Regular conditioning exercises are a great way for a cyclist to build strength, stability and power. If your leg muscles and core are strong you’ll become technically better and perform at a higher level.
Britain’s superstar cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy describes his top five exercises that will help cyclists, build strength, dodge injury and power up their performance. Watch out you’ll build some thighs!
Has: Steam engine piston thighs – 27 inch bore (err size for each!)
Fuel: At the peak of his training he’d consume 6000 calories a day and 6 litres of water
Timetable: Would train 25-35 hours a week 2 hours in the gym; 1-hour recovery ride; 3 hours on the track
Power output: Can squat 2.5 x his body weight, leg press over 600kg and can reach speeds of 50mph on the track
The race (despite the training!): “You’re working anaerobically, the oxygen isn’t getting to the muscles, lactic is building up but you can’t clear it, and with that comes the burn in your muscles. They just start shutting down, and that’s a horrible feeling because your legs turn to jelly. You’re telling them to go faster but there’s nothing happening.”
1. SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFTS
How to: Stand upright and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you at waist-height. Lift one foot off the floor and slowly pivot forwards so your raised leg lifts up behind you and your chest moves forwards. Pause, then return to the start position. Keep your head up and your back straight throughout.
Why: “This is a great exercise for leg strength,” says Hoy. It works your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and helps extensors, making it a perfect conditioning tool for road cyclists and mountain bikers. “Because it’s unilateral (working one leg at a time) you have to stay balanced, so it helps iron out muscle imbalances and build core control.”
Do: 3 x 10 reps
How to: Stand beneath a barbell with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly pointing outwards. Keeping your chest up and your back straight, bend at the legs and hips as if you’re sitting down. Keep your knees tracking over your feet and don’t let them go past your toes, then drive up powerfully through your heels.
Why: “The squat is the best conditioning exercise for any form of cycling,” says Hoy. “It works your glutes, quads and hamstrings but it also conditions your back, shoulders, arms and core which helps to develop your cycling efficiency, bike control and power.”
Do: 3 x 10 reps
3. ELEVATED LUNGES
How to: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and rest your back foot on a box (a wall or park bench will also work). Stare straight ahead and keep your chest up as you slowly lower your front leg towards the floor. Keep your back straight and your front shin vertical. Drive back up again through your front foot.
Why: “This exercise really works your prime movers like your quads and glutes,” says Hoy. With stronger leg muscles, you will sharpen up your sprint and add fluency to your pedalling motion. “It’s another unilateral exercise that will also recruit your core and hips and will prevent you from wobbling around, therefore improving your stability and body awareness.”
Do: 3 x 10 reps
4. BARBELL ROLL-OUTS
How to: Start with your knees on the floor and your hands gripping a barbell (with discs on the ends), then slowly roll forwards, bracing your abs to control your movement. Try to avoid any kind of jerky motion and keep it nice and smooth and controlled. Before you touch the floor, pause and slowly pull yourself back up by contracting your abs.
Why: “Although it looks tricky this is actually a straightforward but very powerful core exercise,” says Hoys. “You need to contract your transversus abdominis (your body’s natural corset muscle) and keep your back straight. With stronger core muscles you will be able to hold an efficient position on your bike much more easily.”
Do: 3 x 10 reps
5. RUSSIAN TWISTS
How to: Sit on the floor, with your knees slightly bent, and lean backwards while keeping your back straight. Hold a weight plate or medicine ball in both hands and slowly twist it from side-to-side. Try to keep your legs as still as possible and just use your abs and arms for the movement.
Why: “Core strength is crucial for cyclists because to be efficient you need to keep your upper body stable while your legs are moving up and down as you pedal,” says Hoy. “This exercise works your obliques (the abdominal muscles at the sides of your stomach) to help you maintain the most efficient position as you pedal.”
Do: 3 x 10 reps each side
Credit to Outdoor Fitness for this cycling power exercise.