Strength and Conditioning for Cyclists is a nicely laid out introductory guide to improving your core strength, and improving your mobility and flexibility. The prose can be a little heavy going, but persevere and all becomes clear(er).
Sitting at a desk all day and then on a saddle for much of the weekend isn't great for your body, and with this book, Phil Burt and Martin Evans look to help you improve your flexibility, mobility, and basic functional strength. It's apt that the bike is sub-titled 'Off the Bike Conditioning for Performance and Life' as this really is a topic that should be focused on to not just improve your cycling, but also your general wellness.
The book works around a central assessment – a set of exercises that you are led through via a series of diagrams and explanatory text. You then 'mark yourself' to have passed or failed the various exercises based on the criteria laid out in the book. This then allows you to follow a flow chart which guides you through the exercises and movements that you need to work on to address your weaknesses.
So, for example, if you fail in one assessment area the flow chart will take you to a beginners' 'ironing out the issues' exercise, whereas if you pass an area, you are advised to start work on a specific, more advanced exercise.
Throughout the initial steps of the programme, minimal equipment is required, and that which is necessary is cheap and easy to have in the home – for example a swiss ball or set of stretching bands.
The 'end point' of the whole process is the full-on strength training section at the end of the book, which requires some more specialist equipment, though all of these are items that you could easily have in a small home or flat – no full-scale home gym required!
The book's method of guiding you through a home 'programme', with a clear sense of progression, is clever and satisfying. However, the progression element lies entirely on your own judgement of whether you have passed or failed an assessment step. And herein lies the tricky thing with all conditioning work – you can't always be a hundred per cent sure you're doing a certain exercise, stretch, or manoeuvre correctly unless you have an expert's eye on you.
Your body has clever ways of taking the path of least resistance and cheating its way around tricky exercises, performing them in an easier, sub-optimal manner. And this is the key weakness of the book, and is inherent to why we go to personal trainers. Are you sure you're 'doing it right'? All the diagrams in the world may show you a correct position, but unless you can see yourself trying to mimic it, you'll never know.
At times, the book suggests having a friend help with some of the steps of the assessment, which is perhaps a nod to this drawback of the book. It's great that this has been acknowledged, but how convenient and feasible is this?
Although the book is focused on the strength and conditioning side of sport, it does constantly allude back to how this all relates to cycling. For example, there are continued references to how to use your improving flexibility to improve your aerodynamics on the bike, and suggestions as to how to fit in the conditioning sessions around your on-bike work, which the book acknowledges will be your priority focus. For someone who is taking on an S&C programme for the first time, this is a really useful addition as it allows you to understand how best to manage your training time and how to schedule your sessions optimally.
The prose style adopted is not overwhelmingly technical, but there are quite a lot of anatomical terms used that not everyone will find that familiar. This can make the book a slightly slow read, as you may need to go over a few sections a couple of times to allow things to fully sink in. Although it is aimed at a beginner to the area, the use of the technical terms makes it a book that you might need to sit and study with concentration – if you try flicking through it with one hand while browsing Strava with the other, and the telly on in the background, you're not likely to get very far with it.
To balance the sometimes heavy prose, the book is full of well-shot images of the techniques being described, which serve to both break up the text and are vital to performing the exercises correctly. There are also plenty of shots of pro cyclists in action which helps to remind you what the core focus of the book is, and what it is that you're reading it for – although the images are a touch old and make the book feel ever so slightly dated.
So, to wrap up – this is a very well thought out book that takes you through a deep and complex area in a clear and logical manner. The writing is clear and balances expertise with being understandable, though you do need to ensure you're giving it your full attention. The images are very useful in demonstrating what it is that you're trying to achieve.
Perhaps the only downfall of the book lies in the very nature of what it is. It's a book about physical movement and technique that sometimes requires an expert's advice and guidance, and without this expert's view on whether movements are being performed correctly, you'll never be too sure if you're doing things correctly.
A comprehensive and thorough book – but ideally needs to come with a free personal trainer...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Strength and Conditioning for Cyclists by Phil Burt and Martin Evans
Size tested: 230 x 189 mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The synopsis of the book reads:
"Phil Burt and Martin Evans have worked with the world's best cyclists, including the Great Britain Cycling Team, devising and implementing highly effective off the bike training plans. Now, in Strength and Conditioning for Cyclists you can benefit from their wealth of knowledge and experience and apply it to make you a stronger, faster and more robust cyclist.
Use the self-assessment, inspired by the Functional Movement Screening used by the Great Britain Cycling Team, to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Discover the mobility and strengthening movements that are most applicable to your needs, maximising effectiveness and avoiding wasted time.
Learn how to devise your own personalised and progressive off the bike training plan, how to schedule it into your year and combine it most effectively with your cycling."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The book is a comprehensive guide to strength and conditioning. The authors are Phil Burt and Martin Evans. Burt was the lead physio at British Cycling for 12 years, and worked with Team Sky. He's now a leading bike fitter. Martin Evans was the lead Strength and Conditioning coach at British Cycling for give years, and is now the Women's Lead Physical Performance Coach at Football Association England.
Imprint: Bloomsbury Sport
Illustrations: Packed with colour photos
Dimensions: 230 x 189 mm
Online price: £15.29
Save £1.70 (10%)
It's a similar price to others; for a book this detailed and well edited I think £16.99 is good value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The book's an excellent guide to identifying strengths and weaknesses in your strength, mobility and flexibility, and gives a good guide to how to work on the weaknesses.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The images are really helpful for understanding the techniques and moves being discussed. The functional movement screening that you perform at the start offers you the chance to follow a clear and logical progressive programme that is satisfying to follow.
The majority of the workouts and moves prescribed do not require gym equipment, just a basic set of foam rollers and the like, which makes it very accessible.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
My main critique of the book is whether you can truly replace the expert eye of a personal trainer or not. Can you really be sure you're performing the exercises correctly, and how do you truly know if you're passing or failing them? Sometimes nothing can replace that external expertise.
At times the language can be a little dense and requires fairly careful reading and focus. That said, the book is intended to be a technical guide – it's not hoping to be a coffee table magazine.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Alternatives are similarly priced; Ken Doyle's 'Weight Training for Cyclists' is £16.99 at RRP, as is Tom Danielson's 'Core Advantage' (though both are available for sale for less).
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably only if they were committed to investing time into it.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The book does what it's designed for very well – that is, helping you understand the world of strength and conditioning, and helping you to devise a plan to improve this key area of your life. The instructions and layout are clear, but you need to really ensure that you're paying attention to the details in the text and diagrams to ensure you're performing everything correctly. The prose is slightly jargon-heavy, which some may find offputting, but when you get into it and start to understand some of the more commonly used terms, it's not so bad.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCR / Cannondale Supersix My best bike is: Giant TCR
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding