As a cyclist, it can be tempting to focus solely on the training you do on your bike, whether that's putting in the miles at your local spinning class, or getting out early in the morning for some hill intervals before the local rush hour starts.
But to improve your performance on the bike, you need to devote time to training off the bike too. During the offseason, or on rest days, there are many options for developing the balance, flexibility, and strength you need to compete as a cyclist, even if that just means beating your own personal best.
You'll also find that all-around training doesn't just help you push the pedals but makes you less prone to injuries and more likely to avoid getting hurt on the occasions that you do inevitably come off the bike. If you do get injured, recovery times are always shorter when you're in good overall shape.
If you're new to cycling, or you've been away from the sport for some time, the exercises which we've explained below are ideal for preparing your body for the unique stresses and strains of cycling. These exercises will make sure you don't have to stop almost as soon as you start riding due to picking up a minor sprain or strain.
And if you're a regular cyclist who is not already doing separate strength and conditioning training, well, you should really give it a go - you'll soon see the difference it makes!
1: Banded squats
Banded squats strengthen your glutes, quads, and hip muscles, as well as training your core and improving balance. To perform, wrap a Victorem hip circle band around your upper thighs just above the knee. Start by getting into a quarter squat position, then as you lower yourself into the squat, push your knees outwards against the resistance of the band. As you raise your body back out of the squat, bring your knees smoothly back together.
Deadlifts are excellent for overall body strength, but mainly targets your hips and posterior chain, which is ideal for cyclists. You can also adapt the activity to shift the focus to your quads if you want to build power, particularly for hill climbing or sprinting. Simply increase the knee bend while adding extra weight, and you'll feel the difference in your thighs.
Always be careful not to overload your bar to avoid injury, it's better to do a few more reps with a lighter weight than to put yourself out of action by overexerting your muscles. If you don't own weights or a barbell, you can always use a resistance band to do banded deadlifts instead. A resistance band is a perfect solution for cyclists who travel a lot as you can carry your "weights" with you.
This is one of the easiest to master but the most effective exercises to target and strengthen your whole core. Start off with a simple plank, holding your body in the push-up position, concentrating on keeping a direct line running from your shoulders to your heels, and being careful not to tense your neck muscles.
As you gain stamina, you can ramp up the challenge by adding on time or introducing variants such as side planks, elbow planks, or even banded planks.
Flexibility is just as crucial as strength for the serious cyclist. It's no use developing a ton of power if your legs seize up after a few miles. Lunges help tone and loosen your hamstrings, hips, and quads, and assist in ensuring the muscles are fully oxygenated, making it an ideal exercise to do just before a ride.
Once you're comfortable with basic lunges, you can add dumbbells to the exercise to increase the challenge.
The push-up is a go-to classic exercise that is great for working the upper body, arms, and core. Start out by doing basic push-ups, or if that's beyond your current ability, wall push-ups.
As you develop your muscles, you can move on to more advanced variants such as elevated push-ups with your feet placed on a chair or bench, or choose broader or narrower hand placement to switch the focus to different muscles in the arms, back and chest.
Burpees are an extremely effective way to build explosive strength and overall stamina. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your arms at your sides, and your back straight. Lower your body quickly into a squat, and place your hands on the ground directly in front of your feet.
Transfer your weight to your hands, and jump your feet back to land in a plank position. Immediately jump back rapidly to the squat position. Explode upwards, arms raised, trying to get as much air between you and the ground as possible.
As well as building your overall fitness, and training some of the muscle groups involved in cycling, these exercises will help develop your balance and flexibility, which is vital in avoiding injury on and off the bike.
Try implementing all or some of these exercises into your regular training routine and we promise you'll see a difference in your speed and endurance within a few weeks.
Written in collaboration with Victorem.