5 Great Strength-Training Moves for Cyclists
Every experienced cyclist knows he has to put in plenty of time on the bike to perform his best. All that pedaling boosts your aerobic capacity and helps your legs get stronger, which are both crucial to shaving time off you personal best. If you’re still not seeing the results you want, it might be time to change up your routine. Instead of spending all your time in the seat, you should consider devoting some of it to the weight room.
Many endurance athletes avoid strength training, fearing it will leave them feeling too fatigued. Those who do hit the gym often stick with moderate weight and a lot of repetitions for the same reason, but Bodybuilding.com explained heavier weight is actually the way to go since it’s the most effective way to build strength. Moderate weight with tons of repetitions is actually a strategy that results in bulky muscle, which isn’t going to be beneficial for bikers.
If you’re ready to take your training up a few notches, it’s time to get serious about strength. We’ve rounded up five of the best moves to help you get faster, more powerful, and even avoid pesky injuries. These exercises could be exactly what you need to clock your speediest time yet.
Though biking is gentler on your back than high-impact activities like running, it can still cause pain in the area from the way your body is positioned. It gets even worse as you push yourself harder because, as you tire, posture usually suffers. Building a stronger lower back means you’ll be able to maintain proper form, even when you’re pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion. Professional cyclist Nariyuki Masuda told Men’s Fitness a basic deadlift is his go-to move to build back strength, which was critical for his rehabilitation after an injury.
This move is a classic and it’s also really easy to perform. Position yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell resting on the floor directly in front of you. Bend at the knee and hip to pick up the bar with an overhand grip. Keeping your lower back arched and your arms hanging straight down, stand up, hold the move for 1 second, then carefully return to the starting position.
Proper form is always important, but it’s never more true than with this move. If you have sloppy posture, you’ll end up straining your back instead of strengthening it. Check out BuiltLean’s tutorial to make sure you get it right.
2. Single-Leg Hip Flexion
Sitting at a desk all day can spell serious trouble for your hips. The solution is usually working more movement into your day, so avid cyclers might think they’re golden. Sadly, the posture you hold on the bike contributes to tight hips in exactly the same way. In order to keep the area strong and flexible, you have to train it. The single-leg hip flexion is a great choice and also one of four moves Bicycling South Africa recommended for a stronger, faster cadence.
Using the cable machine, loop the harness around your left ankle. Position yourself far enough away from the machine to fully extend the cable. Keeping your abs tight and your left foot flexed, raise your knee until it’s even with your hip, then slowly lower back to the starting position. After one set, switch legs. You can also do the move with a resistance band. Head over to SparkPeople to see how.
This is one exercise that has gotten a lot of coverage over the years, and it’s no flub. Planks are a fantastic way to strengthen your core, which is key for athletic performance as well as day-to-day activities. They target your abs, lower back, and shoulders. Since the move is so basic, it’s easy to add variations to increase your effort, such as this single-leg alternative demonstrated on TrainingPeaks.
For the basic move, get yourself into a push-up position on the floor. Support your weight on your forearms with your elbows placed directly underneath your shoulders. Your legs should be straight and your back and stomach should be tight. All you do is hold the position, but it gets harder the longer you go. Once you can keep yourself aligned for more than 90 seconds, it’s time to start adding some variations for more of a challenge.
4. Weighted Squats
Squats are basically a cyclist’s bread and butter in the weight room. Most of the power you generate on the bike comes from your glutes and quads, so skipping leg day is not an option. If you’re preparing for an event with a lot of hills, these muscles are even more important. Building strength in here is easy since there are so many different weight machines designed with the muscles in mind, but we especially like squats.
To get the most out of this move, again, heavier weight is going to be better than doing endless repetitions without any added load. Hold a barbell across your shoulders, firmly grasping the bar with an overhand grip, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back slightly arched and your core tight, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press back up to the starting position to complete one repetition. About Sports outlines the correct way to do this exercise.
You’ll have to do a little bit of experimenting to find the proper amount of weight. It should be heavy, but still manageable. If you feel like you might lose control, lessen the load a little bit.
5. Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Balance is a key ingredient in any strength-training routine. Working your quads is a great start, but you won’t be able to generate the maximum amount of power unless you also spend some time on your hamstrings. These muscles are responsible for the pulling action on the bicycle, which is every bit as important as pushing.
Start targeting this area with hamstring curls on a stability ball. Though you’ll find machines that goes through the same basic movement, a stability ball forces your muscles to work harder to keep you balanced. It’ll be more difficult, but you’ll notice results faster.
To get started, lie on your back with your feet elevated on top of a stability ball. Tighten your core and glutes as you press your heels firmly into the ball, until your shoulders, hips, knees, and heels form a straight line. Then, bend your knees as you use your heels to roll the ball toward you until your feet rest flat on top of it. Pause breifly, then return to the starting position. Bicycling recommended two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions each. When you’ve mastered the move, try it on just one leg.
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