Friday, July 7, 2017

Pedaling with more of an emphasis on your Maximum Overload-blasted bootie will help you ride longer, stronger and safer.

By Roy M. Wallack

You’re sitting on a powerhouse. And to your detriment, you’re doing nothing with it.

It’s your butt — technically, your three gluteal muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. If you’re like most cyclists, you’re probably so focused on pushing the pedals with your exalted quads that you’ve never even thought about your glutes. And in a classic case of cause-and-effect, that neglect not only leaves cyclists with a bootie far short of the big, beautiful bumps of skaters and gymnasts, but leaves us slower and more vulnerable to injuries. 

Fact: If you want to be a faster cyclist, as well as avoid knee injuries and cycling-linked bone and muscle loss and horrible slumping posture, YOU NEED TO PUSH THAT TUSH — in the gym and on the bike.  In support of Maximum Overload, Bicycling magazine has asked me to write a series of articles describing the manifold benefits of weight training for cyclists.  This article takes that further. It pairs the Maximum Overload workout, with its array of butt-blasting exercises, including leg presses, deadlifts and walking lunges, with something not discussed in the book: a butt-centric pedal stroke, initiated through the hips earlier in the pedal stroke, that was found to lower perceived effort and knee strain in a time-in-motion test conducted at the University of Southern California Human Performance Lab.

Bottom line:  Improving power and strength of the butt and the other mover muscles with Maximum Overload will make you faster on less training time. Altering your pedal stroke to utilize even more of that burgeoning butt power can further enhance the benefits AND save your knees. It takes no time to make the shift -- just a change of thinking. Why wouldn't you try it? 


First, let’s talk about speed, which is the foremost  topic on a cyclist's mind and the probably reason why you will be interested in Maximum Overload: Even withered and underdeveloped, before you lift a single pound in the Maximum Overload program, a biker butt still has a ton of power. If you figure out how to use it, it can make you go faster on less effort. And if you decide to hit the weight room and really blast you buns, it’ll send your power through the roof. 

While we do not discuss "butt-centric" pedaling per se in Maximum Overload (it's briefly discussed over several pages in my earlier book, Bike for Life), I personally know that a butt-centric pedal stroke, initiated earlier in the stroke through the hips before transferring the load to the quads, can make you faster. I saw proof with my own eyes in the lab. 

A decade ago, on a visit to the Human Performance Lab at the University of Southern California with my road bike, I did a “time-in-motion biomechanics mapping” study with director Chris Powers, Phd.  Basically, Dr. Powers turned me into a cartoon movie. With a dozen light-reflecting diodes attached to my legs and back, his computer converted me into an onscreen, moving stick-figure. Then, capturing two different pedal strokes, my normal quad-centric contraction and a butt-centric version, we synched the two cartoon images with their respective heart-rate and power data. Here’s what we noticed:

The butt-centric pedaling instantly caused striking changes in my biomechanics, muscle usage, joint stress and pedaling efficiency. I exhibited less quadriceps fatigue, less perceived exertion, and the same power at the same heart rate, which probably meant better staying power and endurance. My body position changed; I took on a flatter back (instead of bowed), and my knees showed less valgus — i.e. they did not collapse inward, but kept a more straight-ahead pumping profile. I also rode smoother, exhibiting less side-to-side rocking while butt-centric than with my quad-centric stroke. 

This translated to less long-term strain on the knees and back and more speed, according to Dr. Powers, “Valgus increases lateral force on the kneecap and is known to lead to knee injuries,” he said. “The knee should stay in the same plane during the pedal stroke, like a piston in an engine.”

Based on my Compuscan results, piston-like knees raised my efficiency,  as they appeared to provide a more solid platform for push-off. And as my gluteal muscles became conditioned to the new motion over the two hours in the lab, we found that my endurance (the ability to maintain the same power over time without a rise in heart rate) increased. 

My own anecdotal on-the-road riding experiences in the years since my morning at USC have made me a butt-centric believer. When I’m starting to feel fatigued, I check my form and re-focus on initiating the stroke from my hips. I instantly get smoother and more efficient.  It definitely provides a break for the quads


If you can get more potential mileage out of your pedaling just by altering your cycling mechanics, imagine the boost you get when you pair it with BIGGER, MORE POWERFUL GLUTES.  

I've been lifting weights pretty regularly for the last dozen years, but definitely paid more attention to pounding my glutes beginning in 2013. That's when, while doing research for a book I was ghostwriting, I met West Los Angeles coach Jacques deVore. He was training pro rider David Zabriskie with something unheard of for cyclists: heavy weight-lifting.  

Twice a week, DZ blasted his butt with weighted jumps and deadlifts. He said that his power jumped 15%,  that he had seen big improvements in his early-season performance at the Tour of Catalonia, and was excited about testing his new ripped-ness at that year’s Tour de France. Unfortunately, he broke a collarbone in the Tour of California and retired.

But DZ's weight-lifting plan, which Jacques called Maximum Overload, worked for me. I did not have access to the fancy $20,000 resistance jumping machine that Zabriskie trained on and didn't really know what I was doing, but I attacked my glutes with gusto in the gym, going to near-"failure" on deadlifts, walking lunges, thrusters, even the "Butt Blaster" machine that I had previously only seen women using.

The results?  I finished in the top 25% in the 8-mile mountain-climb time trial at the 2014 Beverly Hills Gran Fondo.  I’m usually closer to the back of the pack. 

I was shocked — and so impressed that I suggested Jacques and I write a book together. 

No buts about it: I’m a believer in the butt— on using it on the bike and  improving it in the gym. The weights not only raise your sustainable power, but in the long run encourage better pedaling form and  add more protection against injury. 

“When we traced cyclists’ knee pain back to its source, we found that weak gluteus medius and minimus (the smaller butt muscles, which hold the leg in line) often allow the thigh to rotate and cave inward toward the top tube,” says Kevin Jardine, a Toronto-based physical therapist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist who has worked with the Canadian Olympic Team and Team BMC. “The old wives’ tale that the knee should graze the top tube is dead wrong. The knees should not cave in—that creates torsion, and all kinds of damage can result. They need to be properly aligned—moving straight up and down and symmetrical.”  

To do that, Jardine told me that he recommends all cyclists weight-train their glutes with an array of leg presses and  squats and  specifically address the smaller gluteal muscles, the medius and the minimus, with stretch-band side steps. Also, some cross-training that involves butt-blasting lateral movement, like skating, tennis and even basketball, is also a very good idea. (Ever wonder how skating star Eric Heiden was able to transfer to cycling stardom so easily?  He had the ass.)

The potential harm of caved- in knees, due in large part to an over-reliance on the quads, is documented. One study found “excessive side-to-side swinging of the knee during downstroke in more than 80 percent of cyclists with patellofemoral pain.” The late Ed Burke, PhD, a prodigious University of Colorado researcher and fellow ultra-cycling participant who wrote extensively on cycling biomechanics, found that of “cyclists with no patellofemoral pain, most had a linear pattern of downstroke, with little mediolateral deviation” (meaning they moved piston-straight).

As for the bottom line, the message is clear: Use the butt. Work the butt. Love the butt. Make Maximum Overload part of your weekly routine. If you do, you’ll save time, go faster, and ride longer, stronger and safer for many years to come.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017


That's the most-asked question I get from readers of Maximum Overload.
It's a logical question. We only show still photography in the book, and even the most hard-bitten gym rat rarely does a walking lunge. Why? It involves movement, and people in the gym like to hunker down in one spot, as if they made a down payment on a house. Well, scope out a clear path on the gym floor, a hallway or even the sidewalk on your street (you'll get to know your neighbors!) and get ready to move 30 or 40 feet.. 

The goal of Maximum Overload is to stop you from slowing down, to keep on truckin' on the second half of the ride or the last hills when everyone else is pooping out.  Technically, that means you have SUSTAINABLE POWER.  What is  the one exercise that best builds the most sustainable power, i.e. MAXIMUM SUSTAINABLE POWER (MSP)?  You guessed it.....

The WALKING LUNGE is dynamic and bi-pedal (meaning you execute it in motion with one leg at a time, like humans walk, run and ride, which is unlike deadlifts, thrusters, squats and most gym exercises you do with two legs planted on the floor), so in a neuromuscular sense it translates directly to athletics and real life. Not complicated, do-able anywhere with or without weights, it's PRACTICAL — the ultimate go-to, lifelong exercise for everyone, every age and fitness level. 

FOR CYCLISTS, the walking lunge is HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL. It blasts your entire leg (especially the oft-ignored glutes and upper hamstrings, which now can assist the quads ) and quickly can builds monster power (power = strength x speed) that translates directly to bike. It is well suited to  OVERLOADING you effectively, a key to improvment. Explanation:  For an exercise to keep you strong or make you stronger, it has to OVERLOAD you beyond normal life activities and sports. WEIGHTS can overload you and your muscles far better than cycling itself. The WALKING LUNGE is an effective and even fun way (if you're a masochist, that is) to MAXIMIZE YOUR OVERLOAD (hence, the name of the book, MAXIMUM OVERLOAD)
About 2 years ago, after Jacques successfully raised the power of pro cycling star Dave Zabriskie on a FANCY $20,000 AIR-RESISTANCE MACHINE, he settled on the simple, universally-accessible WALKING LUNGE as a better —ultimately, the best! — POWER EXERCISE. Experimenting with every known exercise, we have found that nothing else can touch it for effectiveness..

NOTE:  IF YOU ARE A READER OF "BIKE FOR LIFE" (second edition, pubished in March 2015), you may have noticed that there is NO MENTION OF THE WALKING LUNGE in the story about Maximum Overload on pgs. 57-60. That's because the program was in its baby-step phase then. DeVore added the walking lunge when the program was taken mainstream. 
As you get fitter, do the WALKING LUNGE with heavier and heavier weights, as long as it does not slow you down. When you reach a point where the heaviness does slow you down, go back to the previous 

Here's Maximum Overload's standard 3-rep (six-step) Weighted Walking Lunge Mini-set. Wait 10 seconds to rest once done, then do it again,  for 2 minutes. Bump the weight up and eventually go to 4 minutes. Keep the speed up throughout.

NOTE :  If this video does not play (it is not working for me), please go to our MAXIMUM OVERLOAD FOR CYCLISTS Facebook page or my Amazon author's page:

weight and begin to extend the time of the workout, from 2 to 4 m inutes. After all, the whole point of Maximum Overload is to maintain your speed over a longer period of time. That's sustainable power.

Find a weight that you can do 6 reps of (that's 12 right-left steps) before gassing out and losing speed and form. That's known as reaching the point of "failure."
Using that 6-rep "failure" weight, do 3 reps (6 steps), as seen in the video. Then stop and rest for 10-15 seconds, until your herat rate comes down and you feel ready. Then do it again. And again. Do it for one minute, total, and if you feel ok, begin raising that to a full 2 minute "set,"
Resting 2 or 3 minutes between sets to bring your heart rate down, DO THREE 2-MINUTE SETS.
Every week, re-test your 6-reps-to-failure weight. For the first month, you will make tremendous gains in your ability to carry more weight. If you started with 10-pound dumbells, raise it to 12.5, 15, 20 ... and so on. Key: Make sure you can maintain full speed for two minutes. 
Denise Mueller, the 147-mph woman, topped out at 35 pounds. I do 40. Remember Maximum Overload is all about NOT SLOWING DOWN. Remember the phrase that pays: SUB-MAXIMAL WORKOUTS YIELD SUB-MAXIMAL RESULTS. 
Whether you top out at 25 pounds or 50, now push past 2 minutes. Go to 2:30, 3, even as high as 4. After all, you are hunting for the big idea of the book: MAXIUMUM SUSTAINABLE POWER. See how long you can sustain it.
While it is true that the key pure "strength" exercise of Maximum Overload is the DEADLIFT, and that the deadlift alone, like all leg-weight exercises according to the research, is beneficial to cyclists and other athletes, the WALKING LUNGE is the big dog because it develops power, the goal of the program -- -- and does it in a bi-pedal manner (one leg at a time) like no other exercise. 
Yes, the deadlift is a key part of Maximum Overload, as it'll give you extra strength that can help raise your power. But it supports the lunge and does not replace it.
The LUNGE and the DEADLIFT are the 1-2 PUNCH that makes MAXIMUM OVERLOAD go. Sequentially, you do the deadlift before you do the lunge. But you do not do the deadlift in place of the lunge. The Lunge has its own special session-ending workout and is the big dog of Maximum Overload.
You can do the walking lunge with weights, milk cartons, Encyclopedia Britannicas or whatever you have available. Ideally, use something that has defined weight numbers you can count. Make sure to record your WEIGHT, REPS AND GRAND TOTAL OF WEIGHT CARRIED in YOUR THREE SETS-- i.e your MAXIMUM OVERLOAD (that name again)— in your planner. You will find the Walking Lunge MSP (Maximum Sustainable Power) workout highly motivating, on its own as a weekly or twice-weekly challenge and as your increasing walking lunge power translates directly to the bike.

Monday, July 3, 2017



Well, I haven't blogged here in while. It's been a busy year. Did some traveling -- To British Columbia with my good friend Ed Korb for the tough, beautiful Singletrack6 6-day mountain-bike stage race in the Canadian Rockies; rode a tandem bike with my son Joey from Washington DC to Pittsburgh via the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage for 330 blissful, car-free miles (then 150 more on the roads to the Rock N Roll Museum in Cleveland) in August; hit Nepal and China for mountain biking and spectacular World Heritage Site sightseeing with my good buddy Rich "The Reverend" White in November;  went to Cuba for the 5-day Gaes Titan Tropic mountain bike stage race, in December; hit Vegas and Park City a bunch of times for various trade shows; and just got back from 10 days in Switzerland driving a car all over the country on assignment from Westways magazine. Pictures?  Tons of 'em. I'll get around to posting albums of those when I get some time.

But the most exciting thing right now  is a new book, which I had mentioned in several posts here last year: MAXIMUM OVERLOAD FOR CYCLISTS, co-authored with Jacques deVore, the guru who invented the program.

Maximum Overload is the first weight-training plan for cyclists. It is designed to do something that you simply can't do on the bike alone: RAISE YOUR MAXIMUM SUSTAINABLE POWER (MSP).

MSP means you won't slow down in the second half of  a century ride, a road race or your weekend mountain-bike ride anymore.  You're fatigue-proofed. While everyone else is pooping out, you keep on truckin'.  And you'll actually do it on less riding. That's because a 45-minute Maximum Overload session in the gym can replace a 2-to-4 hour ride on the road. So now you have time to go to your kid's soccer game!

Cool, right? Now, getting back to the headline of this post, why did I say that "Maximum Overload " will TRICK YOU?

Listen, I have been a big advocate of weights for a long, long time in my articles and previous books, such as BIKE FOR LIFE.  However, I did it from a quality-of-life point of view. WEIGHT TRAINING CAN STOP AND REVERSE  the horrible BONE THINNING that occurs when you ride a bike and do no gravity-based weight-bearing activity; I had a huge story on this in Bicycling in 2004 and have written extensively about it since. Weight training is also necessary to stop and reverse the SARCOPENIA (MUSCLE LOSS)  that occurs with aging and aerobic activities, of which cycling is again among the worst. Weights can fix a cycling-corroded SLUMPING POSTURE; they can change your CHUBBY BODY COMPOSITION to less fat/more muscle. WEIGHTS ARE THE ULTIMATE ANTI-AGING TOOL for everyone — and an essential for cyclists  If you know about all the amazing benefits of weight lifting, you simply have to do it. For me, having written about the importance of strength training, lifting weights has gradually become as necessary in my life as flossing.

And because I am under the illusion that, as a well-meaning journalist determined to help people,  readers actually read what I say and react as I do,  I simply assumed that cyclists would all be happily doing pull-ups and push-ups in their hallways at home and going to gym twice a week to hoist dumbbells.

But over time, I realized something:

Nobody's been listening. It's hard to get a cyclist off the bike. Cyclists don't pay attention much if you tell them to do non-cycling stuff that's good for them -- unless it'll make them faster.

Speed, unfortunately, is all a cyclist cares about — and to get it, they just think they ought to ride more. And then, someday in the future, that cyclist will find himself with wasted muscles and bones and crappy posture— and will discover that he can't ride any more. And just like that, his speed drops to a two-foot shuffle. Or a 1-mph wheelchair roll.

That's one reason why I love MAXIMUM OVERLOAD and wanted to write a book about it:  With the lure of speed,  it takes you into a place that you would never ever go on your own:  the gym.  And in doing so, it effectively TRICKS YOU INTO DOING A BUNCH OF GOOD THINGS FOR YOURSELF that you probably wouldn't have done otherwise.

To promote MAXIMUM OVERLOAD, Rodale asked me to write a series of articles. These stories will describe  the benefits of weight-training and the Maximum Overload program for cyclists beyond its calling card, Maximum Sustainable Power. Each article will focus on one of the aforementioned benefits of weight raining:
·Better bones
·Better muscles
·Better posture
·Better body composition
·A sexier, more powerful butt that increases endurance and reduces knee injuries
· Better all-around, feel-good quality-of-life.

Here's the first article, on better muscles, that I wrote for


BY ROY M. WALLACK ​This new weight routine can make you stronger and faster on the bike— and keep your muscles from deteriorating when you get older