The current body of scientific literature on CT for elite cyclists shows mixed results for improved performance. Elementary heavy weight RT programs added on top of an athlete's current ET volume does not improve performance in trained cyclists likely because it is not sport specific and because the added training volume results in fatigue (2,9). It is reasonable to conclude from the limited evidence available that explosive training with 30-40% 1RM resistance benefits the performance of trained cyclists.
Despite our best efforts to give evidence-based recommendations on CT for improved road cycling performance, this systematic review does have its limitations. The small number of RCT that met our inclusion criteria limits our discussion to a relatively limited range of RT programs, but this does emphasize the fact that CT is implemented by coaches with little empirical evidence. Furthermore, the RT programs used may not have been ideally designed with attention to periodization or the incorporation of Olympic style lifts.
The 2 studies that showed no benefit to RT for elite cyclists added the RT program on top of the ET program (2,9), whereas the 3 studies showing improved performance replaced a portion of the subjects' ET volume with RT (1,8,19). It is possible that these high-level athletes could not maintain the increased training volume for 10-12 weeks, and fatigue or over-training compromised any benefits that may have been conferred from the RT. Additionally, neither Bishop nor Jackson incorporated explosive RT into their programs (2,9). Bastiaans suggested that performance was unchanged in the Bishop study because the training was traditional “slow” RT (1). It may also be that Bishop's periodized RT program consisted only of back squats with varied sets and repetitions and was not designed with sport-specific goals. Jackson et al. (9) emphasized the importance of maintaining a sustainable training volume, which could be a limiting factor in improved performance because neither Bishop's nor Jackson's experimental groups experienced a decrement in aerobic performance (2,9). Paton replaced a portion of the cyclists' ET volume, whereas others (19), such as Hickson et al. (8), added RT to the subjects' existing training volume, thus increasing the overall training volume.
Paton found that a combination of explosive and heavy RT improved 1 km and 4 km TT performance (19), but it is impossible to separate the performance improvements attributed to on-bike explosive training and off-bike RT. However, Paton was the only researcher to use a TT as a performance measure (19). The other studies used OHT, TTE, or short-term performance as outcome measures (1,2,8,9). Although these performance results are easily comparable in the laboratory setting, only the TT for a set distance is applicable to cycling competition.
It is important to note that the 3 studies with improved performance included explosive resistance exercises into their training programs, and 2 of the 3 replaced a portion of the ET volume with RT. The 2 studies that reported no change in performance used elementary training programs and added these programs to preexisting training volume.
The short duration of these training studies does not allow for speculation on the effects of long-term cycling-specific RT for trained road cyclists. Additionally, only Paton studied cyclists during a competitive season (19). The training phase and the RT program are 2 important factors to consider when designing a periodized RT program. Based on this systematic review of the literature, it is reasonable to conclude that cyclists should include an explosive RT program, similar to the protocol in the study by Bastiaans (1). Coaches, athletes, and researchers speculate on CT programs based on current strength training science. This systematic review creates a baseline of understanding so that as we move forward, we can build on our knowledge base. Future research should focus on the optimal percentage of RT to total training volume, frequency of RT, and the cost to benefit ratio to CT over the course of a season. Furthermore, future research would do well to evaluate performance such as set-distance TT as an endpoint rather than TTE, to determine which RT programs will elicit the greatest performance improvements in sport competition.
Cyclists are generally concerned with body mass and are often resistant to add RT for fear of increasing their lean body mass, which can hinder hill climbing, and any increased strength would be offset by the decrement in climbing performance on the road. However, current evidence suggests that well-designed RT programs can attenuate the reduction of type I muscle fibers and connective tissue (11). Although the body of evidence is limited, the authors recommend replacing a portion of an athlete's ET volume with explosive RT to increase TT performance and maximal power output and to minimize the risk of fatigue from an overwhelming total training volume.
The current RT paradigm focuses on sport-specific training to improve performance. A thorough understanding of the acute program variables (10) and the size principle (6,7) are of utmost importance when designing a RT program for highly trained road cyclists. Coaches and researchers designing future studies should use this systematic review as a starting point to design protocols that implement RT programs that emphasize heavier weight with low repetitions, Olympic style lifts, and plyometrics to increase force production and improve performance.
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