Last week one of my clients, who is an avid cyclist, was trying to argue his way out of finishing his squat set. He was worried that the exercise would increase the size of his butt. While groaning, he said that if he wanted to be faster on the bike he would be better off with an Andy Schleck ass and therefore shouldn’t do anything that would increase the size of his derriere. I’m not sure if he really believed in his own argument or if he was just buying some time to recover before he finally finished the squat set as requested.
But either way — I humored him and began to list off the many reasons of why and how a strong set of gluts would help his riding this summer. If I were to use Andy Schleck as an example, I would argue that, comparative to his skinny arms and pigeon chest, his butt is probably the second largest and strongest muscle in his body. The strongest muscle would be his quads and this is true for most people. So if my client wanted to lose all available body fat and allow his upper body to atrophy, he too could have a smaller bum to remain in proportion to the rest of him. At this moment, my client has a very well proportioned physique and isn’t keen on losing his upper body strength so he conceded on that point.
However he insisted that less weight would make him lighter and therefore faster on a 10-kilometer climb. I had to agree with him on some level, however more important than your actual weight is your weight to strength ratio. Simply losing weight won’t make you faster if you lose your strength along with it. And since your glutes are one of the strongest muscles of the body, developing them will increase your endurance on a long climb. This increased muscle mass also means that you have more mitochondria, which means a better oxygen delivery system, delaying the fatigue created by a build up of lactic acid.
Still he groaned and didn’t want to finish his last set, so I used my last card - vanity. A strong, muscular and well-defined behind isn’t a bad thing to have when you are wearing extremely tight spandex for long hours at a time. He laughed, but I think it might have been the winning argument because he finally gave up and finished his last set of squats without any more whining.
The squat is one of my favorite exercises because it is the most efficient lower body exercise that incorporates almost every muscle both below and including the waist. To complete the exercise with good form it is necessary to engage your core, stabilizing the trunk and the weight on your shoulders during the exercise. If you want to include squats into your program here are a few tips so you don’t injure yourself:
1. Perfect the form of a squat before adding weight by asking a trainer to help you, or ask your friend to take a video so you can correct mistakes.
2. Start every weight training session with at least 10 minutes of light cardiovascular activity to warm up the body.
3. Keep movements slow and controlled unless you are working under the guidance of a professional.
4. Stop the exercise immediately if you feel any pain in your back or knees.
5. Allow for at least two weeks of muscle adaptation before gradually increasing the weight.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to Kristina@kitsenergy.com.