6 Strength Exercises for Cyclists
If you’ve got big goals in cycling for next summer, now is the time to be preparing your body for what’s coming, and building strength will go a long way.
Developing strength, concentrating on your core, glutes and hamstrings will improve your power, as well as making you more resilient to injuries whilst a stronger upper body will help keep fatigue at bay, especially on climbs.
Some cyclists feel concerned that strength training will cause them to ‘bulk up’, but it really takes some very heavy lifting, a calorie dense diet and a specific plan to take on a bodybuilder physique. Adding some strength training into your routine is likely to result in a leaner physique as muscle replaces fat.
Technique is really important with any sort of weightlifting, so start with a weight that is very manageable, so you can focus on form and always ask someone at the gym to lead you through the phases, and watch you in your first few lifts.
Here’s a look at 6 exercises that will help you to be stronger on the bike – 3 you can do at home, and 3 that you’ll need weights for. The number of repetitions you do of each of these will depend upon your goal – low weight repeated many times is an endurance effort, whilst low reps and heavy weights build more strength. Mix up the sets by doing press-ups, tricep dips (great for upper body strength, which will help on climbs), planks and sit-ups (amazing for your core).
Adding in some focus on strength now will certainly help you as you ramp up your riding ready for the summer months. Try doing 30 minutes of these exercises a couple of times a week and we're sure you'll get addicted to the burn!
1. The Plank
The good old plank is recommended a lot – and that’s because it works your core from your thighs to your shoulders. This exercise is fantastic for cyclists – a strong back gives you stability on the bike and will help you to avoid lower back injuries that can crop up when you’re spending long hours hunched over handlebars.
The plank is simple to perform, but it is important to keep your back as straight as possible, not letting your bum stick up in the air or your back dip - you should feel the burn deep in your core. Stop when you feel you’re losing the ability to hold the pose and aim to hold it for just a few more seconds next time.
2. Tricep Dips
Upper body strength is often overlooked by cyclists –but having strong arms and shoulders will help with your bike control and climbing, as well as preventing fatigue on long rides. The Tricep Dip works your Triceps (obviously) and core as you stabalise your body.
Start with your palms resting on a bench or chair, fingers facing forward, and bend your arms lower your body as close to the floor as you can get, before lifting yourself back up. Do as many as you can, whilst still holding good form, and aim to add to your reps.
3. Press Up
More upper body benefit comes from the press up, which works your arms as well as your core and back since you are effectively in a plank position.
If like us, your upper body is not quite up to a full press up, pop you knees down on the ground. Our trainer assured us that the position of your feet is not the most important thing but instead you should concentrate on your positioning and the overall quality of your press up.
It’s easy to let your back fall as you press up, but try to keep your back as straight as possible. When you lower your body down, try to get as close to the floor as you can – it’s better to do fewer press ups well, than many bad ones!
Deadlifts are a great way to build the strength in your hamstrings and glutes. Because it’s a full body movement, you also activate your core and work your lower back in the process.
Begin with a bar on the floor, reach down to pick it up. As you do so, concentrate on pushing your bottom out as you would when performing a squat. Lift the bar so your arms are extended, making sure you do not round your back, or let your knees fall in, then return it to the floor.
Make sure to choose a comfortable weight. In this instance we lifted the bar only as it weighed in at 8kgs. As you get stronger you can add a little more weight to your workout.
Squats are another incredibly effective exercise – working your core, glutes, and quads. Proper form is important, and it’s best to begin with a body weight squat. Starting with a box or chair behind you, sit down with your bottom pushed out, but do not touch the chair. At this point, check your knees have not gone over your toes, or turned inwards. Hold the pose for 2-5 seconds, then return.
Once you’re happy with this you can move on to try completing the movement with a dumbbell cradled in your hands, then with the bar.
Another very useful exercise for a cyclist is a lunge. It’s easy for cyclists to become dependent on strong quads, which push the pedal down, but this one again works the hamstrings and glues to ensure they’re not slacking. Doing them whilst holding a weight above your head works your core to stabilise your body, too.
To perform the exercise, start with your torso upright, and the weight above your head. Step one leg forward, and dip down by bending your other knee. Look down to make sure you have not allowed your leading knee to move forward in front of your toes, as this will stress your knee.
This article was written by Michelle Arthurs Brennan, to find out more about her, why not check out her blog Ride.Write.Repeat.