I have a son that is cycling with me. We are riding 1 1/2 hours per day and then doing a century ride once a month. He is also a high school basketball player - he asked me if I thought cycling would improve his "jumping" vertical. Of course, I wanted to say yes! so that he would have plenty of motivation to keep riding with me :=). However, I thought I would try to find someone with a little more knowledge that could actually shed some light on the subject. Is anyone aware of (1) research in the area, or (2) a logical model for breaking the question down?
In my opinion, cycling for 1.5 hours per day will train mostly your slow twitch muscle fibers. Whereas jumping requires mostly fast twitch fibers. But, you can still make a case with your son that the bicycling will increase his endurance which will pay off in the 3rd and 4th quarters when everyone else is tired he will be able to run circles around them. BTW, my son is only 8 years old and he will often ride with me on some of my shorter rides. Do what you can to keep your son riding with you, it's the best!
The answer to the question is pretty logical: Is there any jumping involved in cycling? Nope.
So, like the previous post said, cycling trains the endurance system, the slow twitch fibers, and prepares you more specifically for cycling. If the kid wants some hops in his vertical, he better train for improvements in his vertical and focus on that.
I will say he will probably have more endurance in the end, but he won't be typically fast in the beginning of a game (primarily because his FT fibers aren't being trained in the specific environment in which they will be called upon: on the court). I suggest he still keep up with his hoops skills on the court and not spend too much time on the bike. Too much endurance training might kill his speed in a game. Once again it comes down to fiber-type recruitment and demands being trained for.
90 minutes a day on a bike isn't the best way to train for basketball, in my honest opinion. But if he enjoys it more than hoops, let him enjoy it. If he just does hoops for the fun of it, that's alright by me. I'm a XC coach who is starting to deal with kids who have XC as their 2nd or 3rd sport on their list of favorites. I have ones who are serious about hockey and soccer and basketball, more than they are about XC it seems. Right now I'm trying to train them specifically for the demands of XC but trying to keep those other sports in mind, too, and help them condition for those in some way and be a better, all-around athlete, with bits of speed & a dash of endurance.
Rick Karboviak, CSCS
Total Trinity Training
If you want to motivate him to keep riding (a worthy goal in itself), tell him that a lot of professional basketball players ride bikes during the offseason. Mixing in some strength training would help too.
I'd like to add to the previous posts that pointed out the slow-twitch/fast-twitch issue. Another reason cycling shouldn't improve vertical leap is that the main muscles involved in providing lift are not the quadriceps (main movers in cycling) but the hamstrings. If he wants to improve his vertical leap, I'd suggest squats, squat jumps, drop jumps, and other plyometric exercises. Also eccentric muscle contractions, contracting while lengthening. Of course, all of these exercises should be at least supervised by his coach or a strength and conditioning coach as some have a potential for injury.
Thanks for the comments.
He is already doing the normal squats and such via his high school team and his weight training class. I also agree that the very best way to improve in any sport or activity is to do the very activity you are trying to improve. The last post and the one previous talking about fast twitch muscles and quads, etc., is very helpful as well.
By the way, we started cycling a few months back (beginning of the summer) and he has added two inches to his verticle (just did the jumping test yesterday) since that time. We have the record of him being tested every 4-6 month previous and this was by far the best improvement in any period. The only thing he is doing differently is cycling. I think he realizes that weight training is responsible for most of the improvement. However, cycling might also be a contributor. He has always been in the middle of the guards in jumping ability. This last jump he was third on the team in verticle.
Thanks for the "conversation."
While the physical training of cycling itself may not have had a direct impact on the muscles involved in vertical jumping, I'm going to make an assumption that your son's body composition probably changed a bit when training for a century ride which may have made it easier for him to jump higher (i.e. with less pounds of fat)?
Just a thought.
I agree with previous posts regarding the slow twitch vs. fast twitch argument. In playing and watching basketball regularly for almost 40 years, I would also add that although some improvement in vertical leaping height is possible by weight training, most of that is pre-determined by genetics. For guards, I would recommend that time be spent playing the sport rather than in the weight room. There is no better way to improve as a player than to play against others, especially those who have a higher skill level.
I would continue to encourage cycling, as its a sport that can provide exercise and competition, no matter how old you are.
Well, I agree with most of them except for ONE situation. If he is a track racer which uses a very high level of fast twitch fibers, he probably would improve the amount of snap that his legs can give, IE, sprinting. So if he wants to improve his jumping, I'd suggest to him to practice sprinting for the snap part, and by sprinting, sprint around 100-200 meters on a bike each time. Just explode into the pedals and do this several times in a ride.