Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realise fishing is stupid and boring” Desmond Tutu
Contrary to the belief of many cyclists, spending a lot of time in the saddle won’t always be enough to improve your cycling ability. Although this helps, many athletes fail to see the importance of strength training and often neglect this as part of their training regime.
Core strength and functional leg strength play a huge role in improving power and endurance on a bike. In the absence of strength training, leg speed and power will plateau at some point.
With winter underway and hours in the saddle reduced for most people, now is the time to focus on strength, ahead of 2018. The following key exercises will help to improve your core strength and functional leg strength.
A favourite of mine! The plank is an incredible exercise for improving core strength, as it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. And with so many variations, there are plenty of ways to keep things varied each workout.
Initially, hold the plank for about 45 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising form or breathing. Aim to be holding between 1-2 minutes within 4 weeks of training.
Side Plank Leg Raise:
A variation of a normal plank, is to take it to the side! Side plank leg raises target your shoulders, obliques, abs, upper back, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. This exercise strengthens the whole body, improving your balance, posture and most importantly, challenges your brain.
Hold a side plank position and then slowly raise the top leg up. Hold for a second and bring back to the start position. Do three sets of 10 repetitions on each side, gradually increasing to 20 repetitions as your strength and stability improves.
The deadlift is another exercise that strengthens the whole body.
The deadlift is a compound move which is best learnt from a trained professional. Once you have mastered the technique both the bent leg and stiff legged deadlifts should become a cornerstone of your strength plan.
Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions, with the goal of increasing the weight every few weeks. Ensure you begin light and focus on technique over weight lifted to avoid injury.
The beauty of the squat is that it can be done anywhere, there is no equipment needed – unless you are adding extra weight! When performed correctly, a squat not only works your lower body, but is also an effective core workout too due to the core engagement needed. Start off performing 3 sets of 20 reps, gradually increasing reps as your leg strength increases.
Need to activate your glutes? Use a resistance band tied around the legs, above the knees, and focus on squatting without your knee falling inwards (knee valgus).
If you want to see an improvement in your cycling performance, it is essential your training plan includes workouts targeted specifically at developing core and functional leg strength. Not sure how to start? Email me - firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Rob is a sports performance specialist with over 16 years experience in the fitness industry. Focus 4 Fitness offer expert sports therapy & sports massage, personal training, sports coaching, classes and courses in Norwich).