So you’re a serious cyclist looking to take your pedaling power to the next level. Hitting the gym is a great way to supplement your rides, improve your strength, and raise your endurance in the saddle. Weight training especially can help you build and maintain lean muscle, which means you will perform better on your bike rides. By sprinkling in a few lifting sessions a week, you may begin to notice that you will be able to ride faster and longer distances. This training can even be useful for daily bike commuters looking to make their ride a little easier. We’ve compiled two circuits of our favorite exercises that can benefit cyclists most effectively.
If you’re not an active gym-goer at the moment, here’s a few tips for beginners:
-A decent session for beginners would be five to six different exercises at three sets each exercise, ten reps each set.
-Find your working weight at ten reps: your tenth rep should be fairly difficult to lift/push. If you’re breezing through ten reps too easily, increase your weight.
-Don’t do the same set of exercises each time. You will get too comfortable and your muscles will too! Switch it up to keep your muscles guessing.
-Be sure to consume a meal or good source of protein within an hour post-workout. Consuming protein after a hard lifting session may boost your results and increase recovery. This will also prevent your body from using its own muscle tissue for energy and help encourage muscle synthesis.
Start by standing with good posture. Your feet can be close together with toes pointed forwards, or wide with toes pointed out. Find which foot placement is most comfortable for you. Keeping your chest “proud”, push the butt back first and then do a ‘sit down’ motion as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep your weight in your heels and go down as far as you can go. Drive through the heels, and keeping chest “proud” and head up, ascend being sure not to round your lower back.
Pro Tip: There are MANY different variations of the squat. You can use a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebell for weight. Also, high-bar, low-bar, sumo and narrow stance squats are all different variations you can try.
2. Leg Press
Start by sitting in the leg press machine. Position your feet about hip-width apart on the platform. Press the sled away from you, straightening your legs, and then unlock the sled. Bend your hips and knees and lower the sled until your legs are bent 90 degrees. Push back to start and push through your heels at the top, being sure not to lock your knees. Repeat for all your reps, and remember to lock the machine when you’re finished.
Pro Tip: The leg press machine can also be used unilaterally by positioning your body on your side rather than your back. This will help work the outer thigh.
3. Leg Extension Machine
Start by sitting in the leg extension machine with your legs under the front pad. Ideal position of the pad is on your lower leg right above your feet, with legs at a 90 degree angle. Utilizing your quads, lift your legs out to the maximum extension. Be sure to keep the rest of your body stationary, focusing only on flexing your quadricep muscles. Lower the weight back to the original position not going past the 90 degree angle with your knees. Repeat for the specified number of reps.
Pro Tip: Try different spacing with your legs, i.e. how far apart or close your knees are. This will work different areas of your thighs. This machine can also be performed unilaterally.
4. Calf Raises
Start by standing on the edge of a step, or a step-aerobics platform. Stand with good posture with your abdominals pulled in, your heels hanging over the edge of the platform. Raise your heels a few inches above the edge of the step so that you’re on your tiptoes. Hold the position for a moment, and then lower your heels below the platform. Lift as high as you can onto your toes and lower your heels down as much as your ankle flexibility allows. Push evenly through the entire width of your foot. Don’t push off from your big toe or the outside edge of your feet.
Pro Tip: To take your calf raises to the next level, try them weighted by holding dumbbells or kettle bells in each hand.
Start by placing your forearms on the ground with your elbows lined up below your shoulders. Dig your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to help stabilize your body. Keep your legs straight but don’t lock your knees. Keep your neck and spine aligned by looking at a spot on the floor, about a foot beyond your hands. Start by holding this position for 20 seconds, and keep increasing your time as you get more comfortable. Hold for as long as possible without sacrificing your form.
Pro Tip: While it’s important to work out your legs as a cyclist, working your core is essential too. After all, your legs are supporting your core, especially when you’re riding your bike. Planking is one of the most effective and efficient way to strengthen your abs and core in order to make you a well-rounded bicyclist.
Start by standing behind the barbell. Your feet will be hip-width apart (for conventional) or wide stance (for sumo). For conventional deadlift, grip the bar outside your thighs, for sumo grip is inside thighs, both with an overhand grip. Drop into position by bending your knees until your shins touch the bar. Straighten your back by raising you chest. Don’t change your position: keep the bar over your feet, your shins against the bar, and your hips where they are. Stand up with the weight. Keep the bar in contact with your legs while you pull. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top. Lock your hips and knees. Return the weight to the floor by unlocking your hips and knees first. Then lower the bar by moving your hips back while keeping your legs almost straight. Once the bar is past your knees, bend your legs more.
Pro Tip: The deadlift is one of the “Golden 5” compound exercises, and is technically a total body movement. It works not only your legs but your hips, back, core, and arms.
2. Weighted Lunges
Start by grabbing a dumbbell in each hand, or a kettleball in each hand, or with a barbell across your shoulders. Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up, engaging your core. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, and your other knee isn’t touching the floor. Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position. Repeat this movement with the opposite leg leading, walking forward.
Pro Tip: You can vary your lunges by taking smaller or larger steps. If you are especially prone to knee pain, keep your steps fairly small at first, and slowly increase your distance as your knees become stronger.
3. Barbell Glute Bridges
Start by sitting on the ground with a barbell over your legs. Roll the bar so that it’s directly over your hips and lay down on the floor. Drive through your heels and extend your hips vertically through the bar. Extend the movement as far as possible, being sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion. Don’t let your bum touch the ground between each rep, as it will give your muscles a chance to rest. While doing this exercise, your weight should be supported by your heels and and upper back at all times.
Pro Tip: Try a variation on this by propping your back and shoulders up on a weight bench. This will give you some negative space between you and the floor so you can dip down even further to feel the stretch more.
4. Leg Curl Machine
Start by sitting in the leg curl machine with the back of your lower legs on top of the pad, just a few inches under the calves. With your toes pointed, your legs should be fully extended in the machine. Pull the machine as far as possible to the back of your thighs by flexing at the knees. Keep the rest of your body stationary at all times. Be sure not to twist or jerk your lower back. Hold the contracted position for a second to feel the stretch in your hamstrings, then slowly return the machine back to the starting position by relaxing your knees. Repeat for the specified number of reps.
Pro Tip: As with the leg extension machine, play around with your leg spacing/ how far apart or close your knees are together. You will work different parts of your hamstrings with one exercise.
5. Kettlebell Swings
Start by standing over the kettlebell with feet hip-width apart and with good posture. The bell should be in line with the middle of your feet. Choose a lighter weight than you think at first until you become comfortable. Squatting down, grip the kettlebell with an overhand grip. Stand tall, keeping your arms loose while retracting your shoulder blades and engaging your core. Soften the knees, shift your bodyweight into your heels and lower your rear end back and down toward the wall behind you. Driving through your heel, explode through the hips upward from your quads. Aim for chest height with your arms extended. Be sure to engage your core and squeeze your glutes at the top of the exercise. Coming down, let the weight do the work as you ready your body for the next rep. Shift your weight back into your heels while hinging at the hips.
Pro Tip: This is another great full-body exercise when performed with good form. You’ll be engaging your quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, back, and shoulders.