For years I've heard trainers and instructors tell me it's not enough to run or cycle without lifting weights. Now, as someone who would pick a session of cardio over walking into a gym and reaching for dumbbells any day, this wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. I always assumed the reasoning behind this was a universal trainer goal of getting more people — women especially — to lift weights, but I decided to consult a cycling instructor to get to the bottom of my curiosity.
According to Maddy Ciccone, Master SoulCycle instructor and fitness influencer, one of the biggest advantages of pairing your cycling session with strength training is to avoid injury. "Nine times out of 10, if I am having lower back or hip pain, it's usually stemming from my body overcompensating because my muscles are not actually strong enough to take on what I'm doing," she explained. "Thus the saying, 'You can't cardio yourself to death' because you'll overcompensate in your ligaments or end up injuring yourself in some way shape or form."
So although trainers and instructors may have been secretly trying to get me to lace up my UA Project Rock 3 Training Shoes ($140) and hit the weight room, their real reason for suggesting strength training was actually to help me get strong enough to avoid injury.
According to Ciccone, strength training by itself is completely different than using the lower pound hand weights that so often accompany a cycling class. The reason being, instructors still want your heart rate up while cycling and using hand weights.
Some strength-based exercises she suggests to get stronger legs outside the bike include squats, deadlifts, and leg presses. And if you want to use dumbbells, she suggests 10 to 15 reps of Bulgarian split squats with a 10-pound weight or 20 walking lunges with a 10-pound weight.
What's more, it's a good idea to also work on your core so your abdominal muscles remain strong so you can maintain proper form while on the bike. So while it's always good to strength train to have a well-rounded workout, it's actually more important to do so to avoid injury and pain.