• Ally Mackay

Personal Training. Week 10: Muscle Mass

Hello and welcome to the ADAM COPLEY: PERSONAL TRAINING weekly blog.

Here you will find weekly updates designed to educate you on strength and conditioning for cycling. Over the coming weeks I will be covering all aspects of conditioning your body for cycling and how it can benefit you in terms of comfort, speed, and improving your riding. So, without further delay. Let’s get right into this week’s entry!

As a personal trainer and a cyclist, I am fighting a constant battle with muscle mass and weight. I feel like I need to have a certain amount to look like a viable personal trainer, and it is how I want to look. But I also don’t want to be too heavy that it hinders me on the bike. I usually sit at around 170lbs and that’s a weight I feel gives me the best of both worlds. So in this weeks blog I am going to cover three factors that having muscle can effect positively and negatively. Let’s go:

1: Aero dynamics vs power output:

This is an interesting one. Can having a larger frame ruin your aerodynamics, or can producing more power overcome that?

As a 70kg rider with a typical Triangular shape. I would not consider myself a monster of a man, but my frame is less “aero” than your generic cyclist frame. However, I don’t feel this is a particular hinderance to me when descending as I can regularly descend faster than lighter riders with a more streamlined frame. As a rider who weight trains, I also put out a decent number of average watts and can produce a maximum wattage of roughly 1300 watts for a few seconds. So does this compensate for what I lose in aero?

Ultimately, I don’t have the resources to find this out but I would be very interested to dig into this.

Personally I would say that if you have an athletic frame, one that is typically triangular you aren’t overly hindered with your aero and it can actually benefit you in more ways than power output.

Comfort on the bike, strength when handling the bike over potholes and unexpected movement to name a few. Overall, I would say if you are worried about these fine details then have a look at cyclists out there and try not to worry too much about what will happen if you develop too much muscle. It won’t happen overnight, and you can always downsize (I went from 220lbs to 170lbs). Lets move on to efficiency:

2: Efficiency:

A person who has more muscle mass, will need to eat more calories through the day regardless of exercise. So, when you put this person on a bike, where you can easily burn over 3000 calories in one ride you could potentially be asking for trouble if you don’t fuel right. To get this right, and this goes for any size person You need to make sure you know roughly how many calories you burn per X number of miles. For example:

I like to work in 20’s. I know for every 20 miles I ride I burn roughly 1200 calories. This means that over the course of a 60-mile ride (this is my usual nice weather road ride distance) I will burn around 3600 calories. Meaning before I ride, I have to fuel my body up, and during my ride I have to keep eating (I talk about this in last weeks blog). This also means that after a ride I have to keep this calorie limit in mind, so I don’t under eat and ruin my recovery. Eating with the fuel mindset means that before you ride you fill up your tank, during the ride you keep this topped up and afterwards you get enough nutrients in to make sure you can last the day without burning out, and also get enough calories in so your body can use them to recover.

If you have more muscle mass you will need to keep an eye on this as your calorie needs will be higher than lighter, less muscled riders. Not a bad thing, but just be aware that eating for an endurance sport is COMPLETLEY DIFFERENT to eating for aesthetics and keep those calories in mind.

3: Strength:

Leg strength is probably the main thing people associate with training in the gym for cycling.

But it isn’t always about that. Yes, having more muscle in the legs will allow you to put more power down on the sprints, or having more endurance in the legs will allow them to perform with less strain on the hills.

Having a stronger body will also make your riding more comfortable as you will feel less strain being stuck in the same position for an extended period of time. This will help with lower back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain. This is all about the core. And stopping the thoughts that core work is all about the abs. See the core as the can, your whole torso if you will. That means to train your core you have to train your lower back, upper back, abs, shoulders and traps (essentially the whole of your upper body). It is also worth mentioning here that a lot of people who like to train love having a great looking chest. While this is pleasing to the eye, it can also hinder your posture and position on the bike if you don’t balance it out. I like to work on a 3:1 ration with my athletes, so for every 1 frontal exercise I will do 3 rear exercises. This emphasises good posture and allows the person to bring the shoulders back. Resulting in a stronger riding position and more muscular endurance for the long days on the bike.

And there you go, three little facts about having muscle and how it effects your cycling. As always, I would love to hear from you, and see what your thoughts are. Are you a “typical cyclist” or are you a hulk of a man?

Let me know and as always.

Stay safe, ride well.


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