With work, family, friends and life in general, it's difficult to find the time for a good workout. When you can squeeze that hour out of your day, it's important to make it the most effective hour possible.
We chatted with Kerry Bircher, Head Coach at Revolution Cycling, about how we can be efficient with our training to improve our cycling fitness. Kerry is an all-round fitness guru, having completed running marathons, cycling sportives and gaining her qualifications in coaching and personal training.
"Cycling happens one leg at a time"
Kerry tells us that for cyclists in the gym there are two key things to focus on:
- Building a strong cardiovascular system to help prevent fatigue,
- Developing good core strength for the endurance of muscles.
It's important to work on core and cardio before increasing power, and pushing yourself too hard and too fast.
A note on the core...
We all know that cardiovascular fitness is important to cycling - but many of us ignore the core.
When you're cycling, your core (abdominal muscles, back muscles and pelvic muscles) should be doing a lot of work. A strong and flexible core helps with your performance on the bike - it'll mean more agile movements, better bike handling, rider comfort and even injury prevention.
As Kerry tells us: "Cycling happens one leg at a time, and it requires repeated, but relatively low force." Therefore, we need to link this repetitive cycling motion back to our workouts.
She explained: "When in the gym, try to train in a similar motion to cycling with your lower and upper body. Your main goal is your core and upper body, - they should be trained to create a stronger support system for your legs while on the bike."
Without further ado - here's Kerry's guidance on exactly what you should be doing with your one hour...
The 60 Minute Workout
The majority of your workout will consist of three cycles of the 'warm-up' set and 'working' set. For 45 minutes, you'll alternate between the two, before spending 5 minutes stretching, and ten minutes cooling down.
- Warm-up Set (reps of 16 - 20)
Warm-up sets are a great way to warm-up the muscles, increase suppleness, heart-rate and joint range of movement. Warm-up sets require the use of low weights, or no weights at all. The set comprises of full body compound movements which use the whole body. These are great for improving your stability, core and shoulders which are key areas for any cyclist.
Kerry's suggested movements are below - click the links for a detailed explanation of the move:
Great for quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abs - basically good all over! Make sure your knees don't go out as you squat - keep them square over your feet.
Again - a hamstring, quad, glute training exercise. Use a very light weight, or no weight, and ask someone in the gym to check your posture if you're new to this one.
- Press Up
Cyclists do work their arms - true story! Shoulder and arm strength comes in handy when climbing, and a stronger upper body will help avoid that long-ride-fatigue we all hate. Press-ups also work the abs and lower back as you hold a plank position.
Each exercise should be carried out 16-20 times, and they should be relatively easy in weight and movement. This is because it is important for you to check your form and posture before moving onto anything heavier.
After a full set of the warm-up's, move onto a working-set. Leave yourself minimal recovery time between these sets, working swiftly between the two.
- Working-Set (reps of 10 - 12)
The working-set uses almost the same three exercises as the warm-up set, but weighted - and the press up is swapped for a clean & press.
Posture becomes even more important with weight - ask to have someone watch you the first time - and keep those knees in!
Again - be careful here - follow the instructions in the links above and don't let your back arch or round as you lift.
The clean & press begins a lot like the deadlift - but rather than dropping the bar when you reach an upright position, you'll lift the bar to shoulder height, and then raise it above your head.
The weight you use will depend on your ability. Use a weight that is comfortable for most of the set, but gets difficult with the rep increase. It's important to make sure that the additional weight doesn't cause you to lose form, so keep an eye on those mirrors. The working-set would be paced out with a maximum range of movement. The purpose of this is to elevate the heart rate and burn some calories.
You'll want to achieve for 10 - 12 reps for each weighted squat, dead lift and clean & press.
- Thought it was all over? Repeat x 2
After a working-set, drop the weights and quickly move back onto the warm-up set. Repeat this until you've completed 3 warm-up sets and 3 working sets. This routine should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete.
Stretch and Roll (5 mins)
After you finished the warm-up and working sets, spend 5 minutes stretching out those muscles you just worked out. Foam rollers are brilliant for really getting deep into those muscles, and though it may be sore, it's good for your body and its recovery.
Cardio warm-down (10 mins)
This can be done on the running machine, rower or bike. It's a great way to loosen up those worked muscles, keep the blood pumping and build up that endurance.
This is a great workout foundation to build upon. When you feel the reps are getting too easy, increase the weight slightly. Remember to stretch and breathe, and check your form!
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