Leg press vs. squatting vs. one legged exercises

I’ve been weight training my legs a lot more seriously this off season more then I ever have before even when I was bodybuilding. I’m becoming a student of leg training lately trying lots of different leg exercises and thinking about the pros and cons of each exercise. I’ve learned a coupled things recently like

  1. I’m absolutely convinced at the effectiveness of leg strength training as part of well balanced training plan especially for riders not blessed with natural leg strength, I wont’ even waste my time debating with the cycling geniuses out there that say it doesn’t help. Only if your bike touring perhaps would I say the reward might not be the effort, but even for bike touring you could cycling with more comfort and be injury free, so it still has a place even in that example.  It’s pretty neat to be able to hold the same wattage for 45 minutes at a lower heart rate then which you struggled to hold for 10 minutes at your threshold only a couple months ago. Strength training is the missing link, at least  for me.
  2. Single leg exercises seem to put more stress on the knee with the exception of perhaps the box setup.
  3. But on the other hand single exercises seem to be great for muscular endurance phase as it reduces the chance that your cardio system fails before your leg muscles do. When you’re doing sets of 50 or 60+ reps and using both legs like in squats or leg presses etc. the demand of both legs needing oxygen and fuel can easily set you in the red zone and put your heart rate through the rough. I don’t do these sets with baby weights, these are very challenging sets that push your leg muscles to failure and beyond. When doing these challenging endurance sets I’m finding I prefer single leg exercises in particular box setups. Single leg lunges, or single leg smith machine squats all feel like they’re bad for the knee. I don’t like doing leg extensions either as that is not a sport specific motion and puts too much shear stress on the knee.  But I do appreciate the burn that leg extensions are good at inducing.
  4. I haven’t done box setups heavy yet, but I don’t think this exercise would be suited for doing it heavy.
  5. When I do go heavy as in the hypertrophy and strength phases of my off-season training I prefer doing heavy squats and very heavy leg presses. I feel much more secure and stable when going heavy with these exercises.
  6. I like the smith machine squats because I can get my legs more underneath me as I would be when pedaling a bike, I can also get my legs closer together as well as when riding on the bike. Trying to put my feet like this doing a normal free weight squat would having my falling forward.
  7. I also like the smith machine squats because you dont’ have to worry as much about balancing yourself and you can put all your effort into pushing, this is good and bad. Your core muscles and balancing muscles don’t get the same workout, but I’m trying to bike faster by pedaling harder, not winning a strong man competition rolling tires over hahaa.
  8. I find that super slow reps can be especially good during the strength phase as it seems to really dig into your muscle and trigger more motor units. If you’re going heavy and doing reps until failure then your last 1-2 reps will probably be super slow anyway, if they’re too easy then you need to put more weight on. For strength you don’t want to be doing more then 6 reps. If you get to 6 reps then put more weight on.
  9. I bet 80% of your strength improvement happens during the last 1-2 reps where you can barely push the weight and it’s slowly moving, I bet that is when your muscles learn to fire off more nerves and more muscle fiber is challenged. It’s almost like the first couple reps are to exhaust the strong muscle fibers and the last couple reps are to punish the weak that are still standing ahahhaa. This is probably why I had such great success with my rock climbing training when I did negatives and static strength positions, eventually I was able to do multiple one arm pull ups.
  10. I think you can and should incorporate some of your resistance and strength training on the bike itself. I think this works good more for muscular endurance and building up power and sport specific strength. I like doing sprints on the bike trainer, power starts, over gear work pedaling at really hard gears at low cadence. Hills, hills in low cadence gears.
  11. Single leg exercises are great, they are really good for helping to strengthen the shin muscle to prevent shin splints I noticed. As well as help with eliminating dead spots in your pedal stroke.
  12. The days after a really hard leg workout when your legs feel pumped but not necessarily stronger is usually because they’re swollen and healing from training, I like when they feel like this because it feels like they’re growing which they might be, but until that feeling of puffiness goes away I would rest before doing any hard leg session, swelling=microscopic damage=growth, if you train hard too soon then you’re just breaking yourself down again, remember training is the stimulus to improvement, real improvement happens during rest. If you’re not improving anymore instead of first trying to just ride more miles, think of ways you can increase the intensity of the miles you are already riding, this will increase the quality of the stimulus. Make your rests between intervals shorter, ride harder, ride faster, pedal faster, there are lots of things you can do to make your works more intense.
  13. I’m really starting to like doing heavy leg presses, we have two machines one  machine you’re basically lying flat on your back pushing up against the shoulder pads, the other leg press is a sled where you are sitting upright 45 degrees pushing up. They seem to be very different, even though at first glance you’d think they’d be the same.  Since we bike bent over and not standing straight up, I think the leg press sled at 45 degrees is superior, plus you don’t get those nasty shoulder hickeys from going heavy with weight o the shoulders. After doing a couple heavy sets with the 45 degree machine I was left with the impression that this is more sport specific to cycling. Also my legs where finally sore again the next day just like when I first started working my legs 3 months ago.
  14. I still like doing squats and smith machine squats, but I think I’ll be putting more attention to the 45 degree sled from now on. From what I read Lance only does leg presses as his coaches are worried about him hurting his back by doing squats, maybe he had a back exercise before I’m not sure, either that or they realize that his upper body and back muscles are not strong enough to handle his leg strength and the chance of injury is higher?
  15. I think that single exercises can be more sport specific to cycling then double leg motions since when we pedal we don’t push down on both pedals at the same time. That’s also another reason why I like single leg exercises. I think that it helps strengthen the core and balancing muscles that have to be strong when we pedal hard. I noticed that when I keep my upper body quite when riding and hold the trainer handle bars hard to keep my upper body as rigid as possible while pedaling that I notice that my wattage output usually goes up as more power is transmitted to the pedals and not lost in upper body motion and flexing. I think this also proves to myself that having strong core muscles is really important in riding faster especially when you start riding really fast and you’re pedaling with a lot more force and longer. Strong core muscles will help stabilize your body and let you have a none moving object to push off of when you push down on the pedals, as oppose to having something that bends and flexes when pressed hard that absorbs some of the pealing effort. I probably would not have learned this had it not been for training on the stationary trainer while having
  16. It’s important not to hold your breath when lifting weights especially when doing muscular endurance training when you have sets  with a high number of reps, you need that oxygen.
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