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Working that Butt off! Glute Strengthening Exercises for Cyclists

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A cyclist’s body will always have that ‘strange’ shape – with a small waist, a big butt and bulging quads. This very strange shape is what identifies and defines the power sources of the body to allow action in the sport. While popularity is shared by the quads and the core, the glutes often tend to get sidestepped as being an important and a very strong power source. But in cycling glutes and quads are what make for the power sources. Core muscles are known to offer trunk support – keeping your trunk stable – while your legs do the pumping. Gluteal muscles, on the other hand, are for pelvic stability and power….long as they’re actively being put to use – this is where glute strengthening exercises come into play.

Glute muscles can easily reach a state of deactivation if they go long periods without being used. In such a case, other muscles like the quadriceps take on this additional work, leaving this powerful muscle unused and atrophied. This is disastrous to any sportsman, cyclists even more so, since so much power being generated from the glute muscles is being missed out on. Because other muscles are overcompensating, they will tire out sooner leading to poor performance and injuries like strains or cramps in the quads, even backache.

Top 3 Glute Exercises for Cyclists

Below are a few exercises that will help in strengthening your hamstrings and glutes, ultimately leading to an improvement in your cycling performance as well. A well-rounded glutes workout could be a combination of these, some upper-body exercises and few core exercises and you’ll be sorted. Keep in mind glute pain cycling is an effect of delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS which is noticeable in the form of muscle tenderness and loss of strength, generally speaking about 24 hrs to 72 hrs post an extreme event or exercise regime.

Glute-Ham Raise

The GHR along with being among the most popular glute exercises for men is also very much favoured in the lifting world. It’s known to strengthen the hamstrings at both, the hip joint and the knee by working them simultaneously. This exercise also works out the lower back, calves and of course the glutes. It is literally go-to for better buttocks. You could have a partner help you do it, or use gym equipment (the bench) to perform this exercise. The main part is having the lower part of your legs, weighed or held down, with only the body from the knee up being able to move. You will require contracting your hamstrings to lift your body – from the knees to the head – till you’re in an upright position. Lower back down to the start point and repeat. Remember to keep your torso erect throughout the entire motion.

glute hamstring exercise
Glute ham raise

Probably the biggest disadvantage of GHR is that it’s flat out too difficult to get from the first go. In fact, it will take quite a bit of time before you can do a ‘set’.

Single-leg Box Jump

As is evident from the name, you will be jumping using one of your legs, and then repeating the movements with the other. You will need an exercise step that is between ten to eighteen inches high. Jump onto the platform/step and land on your left foot, leaping back onto the ground immediately. Repeat around 12 times, and then perform the same with your right foot. Make sure to not choose a too high step to start out with. You could gradually increase the height, once you’re comfortable with the exercise.

Single leg jump
Single-leg box jump

Suitcase Deadlift

You either start with a dumbbell or a bar. The exercise is best when done off the floor, but if it’s too troublesome, you can leave it around mid-shin level also. With your arms hanging at the side and a dumbbell or bar in one, push your hips backward, bending your knees as in the case of a standard deadlift, and attempt to bring the dumbbell/bar as close to the floor as possible, all the while keeping sure not to round your lower back. Your torso shouldn’t tilt to either side, if it still does, try and reduce the weight of the bar or the dumbbell.

suitcase deadlift
Suitcase deadlift

How to Use Your Glutes When Cycling

So, how to work glutes while cycling? What are the glute exercises for men and women cyclists? What makes up a glutes workout? There are tried and tested and approved glute strengthening exercises which are bound to strengthen and balance your glutes. But a couple of pointers that will help you (apart from just the glute strengthening exercises) along the way:

  • To develop your strength, begin with being seated when on the bike and at low speeds.
  • When you target bicycles, integrate seated standing starts and seated accelerations for a distance of around 200 meters, cruising at low speeds to improve strength and glute recruitment.       

  • Whilst riding uphill, physically and mentally be involved in the process of trying to recruit the glute muscles.                         

  • Glute strengthening exercises at home or a gym will only add to the work you’re putting in while on the cycle.

Glute exercises
Glute strengthening exercises

The Importance of the Glute Muscles

The glute muscles are made up of three muscles:

  1. The Gluteus Maximus which is the largest of all three

  2. The Gluteus Medius is a thick fan-shaped muscle that lies under the larger gluteus and above the smaller gluteus

  3. The Gluteus Minimus is the deepest and the smallest of the lot.

glute exercises
Learn about glute strengthening

Gluteus medius and minimus are responsible for keeping the pelvis neutral and in an upright position. They mostly work together to offer stability to the trunk, pelvis and the hip. Mostly used when performing an activity that requires an upright position, but is handy during cycling – though less active, they assist the other gluteal muscles in maintaining a straight line with each pedal stroke and also contribute to power.

Gluteus maximus expels maximum of the power, provides hip stability at the bottom end of the pedal stroke keeping it a neutral pedal stroke and keeps the hip in a straight line. Let’s just put it this way gluteus maximus cycling, makes your butt look good. Other gluteal muscles consist of multiple short muscles positioned between the pelvis and hip which are responsible for preventing the hip from turning inwards at the time of pedal strokes. They also offer a balance to preserve a neutral pedal stroke.

So, it’s evident that the glutes (or the buttocks) all together constitute the largest muscle group present in the body with the capability of providing enormous bursts of force and power whilst cycling.  

The Side Effects of Weak Glutes

Despite its importance, it’s sad to see the number of cyclists with weak glutes. This leads to a major problem of a rider being unable to accelerate while in the saddle and apply force. To compensate for a strong glute strength, the rider will get out of the seat to accelerate, a situation devoid of glute recruitment cycling. Glute recruitment cycling involves the engagement of the glute muscles to bear and sustain an effectual power line through the pedal stroke. This leads to quad dominant cycling wherein the rider shifts their body weight off and forward of the bicycle seat and primarily uses his hamstring and quadriceps muscles. While these two substitute muscles are strong muscle groups, owing to them being smaller, will reach a stage of fatigue much sooner. Quad dominant cycling always results in early fatigue.

Read the article Cycling Exercises: Best Leg Exercises for Cyclists to Perform Better for more cycling exercise tips!

Summing Up

It’s easy to dole out few exercises that you should incorporate for glutes workout, but remember to focus and attempt to visualize or picture the muscle in that motion. How could that possibly help? Well, when you’re focusing on that particular motion, your brain’s neuromuscular coordination will work its charm by assisting in turning this ‘conscious’ movement into a ‘sub-conscious’ movement with repetition and time.

And isn’t that what you should be striving for anyway? It’s clearly established that the glutes are powerful muscles know to stabilize your pedal stroke. Activating them and then working to strengthen them will reduce the chances of injuries and also take your cycling performance to the next level.

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