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Strength Training for Cyclists: Workouts to Boost Your Performance on Two Wheels

Strength-training-for-cyclists-featured

Whether you’re in a race or out on a training ride, hitting a new personal best is never far from a cyclists mind.

Oftentimes, what drives you to new heights isn’t the bike, the course or the conditions, it’s the engine behind it – your body.

So often we see cyclists hitting the roads and putting in all the hours on the bike, without backing it up with any kind of strength training.

Now, we know spending time on two wheels is extremely valuable to boosting your performance but, while your cadence might be high, if you can’t shift up into those big power gears, you’re going to struggle to see the improvements you’re aiming for.

If you’ve plateaued recently, or you often find yourself struggling to build up speed, a strength focussed workout can make all the difference. Read on and discover a game-changing workout right here.

Strength Training for Cyclists – Why You Need to Do It

Before you begin strength training, understanding how it can help your performance is paramount.

Building muscle in your body translates into two things when you’re on the bike: pace and power.

By performing sport-specific strength exercises, you can increase the power output coming from your engine. This means you can shift up to those bigger gears with ease and even increase your cadence too.

Imagine you’re cycling up a hill. Your cadence is high and your gear is low. Lactic acid is building up in your legs and the thought of going up a gear brings tears to your eyes. You’re missing the strength to cruise up that incline, and that’s not always something you can gain by hitting hills regularly.

Now think of the athletes on the Tour De France. These guys spend hours lifting weights in the gym every week alongside their road time, and when they’re tackling the mountainous terrain of the tour, their cadence is through the roof and they’re about five gears higher than we can even dream of.

We’re not saying you need to go as far as following a Tour training program, but the difference for them comes from the weights room.

By adding strength training workouts to your routine, you can slide into higher gears and crush your previous times. Before long you’ll be powering up that hill at a pace you didn’t think possible. Not a single tear in your eye.

Today, it’s more important than ever for cyclists to hit the weights room.

In the modern world, we spend countless hours sat down. You may be an avid cyclist, but whether you work a desk job or spend your evenings catching up on the latest Netflix hit series, it’s likely you’re damaging the essential muscles we need for every ride.

By remaining seated for long periods of time, you’re weakening the posterior chain, which are the muscles that run down your back, through your core, butt and upper legs.

Sound familiar? These are the primary muscles you use to power your bike forward.

So not only will strength training boost your performance on the bike, it’s also a great way to keep your physique in good shape, and keep injury at bay.

What You Need to Do in The Gym

To improve your overall training performance, you need to be working on sport-specific strength training.

That means working out in a way that not only supports the muscles you utilize when cycling, but also focuses in on developing strength rather than just hypertrophy, or muscle size.

To ensure you’ll benefit from this workout in your rides, we’ll be focusing on the lower body, and developing the muscles in this area in a way that supports the motion of cycling.

This includes the lower back, glutes, quads and hamstrings. We’ll work these muscles with compound movements to help you gain a more dynamic physique that translates well into power on the bike.

Strength is gained by training in a very specific way. This involves working low reps at heavy weights over short periods, with long rest times. By working in this way, you’re training your body to boost power output over muscle size, which is exactly what we’re looking for when we’re training for cycling.

Cyclists Strength Training Workouts

WorkoutSetReps
Deadlifts58
Front Squats58
Weighted lunges58 each leg
Dumbell split squats58 each leg
Good mornings58
Opposite arm and leg raise planks56

Deadlifts

The deadlift works more muscles than any other compound movement, and the main focus is on the posterior chain we mentioned before. This is one of the cornerstone movements to a cyclists workout and will not only help you add power to your rides but stability too.

This exercise recruits a huge number of muscles and replicates that downward press motion we use when we’re cycling, for dynamic strength development.  

Front Squats

A massive amount of power is generated through the quads when cycling, so it’s essential we build strength in this area. By loading the squat at the front of your body, you’re putting the strain right through the quads to build strength that is perfectly placed to keep the pedals moving.

Once again, this movement replicates the downward push you use when cycling, which strengthens the muscle you need on the bike.

Weighted Lunges

The gluteus maximus are the biggest muscles in your body, so it’s important that you’re getting the most out of them whenever you’re cycling. This muscle can also be one of the most negatively affected in the posterior chain when you’ve been sat at a desk all day.

By opting for a lunge, we’re once again working the muscle in a way that’s specific to cycling, whilst building strength by adding weight. This is essential to the glute, as we know so many try to develop the muscle for cycling with the wrong exercises.

For example, the clam will build glute strength but only in an outward rotation, which is something a cyclist would never use or need. Instead the lunge pushes down and works all the right muscles.

Dumbell Split Squats

This movement is similar to the weighted lunge in that it helps you to develop glute strength that will suit cycling perfectly. However, by using dumbells and completely isolating one leg, it also allows us to identify weaknesses in core stability and single out differences in muscle development.

Drilling this movement alone will improve core stability and, if you feel one leg is more dominant than the other, you can focus in on adding more reps to increase strength where needed.

Good Mornings

The lower back, glutes and hamstrings come into the firing line when you spend hours on the bike, and it’s essential to shore them up for a long, powerful ride. Good mornings build strength through this area of the posterior chain and helps to emulate the riding position.

Working the hamstring is particularly important, as it plays a crucial role in the pull motion that occurs when you use clipped shoes. This helps to add a little extra power to every stroke, so you can increase your overall speed, and take some of the pressure off the quads.

Opposite arm and leg raise planks

Stability is key to cycling. When you’re heading down a hill at speed, it’s the job of your core to keep you upright and maintain a steadfast position that’ll help you control the bike. Each of the movements above incorporate the core, therefore helping you to develop strength in this essential area.

However, to really home in on those stabilising muscles, the opposite arm and leg raise plank is your go to. It develops dynamic strength that will help you to create an unshakeable midsection.

Final Tips

To really feel the benefits of this type of training, you need to be lifting weights at least three times a week, alongside cycling.

Ensure you eat plenty of food and maintain a high protein diet to lock in the strength you’re crafting in these workouts.

Don’t forget to leave rest times of around three minutes between sets. This gives your body enough time to regenerate sufficient ATP to keep you energized for heavy lifts.

Finally, remember to keep pushing yourself. Not just on two wheels, but in the weights room too. The only way you’ll keep getting stronger is through a process called progressive overload, which basically means consistently challenging your muscles.

To ensure you maintain progression and keep moving forward on your rides, regularly add weight to your lifts and the strength, and PB’s, will keep coming.

This guest post was written by Lauren Fitzgerald, the creator of gymgirl.fit, writer, powerlifter and health and fitness enthusiast.