Improve Your Cycling with Body Conditioning

Cycle Training

Body conditioning (strength exercises) is a great way of improving your cycling. Whatever the season and whatever the weather, you can always do some strength and conditioning training to help you improve your performance on your bike. Let’s take a look at different exercises that are great for cyclists.

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The exercises:

  1. Burpees: use the whole body and improve power
  2. Leg lifts: these target hip flexors as well as abdominal stabilizers that help smoothen your pedalling.
  3. Planks (and variations of them): these improve your core strength and thus make you more efficient on your bike.
  4. Lunges: These help with all of the major muscle groups in cycling including calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes.
  5. Weighted exercises: kettlebell swings, renegade rows, front squats and single-leg deadlifts are all really useful for improving body condition.


What do you need to do?

If you’re wanting to improve your cycling and aren’t already doing conditioning and strength exercises, this is a big thing you can do to see improvement.

Since cycling uses only one leg at a time, it needs repeated forces and is largely an aerobic activity. Cyclists also need to have endurance and a strong core.

Lots of activities address these requirements but there are some that, when combined, are ideal for cyclists and their bodies’ needs.

The best thing to do in terms of strength training is to choose exercises that have a similar movement pattern to cycling both with the lower body and the upper body. It’s also important to increase muscular endurance and core strength.

What you want from body conditioning is to have a strong support system for when you’re cycling. The stronger you are aerobically, the better chance you will have of staving off fatigue in races and you will have more power potential.

The following exercises use dumbbells and kettlebells. If you’re unsure of weight, see what you can manage. If you are unable to complete the set number of reps, lower the weights.


Exercises with bodyweight

Planks

One of the most simple exercises you can do is the plank. Planks are great because they can be done almost anywhere! What’s more, they target your abdomen, lower back and your shoulders.

To add more difficulty, you can try lifting one leg. Try to hold your plank for between 30 and 60 seconds initially but you should be able to progress to a longer hold as you practise.

Lunges

These are great for cycling as they target one leg individually. They also target great cycling muscles: the hamstrings, hips and quads. There are common mistakes with this exercise though. Make sure you don’t let your knee extend past the front foot and don’t flex or jerk your torso when moving backwards and forwards. In terms of reps, try 15 to 30 per set with 3 to 5 sets.

Leg lifts

Leg lifts are great for targeting hip flexors and abdominals. You can vary this exercise by putting your hands above your head. This will work with the upper abdominals. You should do 15 to 25 reps for each set and aim for between 3 and 5 sets.

Burpees

This is a great exercise for your whole body. It uses every major joint and is performed as an explosive movement. You can vary this exercise with a standing jump and adding a pushup. Your repetitions should be fast and you should do 10 to 20 reps per set with around 3 to 5 sets in total.


Exercises with weights

Renegade rows

These are a full-body exercise that uses similar muscles to the plank. These are also great for your arms and upper back. You should do between 15 and 30 reps per set and between 3 and 5 sets.

Kettlebell swings

When using kettlebells, you should use your core, keep your back straight and thrust from your lower body and hips. You should propel your arms and move your weight to swing it forward. This exercise targets hips, hamstrings and quads. You should aim for 15 to 25 reps with 3 to 5 sets in total.

Single-leg deadlifts

These work the hips and hamstrings. This will help to correct imbalances in your muscles. Start light (between 20 and 40 pounds) and do 8 to 10 reps for each set. Your back should be straight, your knees slightly bent and your core strong.

Front squats

These should be incorporated into all of your training. They work the hamstrings, hips and quads and really help to improve your strength and endurance. You should aim for 15 to 30 reps.


Final thoughts

These exercises are great for building your strength. They don’t need a lot of equipment either. Making time to do these exercises throughout the offseason and the riding season will help you be a better cyclist.