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Cycling Exercises: Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists

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Modern-day cyclists are smart enough to understand the importance of strength training in their performance. Perform these essential strength training exercises because an overall sharp and strong body can help boost your endurance and performance by an extra nudge. Long gone are the myths and beliefs that indulging in strength training exercises can hinder an endurance athlete’s performance. No longer is adding bulk seen as too much of a bad thing for athletes like cyclists and sprinters. In fact, strength training activities and workouts not only make our muscles sturdier and stronger, but they also improve bone density and connectivity in your tissues. And the biggest factor about strength training exercises for cyclists is that it helps them with preventing muscle imbalances, which is one of the main factors that lead to bodily injuries.

In the light of cyclists benefiting from strength building exercises, let’s find out more on strength training exercise for cyclists.

Why Do Cyclists Need Strength Training

Professional cyclist
Overall Body Strenght Matters in Your Cycling performance (source)

A versatile range of strength training exercises for cyclists helps them improve their lactate threshold, which is the point at which the body produces lactic acid, faster than the rate at which it can remove it.

Cyclists are a special category of endurance athletes who are always looking for a variety range of methods and physical training activities to get faster, stronger and more importantly maintain their energy level. By doing just two to three structured strength training sessions each week can result in several improvements in not just your cycling strength on the bike and your overall performance, but also your muscular strength and overall cardiovascular endurance.

However, strength training exercises for cyclists should also aim to indulge in a dynamic set of free weight training exercises, as they tend to provide better physical returns. It is stressed upon by professionals that free weight training for cyclists should only be used if they can perform the fundamental movements and have prior experience in free weights training. It is also often advised that cyclists don’t engage in workout routines and training sessions that they are not particularly conditioned to perform.

This is because athletes tend to get injured in activities that they aren’t conditioned to. It might end up overloading them with physical exertion from doing strength training exercises like squats and lunges that might end up causing knee and back problems. Hence, apart from a well-structured strength training workout plan for cyclists, it is equally important to focus on the strength and conditioning needed for cycling.

How Can Cyclist Strengthen Their Core Muscles

Core muscle strength
Core Muscle Strenght is Important for Cyclists (source)

While for every cyclist, their tough quads and razor-cut calves might be the most prided features, but having all the leg strength in the world cannot ensure a smooth and powerful ride if their core muscles aren’t stable and strong. If your core muscles aren’t attended to, it’s very likely that along the course of your ride your hips might start to “seesaw” in the seat, your lower back might ache, and turning on corners might get difficult.

This is because your core muscles tire out before your legs wear out. And even though it’s always assumed a cyclist's legs are meant to provide the most source of power and energy when riding, but it’s actually the core muscles—abs and lower back— that are the very foundation from which all the movement, including the pedal stroke, branches out.

A strong set of core muscles can very easily help get rid of redundant upper-body movement so that all the energy produced is channelled into a smooth pedal stroke. Correct positioning of the cycle’s tripod, seat or saddle, the pedals, and handlebar can also help support your weight better and facilitate core stability. And if there’s anybody part one can start with, it goes without saying that the core takes a huge priority.

Here are a few strength training exercises for cyclists that truly gives the attention your core would need to help improve any and every strength training for cyclists and their cycling strength on the bike:

Crunches

Boxer ball crunch
Boxer Ball Crunch Workout (source)

There’s nothing that a good set of crunches cannot do that any modern-day ab machine can do. For high endurance cyclists, they should do around 200 to 300 crunches per session.

Boxer Ball Crunch

This exercise works on your transverse abs, lower back, and obliques. It works by lying on your back on an exercise ball with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Placing your hand behind your head, lift your upper back behind while twisting your torso in a clockwise movement. Continue for 15 reps in a clockwise motion and another 15 reps in an anti-clockwise movement. This circular exercise helps build control and minimize lateral torsion and wasted motion.

Power Bridges

power bridge
Power Bridge Workout (source)

Strong back muscles are required to maintain proper posture while cycling. Power bridge is a strength training exercise for cyclists that focuses on glutes, hip flexors, lower back, and spine. This relatively simple yet highly effective workout only requires you to lie on your back, bend your knees and place your heels near your glutes. Keep pushing your hips up and down, in one smooth motion to form a straight line from your shoulders to the knees. Doing about 20 reps helps stretch out your hip flexors (which tends to often be stiff amongst cyclists) and power bridges are one of the few cyclist strength training exercises that help strengthen the link between your lower back and glutes.

Hip Extensions

Hip extension
Hip Extension Workout (source)

This strength and conditioning workout for cyclists helps build the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. By lying on your hips and stomach on a stability ball, you would have to put your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders and extend your legs with your toes resting on the floor. Continue to lift your both legs together off the ground, parallel to it and keep them as straight as possible. After holding for two seconds, lower them back down, and doing around 20 reps of this for every muscle training session helps improve lower back strength and stability, therefore facilitating the efficiency on the second half of the pedal stroke.

Planks

Planks for cores
Planks Are One of the Best Workouts for Your Cores (source)

This classic core muscle workout really helps build your upper and lower back, as well as your transverse abs. As simple as it looks, it actually puts a serious amount of pressure on your core muscles and gives it a greater muscular endurance; the kind of core strength and energy cyclists would need to ride powerfully. All you’d need to do is place your elbow underneath your shoulders and keep your abs tight as your suspend your body parallelly to the floor for around 1 minute.

You can even try transverse planks that focus on strengthening your obliques to better improve your stability in and balance on the saddle, allowing you take on hairpin corners with more control and speed. One of the most loved strength training exercises for cyclists!

Boat Pose

boat pose yoga
Boat Pose is a Yoga Posture for Core Strengthening (source)

This core strengthening muscle workout works on your lower back and abs. It helps generate stability in the lower back and maintain the core strength that is needed to remain bent over the handlebar for hours on end. Keep your legs together and lean back your torso at 45-degree angle. Lift your legs off the ground and extend your arms at shoulder height. Hold your position for about a minute long, for about 3 to 4 reps per training session.

Catapult

Catapult exercise
Catapult Exercise (source)

For cyclists, this the ultimate core muscle strengthening exercise. The catapult works on your entire core and facilitates total body control. With a slight bend in your knees, sit with press your heels against the floor, a straight spine and an upward gaze. With your arms stretched out, lower your back slowly onto the floor on five counts, and raise it back after 5 seconds to the starting position. Doing around 20 reps per training session can help encourage a high level of core muscle stability.

Scissors Kick

Scissor kicks
Scissor Kicks for Stronger Lower Body (source)

A comprehensive exercise that aims at three elements of the body, transverse abdominus, hip flexors, inner and outer thighs. This workout helps to achieve hip, knee and forefoot alignment for a correct and efficient pedal stroke. Lie down on your back with legs stretched out straight. Place your hands under your lower back, with palms down. Now, push your elbows down into the ground to pull your belly button towards your spine, raise your shoulders off the ground and look upwards. Next, raise your legs about 4 inches off the floor and flap them: left leg over right, then right over left. That's one rep. Perform at least 100 reps.

Legs Strengthening Exercises for Cycling

Legs strengthening exercise for cyclists
Legs Strengthening Exercises for Powerful Cycling (source)

While cycling is a high endurance physical activity for great muscle toning and development, cyclists would need to work equally hard off the road. To ensure that their strength training for cyclist plan helps to maintain a stable and powerful muscular structure, especially in their legs a cyclist should indulge in some legs strengthening exercises for cycling as well. Sometimes doing single-leg exercises can help cater to the legs individually. It’s also important for cyclists to remember that isn't rare for one leg to be more dominant than the other, and that’s why doing individual exercises allows for the weaker leg to gain strength and stabilization. With that, here are a few best leg workouts for cycling:

Hamstrings and Leg Curls

Legs curl exercise
Leg Curl Workout (source)

For a cyclist, preparing your legs by indulging in some of the best leg workouts, is what makes one of the biggest differences when on the cycle. Many cyclists often indulge in leg workouts like leg curls to improve their leg and calf muscles and strength. If you happen to be using a leg curl machine, you should always remember to adjust the setting as per your weight and heights resistance. Lying face down on an angled machine and place your legs beneath the padded lever, a few inches below the calves. Grab the side handles of the machine, and curl your legs up as far as possible without losing contact with the lever; remember to exhale as you curl up. Hold for one second, then release down as you inhale. This exercise is to known to strengthen and energize your calves, lower back, and hamstrings and is recommended that you do 3 sets of 20 reps each.

Glutes with Weights

Glutes with weight
Glutes Workout with Weights (source)

Strength training for cyclists mostly helps rebuild muscle without causing the body to bulk up too much. And it is often advised to adopt a dynamic workout, especially one involving the use of free weights. Lunges and squats using weights have known to have the best effects on your glutes and calves, and further, encourage a powerful and sustained pedal stroke across a long period of time on the cycle. Just grab a set of dumbbells and start with your feet hip-width apart. Step backward with your left leg into a reverse lunge and continue for at least 20 reps of lunges. A reverse lunge is more preferable, especially amongst cyclists as it creates less stress on the knee than a standard forward lunge. Make sure to maintain your back in a straight position and your shoulders levelled the whole time. Results are maximum when you perform three sets of 20 with each leg.

Step Ups: Another great strength and weight training for cyclists is a solid set of step ups. Find a step that is about 6 to 12 inches off the ground and while holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, continue 3 sets of step ups with 10 reps in each one.

LivingIt Tip:

Remember to use a pair of dumbbells that are approximately 10% to 15% of your bodyweight.

Quads Up the Ladder

Quads with ladder
Quads Workouts with Yoga Bands and Ladder (source)

One of the best strength training exercises for cyclists is using the agility ladder. This is a great combo of both cardio and strength training. By adding resistance bands to your ankles, shuffle from side to side through an agility ladder for about 20 minutes per training sessions. You can also use Jacobs Ladder, ladder-like piece of gym equipment to train. Climb up and down for 100 reps.

Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists - The Need of the Hour

Professional cyclists
A Complete Stronger Body Can Be Helpful in Winning a Race (source)

Some of the best strength training for cyclists has come out through certain cyclist workout plans that involve a plethora of exercises that help build upon various muscular regions; mainly your core, glutes, hamstrings, back, and legs. A well thought out strength training cyclist workout plan helps break their normal gym oriented training programmes, without causing them to gain a lot of unnecessary bulk. It can help them improve their balance and strength on the saddle when riding for long periods of time, and apply greater and more importantly more sustained force and strength in their pedal strokes. At the end of the day, every workout plan is designed in accordance with the cyclist’s preferences and physical build and capabilities.

Cyclist with bike
Strength Training is Favourable for Cyclists (source)

Summing Up

But regardless of the strength training exercises, most cyclists have also found that there’s no better teacher than experience. It is critical to keep in mind that strength training exercises should only be used as a supplement to long hours of training on the bike and that the full reward can only be reaped if a large portion of energy and time was spent on training on the bike.

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