Most cyclists (especially those who don't lift) have weak glutes
    8. The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body and help to drive the pedal down
    9. Squating deep and heavy puts a lot of stress on your hip and the BIGGEST risk is a labrum tear
    10. For those people who have never squated or squated deep, I suggest that you give it a try
    11. I also follow Joe Friel strength training methods
    12. Training methodology is partially science based, and partially faith-based (even my own). This is very evident when discussing weight training with cyclists.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark E View Post
    I'm not trying to start a pissing match here! There's a good deal of interest in strength training in this forum -- I know not everyone agrees it's useful, but many do. If you're anti-strength training you might want to stop reading here.

    Enough disclaimers. Strength training appeals to me because I'm a time-strapped guy, and because I'm tall and skinny so generating leg force doesn't come easily. Mid 40s and racing sport/expert x-c. I'd like to move from front-pack sport to podium, and to mid-pack expert.

    At 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, I'm getting pretty comfortable with squats in the 135-215 lbs range -- twice a week I do something like this: 135X12, 185X10, 215X8, 215X6-8, 135X10-12. I'll also do 2X12 split squats holding 25 lbs dumbbells and 2-3 sets of hamstring curls (and some core/upper body stuff).

    My questions boils down to this: Is it better to focus on increasing the weights or increasing the reps at this point?

    At 225 lbs, I start to lose form. I squat to parallel -- not interested in going deeper -- and lightly touch a bench or box at the bottom of the movement.

    Hoping to hear from some experienced race-oriented riders ... would you say these weight loads show sufficient power for my racing goals? Or should I keep working on maximal force by upping the weights?

    One weakness in my plan is that I probably haven't done enough with cycling the lifting pattern -- I've gotten stronger so far by upping the weights and have not tried taking many step-back weeks, other than those dictated by job/family.
    I used to be able to do widowmakers with 185 ATG..(I'm about your size, lighter now) That year I was finishing 35-40 minutes back from the sport class winners.

    I stopped lifting and rode more (been two years) and am racing expert now.

    I have no clue what I could squat.. but I can tell you how fast i can climb a hill.

  13. #13
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    i have had a decent year this year after recovering from breaking my neck and right patella last year. 3rd place in cat1 35-39 at Nationals with some other good results like winning the Kenda Cup West Series.

    i used to lift weights in high school and college, now i ride bikes.

    i don't lift at all, i ride my bike lots.

    some very high level coaches have posted on here in the past (LMN is one) and basically the general consensus is that time spent in the gym would be better spent riding.

    there are exceptions to this rule. i think my wife is one. but generally speaking lifting is not at all beneficial.
    My wife's website....
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  14. #14
    Tre1nt
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    Thanks to all who replied! I'm probably most persuaded by Poncharelli's advice. Bottom line for me is that I'm not interested in becoming a better weight lifter, I only want to be a better bike racer. Squatting beyond parallel, for instance, doesn't seem worth it when the risks/rewards are considered -- especially considering I was a competitive runner for 25+ years and switched to racing bikes because my knees and hips were breaking down from the run training! I'm more ecto than meso, so I'm going to stick with the lifting, keep the weights to what I can handle and bump up resistance when I'm ready. I'd love to train 5 hours a day on the bike and make everything super sport-specific but considering the time investment I think lifting is paying off well for me.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by LATAH_M.E. View Post
    1. The blanket statement that squating deep will destroy your knees is foolish
    2. The deeper that you squat, the lower your weight should be.
    3. Most of us could stand up right now and squat down and touch their butts to their heels 30+ times and wouldn't hurt their knees.
    4. Most injuries from lifting weights come from increasing weight too much too soon or using bad form
    5. Lifting weights can strengthen joints as well as muscles, but your muscles will usually increase strength at a greater rate
    6. Deeper squats put more stress on your glutes and less on your quads
    7. Most cyclists (especially those who don't lift) have weak glutes
    8. The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body and help to drive the pedal down
    9. Squating deep and heavy puts a lot of stress on your hip and the BIGGEST risk is a labrum tear
    10. For those people who have never squated or squated deep, I suggest that you give it a try
    11. I also follow Joe Friel strength training methods
    12. Training methodology is partially science based, and partially faith-based (even my own). This is very evident when discussing weight training with cyclists.
    Thumbs up to this

    At 225 lbs, I start to lose form. I squat to parallel -- not interested in going deeper -- and lightly touch a bench or box at the bottom of the movement.
    A big thumbs down on the box! That's a really a bad thing to do. Of all the advice you could get on your work out, the first thing you should do is get rid of the bench or box before you hurt yourself.

  16. #16
    lgh
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    When Steve Johnson ran the Human Performance Lab at the University of Utah, he suggested the following 12 week, off-season program (slightly modernized by me).

    BS = Basic Strength = heavy weights, 3-5 reps. Pick a weight you can lift 5-7 times max and then back off 2. Complete recovery between sets.

    H = hypertrohy. Pick appropriate weight for 11-15 reps to exhaustion, incomplete revocery between sets.

    3 weeks BS, 1 H
    2 weeks BS, 2 H
    3 weeks H, 1 BS

    Power development is done in a sport specific manner after strength development. Do some in-season BS twice a week.

    Steve is or was president of Cycling USA and is former World Masters Road Champion.

    Larry

  17. #17
    Tre1nt
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    Interesting -- how many sets?

  18. #18
    lgh
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark E View Post
    Interesting -- how many sets?
    H = 3 sets

    BS = 3-5

    In both cases, three sessions/week

    Here's a way to remember generic BS training. It's a 3-5 program: 3-5 times a week, 3-5 exercises, 3-5 reps, 3-5 minutes between sets. Which 3 exercises? You want a push, a pull, and a "core" (trunk). Add two if you are working on anything specific.

    My opinion is to skip any machine or isolation exercises unless you are rehabbing something. Be very careful of technique.

    Larry

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevemtu View Post
    Dave Morris, 'Performance Cycling'. My impression is that he believes competitive cyclists should have a one time squat max of 2-3 times body weight.
    3 times your body weight would be impressive, that's for sure. I think 1.5 - 2 times is more realistic. I'd have to squat 555 lbs. to get 3 times my body weight. My football playing son holds the high school record at his school for his body weight squatting one rep of 425 (deep squat). But his legs are about twice as thick as mine. I'm happy to build up to and eek out what I can which is more in the neighborhood of 1.5 times my body weight.

    I like Dave's book as well.

  20. #20
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    The guys that have BIG power on the bike have MASSIVE legs. Spartacus, Thor, EVERY track sprinter, etc and you can guarantee either ongoing or at some point they have built in weight training.

    However, who in the XC world has massive legs????

  21. #21
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    I'm not worried about developing massive quads anytime soon ... the more I lift the skinnier my legs get! Which is fine by me, so long as the ability to generate power keeps increasing.

  22. #22
    lgh
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    Quote Originally Posted by nathanbal View Post
    The guys that have BIG power on the bike have MASSIVE legs. Spartacus, Thor, EVERY track sprinter, etc and you can guarantee either ongoing or at some point they have built in weight training.

    However, who in the XC world has massive legs????
    Contador and LA have big power and do not have massive legs. Both are outstanding climbers and time trialists. I really doubt any of those non-track riders are lifting weights in any way that would make them bigger, if they are lifting at all. Weight is a big liability in their line of work. They are probably genetically predisposed to look the way they do. Also, lifting for strength does not increase size much. It is primarily a neuronal adaptation. Ex Fizz 101.

    Larry

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by lgh View Post
    Contador and LA have big power and do not have massive legs. Both are outstanding climbers and time trialists. I really doubt any of those non-track riders are lifting weights in any way that would make them bigger, if they are lifting at all. Weight is a big liability in their line of work. They are probably genetically predisposed to look the way they do. Also, lifting for strength does not increase size much. It is primarily a neuronal adaptation. Ex Fizz 101.

    Larry
    The difference between track sprinters and Tour de France riders is the same difference as 100 M vs marathon runners. Look at any short distance sprinter (or ice skater), and they have legs like body builders. Marathoners have legs like tooth picks. It is in the nature of the sport.

    Explosive maximum contraction for short duration - Anaerobic - fast twitch muscle fiber - best for muscle hypertrophy.

    Sub-maximal contraction long duration - aerobic - slow twitch muscle fiber - Not for developing size.

  24. #24
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    Hi Bruce

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    3 times your body weight would be impressive, that's for sure. I think 1.5 - 2 times is more realistic. I'd have to squat 555 lbs. to get 3 times my body weight. My football playing son holds the high school record at his school for his body weight squatting one rep of 425 (deep squat). But his legs are about twice as thick as mine. I'm happy to build up to and eek out what I can which is more in the neighborhood of 1.5 times my body weight.

    I like Dave's book as well.
    I thought that seemed like a lot of weight also. But there is the one point in his book where he discusses his personal application of the strength training principle as a competitive cyclist, where he says he developed a one time, off season, maximum squat 'over two times' his body weight. I'm guessing the that is not a deep squat, and most likely for squatting inside the rack (bar starting at the a low position, maybe even above parallel).

    I'm not even close...especially now in mid season. I have a lot of trouble doing heavy off the bike strength training in mid season. Really seems to require too much recovery when coupled with all the stuff that needs to be done on the bike.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by lgh View Post
    LA have big power and do not have massive legs.
    LA has pretty big legs compared to the guys he was out climbing. He's built like a mesomorph.

    Contrador is the real freak though. Skinny little guy who can TT with the big guys. that's pretty rare.
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