Some may have seen my 100km cycling for 30 days odyssey that I completed for Movember that I logged on my Youtube channel. I found that experience immensely rewarding: for one, I raised $2360 for the charity and for another, despite having a couple of wobbles over the 30 days, the benefits far outweighed the negatives. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones who joined me on the rides, I lost weight, gained fitness and also re-connected with the bike. The end result was an overall sense of well-being.

I felt a bit lost after it was all over however. I missed the structure of having to complete a task every day and let my diet go a little… ok a lot! I kept riding, but not every day and certainly not 100km each time I went out. I noticed that all that riding had taken not just fat off me, but also quite a lot of upper body muscle. So, I went to the gym. I’d not gone in months so I picked up a 2kg dumbbell and did 40 reps.

Then another 30, and then another 30.

‘Ok, that’s a hundred. Maybe do another hundred on my back…’.

BY the end I’d done 5 movements for a total of 100 reps, using really light weights, though the 100 push ups were a bit hard! Next day, I woke up with no ache in my muscles, so I went back and did it again. I was in and out of the gym in 25 minutes.

It struck me that as cyclists, we push the pedals around 1000s of times on a ride, and after time we build clean, lean muscle on our legs. I didn’t want to bulk up the upper body and wanted to save my lower back and osteoarthritic knees from too much heavy strain, and found that this 100s program kept me feeling energetic and brought that same kind of ‘fine’ muscle that I got from riding. The extra, light leg work brought more power and held off the lactic acid build up a little longer too.

Why bother with any upper body work? Well, the body is a complete system, yet we as cyclists tend to completely ignore our upper body muscles, but a little focussed work on that area can strengthen the back, improve the core, and avoid injury.

Worried about putting on extra kilos from the gym? With the 100s, this is avoided. In a month of doing this routine, which is done quickly with little rest, I found that my upper body was stronger yet I’d lost a kilogram.

Stronger & fitter & looking like a proper poser!

If you like try it, see if it works, you might want to start out at 50 of each with light weights, or 70, but it really works for me. 

If you were to gradually ease into this, I’d say go for push ups, sit ups, and the 2 legs workouts. 

Then increase as and when you feel. 


So here’s what I do now for my 100s at the gym, 5-6 days a week:

1. 100 push ups using a weight bench with hands on bench, core held tight

2. 100 Lat Pulldowns

3. 100 seated rows 

4. 100 bicep curls standing

5. 100 triceps push downs using rope

6. 100 sit ups but I do 50 knee lifts to chest hanging on chin up bar (can find in the park if needed!)

(If no chin up bar, I do 50 ‘minimal lift’ situps. Start as though doing a trad sit up but just raise head and upper back 2 -3 inches, saves the back and works on top abs – then I do 50 ‘leg crossovers’ – lie on floor, raise upper back 2-3 inches off floor, raise legs 4-5 inches and straight legged, cross feet over 50 times)

7. 100 leg extensions, be sure to hold for 1 sec at full leg extended to hit the muscles)

8. 100 hamstring curls, try to have feet relaxed so you isolate the hams.

I was doing shoulders too but realised the pushups and back rows work them enough.

Keys to this working:

1. Light weights: weights will seem way too light when starting off the set but by last 1/4 will start to really feel it

2. Long reps per set: it’s not 100 in one go, but I’ll do say 40 reps 1st set, 30 and 30 for last 2 sets. Could be 30 / 30 / 20 / 20, but never less than 20. Only shorten from 30 reps when weight increases, which will come after 3-4 weeks of original weights. But when increasing, muscles will get bigger, depends if you want that or just to maintain

3. Perfect form. Because weights are light, can hold perfect form. For eg bicep curls, with 10kg it’s hard if not impossible for average cyclist to do 40 reps anyway, and certainly not to hold form. So, perform strictly, this means you really hit the muscle targeted as it is perfectly isolated. 

4. Minimum 4 days per week, max 6. 

5. Breaks between sets have to be short, 30 secs max. 

6. Break between muscle part max 1 min.

7. Not too slow, not too fast.  When doing a single movement, eg bicep curl, not so fast that you lose the tension but not so slow that it drags out the set.

I don’t do squats because the leg extensions still hit outer thigh when done correctly (holding it at the ‘top’ when leg extended) and my knees are not great for squats. If you do decide to go with squats, swap out one of the other leg movements each time. Also I get the outer thigh work on the bike. 

2012 Heerlan post-Tour de France crit.

My advice is to not start with the whole of the 100s described above. 

Can skip tris (get that from push ups). 

Can skip seated rows til later on. 

So I’d start with the other 6. Can be done in 20 or so mins. 

This works because it: 

  • helps avoid strains and muscle pulls a lot as the weight is light 
  • avoids building heavy upper body muscle 
  • allows for almost daily reps as it is not damaging muscles (ripping) as heavier weight does 
  • creates a nice thin layer of muscle as we have in our legs
  • get a decent aerobic workout in as you’re moving quickly between reps & sets
  • save a load of time in the gym
  • really works: in 2 months I’ve got the physique I’ve been after for years

Really helps on the bike, stronger back means less injury, stronger arms mean less stress when standing on climbs, helps with neck strain as the muscle there increases, aids fatigue in legs as you’re increasing hamstring strength, helps the knees as they’re better supported to ‘track’ with the joints, increases ligament durability. 

Remember, LIGHT weight. When I started this, my bicep curl was at 2kg, 3kg, 2kg over the 100 in 3 sets. 

So yeah, try it and let me know how it goes!

Ready for action! Well, maybe a beer…

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

3 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the article. Totally agree with you on the importance of weight training for cycling /endurance sports. Haven’t done the super high reps you’re talking about except for the push-ups but will give it a try.

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