Could weight training hurt my ftp/aerobic power?

I usually lift 1-2 times per week year-round. I used to do it for injury prevention, and also power gains (I found it helped 1s-120s power, and just pushing bigger gears for longer - not very scientific but just my experience).

However since early March that has been put on hold because the gyms closed in the UK where I live. I just rode my bike and think I had some extra recovery from not lifting. I made big overall fitness and ftp increases 350w to 375w (393w for 20 minute test, and found workouts set off that new ftp doable). My 10 minute PB went from 365 to 410w too. Lovely stuff. Although my sprint has dropped a bit, from around 1400w to 1250w.

I’ve had a Vo2 max lab test two years ago and came out at 420w so think I may be approaching a genetic ceiling for my ftp. But I am hopeful there are still gains to be made given such big improvements over a short period lately (surely they’d slow down closer to potential?) and I may be able to increase vo2 max with more focused training (such as block periodisation). Moreover, I am 23 so still got some years before my best.

I’m around 72kgs but not that lean, have raced at 65kg before so think I could easily drop a few kgs and improve w/kg if I hit a plateau. Not fussed about that right now just trying to maximise fuelling workouts. Getting race weight in a year with no races seems pretty dumb imo.

Anyway, gyms have no re-opened. my question is: do I start going again? Initially I planned a good 4 week block of strength work (lifting 3-4 days a week, with just steady rides), to regain the strength I had lost before covid-19 lockdown. But I am now having second thoughts. I wonder if going back to the gym will change my muscle fiber composition, and potentially lower vo2 max (and increase glycolytic/anaerobic power). I put on muscle easily, so added weight might be a potential disadvantage (but in the UK more watts is better than a higher w/kg).

I’d like to build on or at least keep my new ftp, but at the same time being able to sprint is an excellent asset. I’m built like a sprinter, and have always been a more punchy rider, but think I have slowly changed that to more of an all rounder through training. I’d like to be good at something though; I think being an all rounder is a sure way not to win races and always fly under the radar getting top 10s.

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Perhaps the way that you weight train could have an effect on your FTP and Aerobic conditioning. I am a strong proponent of strength training for cycling. however, it takes some juggling and careful consideration to strength train and coordination with training rides and races for it to be effective. Strength train absolutely impacts fractional utilization of V02 max—without a doubt IMO.


thanks for replying.

would you be able to elaborate how to balance the two? or what kind of strength training you recommend, in order to minimise disruption in aerobic performance?

Can you describe for me or outline for me your typical weight training program? as well as the type of racing you compete in?

Typically lifting the evening before a rest day. So ~2 days/week. Typical session is as follows:

Warm up on rowing machine followed by activation exercises

Power Clean 3x3
(Low bar) Squat 5x5
Single leg leg-press 3x8

All done at as most weight as I can sustain good form for all sets. Above are working sets (will also do lighter warm up sets)

I am competing in flat/rolling road races 3-4h long.

Thanks Jimmy, That is some high explosive heavy lifting—not bad. Although I totally understand the argument for this type of lifting even in an endurance sport. I would recommend dialing it back some and add an extra day of lifting. 2 days a week is ok for maintaining but 3 days a week is what is needed to build.

The warm up on the rower is good or a stationary bike. certainly get more body parts involved on the rower–remember its just a warm up.

could i suggest 3-5 sets of 10-12? start at 3 sets of 10 and use increased sets as your first method of progression then an incremental increase in weight --(rinse and repeat)

perhaps add in crunches, or planks, or quadruped core work as rest time between sets. or even some Turkish get ups

mix in some straightleg dead lift

i prefer Bulgarian split squat over the single leg but both work unilateral strength.
another accessory exercise is hamstring curls and seated leg extension. both can be done unilaterally or bilaterally.
add in a cool down on either the rower or spin bike.

Lastly, and this is purely anecdotal, I notice that I often ride better or with no drop off AFTER I lift. the sooner the better. The next day as you know is when you will feel the hit. I recommend a recovery ride for your “rest” day.

I once was a sportsmedicine professional for the US olympic weightlifting team. they only use about 6 different exercises for training. and they never performed for than 6 reps. most of the time it was about 8 sets of 3. the reason that I have mentioned this is because it illustrates the principle of specificity of training. their competition requires a 1 rep lift in only 2 activities. they don’t need to perform at hundreds and thousands of reps. Cyclists however do. the way that a cyclist will get his gains in the weight room is from low weights high reps, frequency per week and consistently over time. lower intensity makes it more practical and to sustain that needed consistently.

In addition to all of that. The ability to be flexible in your training helps. If you foresee possible disruptions in your training on the bike due to injury, weather, work or social commitments then perhaps you can shift your lifting days around so that your rest time is coinciding with the disruptions. Also as with ALL training types —when race days approach you need to taper your work load to have fresh legs and more optimal form. remember though your recovery from a lower intensity/lighter resistance and higher reps will likely be improved.


Resistance training increases glycolysis rate regardless of volume load ( If you believe in VLamax… stopping gym workout would reduce your VLamax and increase your lactate threshold…


Hi Jimmy, this topic is interesting. Do you mind telling how you are doing right now? Did the gym work increase your VlaMax? thanks