REVIEW Cycling Anatomy



Cycling Anatomy

Cycling Anatomy
By Shannon Sovndal, MD
$21.95 (Available thru Human Kinetics)

REVIEW by Coach Newton

Although I disagree with much of the content of Cycling Anatomy, this is a decent book that will prove popular with cyclists and triathletes. I’ll get to details shortly, but let me digress a bit in order to provide some history related to this book.

Anatomy charts and exercise techniques seem to hold some magic for many readers. In the earliest days of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal, most covers depicted athletic movement illustrated by “cut-away” illustrations of the muscles involved. It didn’t seem to matter that some of the illustrated muscles were not truly involved in the activity.

As the NSCA’s editor-in-chief (1994-1998) I shifted covers away from the muscle charts, largely due to the fact that the NSCA had published six issues annually for 16 years and there just weren’t that many more relevant options available. Much like today’s health care debate, previously quiet voices suddenly boomed with their objection to the new format and a demand to return to former ways.

Human Kinetics published the NSCA journals when I was the editor. The popularity of the anatomy charts was not lost on Human Kinetics. Strength Training Anatomy has sold more than 850,000 copies. Then we got Women’s Strength Training Anatomy (kind of like “investing for women”….. just what is the difference?), Stretching Anatomy, and Bodybuilding Anatomy. Now add to this mix, Cycling Anatomy.

Human Kinetics approached me in 2000 to write Explosive Lifting for Sports (by comparison, ELFS has sold 25,000 copies). I was asked what other topics I considered worthwhile. In response, I sent HK a copy of the early VHS version of Strength Training for Cyclists, along with my rationale for writing a book on effective resistance training for endurance athletes. Much of this content was available from joint efforts of Newton Sports, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the (then) US Cycling Federation, and the US Olympic Committee from the early 1990s.

Human Kinetics responded with “no interest.”

A few years ago I approached VeloPress to publish Strength Training for Cyclists, but I never received the courtesy of a response. Since they have recently put out a second edition of their Weight Training for Cyclists, I understand. Let’s face facts; this topic is not a big one for endurance athletes and publishers may think the topic won’t sell many books.

But Cycling Anatomy, with endorsements from Christian Vande Velde and Connie Carpenter, and some great artwork, promises to do well in terms of sales. Sections are well organized into various major body parts and a plethora of exercises are illustrated. It’s a bit comical to see, for instance, the suggestion that the abdominal muscles are engaged slightly differently while climbing seated vs. standing. This, of course, suggests a different abdominal exercise should be used to strengthen the muscles differently.

Some 74 exercises are actually depicted, along with nearly one alternative or variation for each. Needless to say, many exercises are right out of bodybuilding or “functional” training concepts in the popular media. Readers of Strength Training for Cyclists know that I constantly present the argument that bodybuilding training is not the most effective means of strengthening an endurance athlete. Similar to the wise words of Stuart McGill, PhD, (Low Back Disorders, Human Kinetics) such isolation training of muscles, rather than movements, just doesn’t make sense for cyclists.

I’m certainly not a fan of seated exercises, yet Cycling Anatomy shows many. Skeletal health aside, if you work out in a commercial fitness center, you’ll encounter many machines. Feel free to try them out, especially if you have lots of time. But, my message remains the same: keep your feet on the ground and use plenty of weight (after proper preparation, of course) to get stronger.

The author, a well-qualified racer and doctor, and I are on opposite sides on many topics. Contrary to much of my advice in Strength Training for Cyclists, Dr. Sovndal suggests that low weight, high rep (10-15) training will “achieve a sustained strength without substantially bulking up your muscle mass.” Note that bodybuilders train in this rep range, with the specific goal of increasing muscle mass. The author goes on to add that high weight, low rep training “does build more bulk.” These and several other conflicting points, both in terms of general and specific advice, will continue to keep endurance athletes in the dark relative to how to effectively resistance train.

But, you can’t beat the illustrations! If seeing the involved muscle groups helps you with your resistance training, this is the book for you. From my perspective, the most rewarding part of the book is Vande Velde’s forward in which he echoes my message; resistance training must be a year-‘round pursuit in order to be effective.

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