If you’re only into cycling so you can ride to the park every other weekend, you may not need a ton of strength training. But what if you want to pick up your pace or take a few long-haul journeys on your camping trip?
Conditioning exercises are specifically aimed at strengthening your muscles, increasing speed, or building endurance. They’re not easy, but doing just 20 minutes per day of conditioning can make a huge difference by helping give you’re the strength and endurance you need to ride for longer without pain.
Strength training for cyclists ranges from increasing leg strength to building up your lower back muscles. Here are some of the exercises we recommend (before you jump in, talk to your doctor about any concerns you have).
Planks are good for a few reasons. One, you can do them anywhere. You don’t need equipment and they don’t require making any noise or jumping around. You can sneak in a few next to your desk at lunchtime.
Secondly, planks target multiple muscle groups. They strengthen your abs, back, and shoulders. To do a plank, lay stomach-down on the ground and prop your upper body up by the elbows, with your forearms flat in front of you. Some people keep their arms straight, and some pivot them in slightly – do whatever feels better for you.
Lift your legs up so that you’re balancing on your toes. Remain in the plank for one minute and then take a break before doing another one. Over time, you can remain in plank position for longer periods of time and do more reps. For added difficulty, do a high plank, keeping your body propped up with your palms on the ground and your arms fully extended.
Squats also work multiple muscle groups, including your hamstrings and glutes. They’re one of the best exercises for cyclists because if you want to pick up your speed on a bike – frankly, you need your butt and hams to be stronger.
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. You can clasp your hands together in front of your chest or hold them out straight in front of your body. Either way, make sure your elbows are extended to help with your balance. Try to keep your back as straight as possible, and bend your legs until your butt drops just below knee level. Your back may bend forward slightly when you reach the bottom of your squat. Stand back up and repeat.
This exercise targets your hips and glutes. If you use free weights (aka dumbbells), it can also work your biceps. To begin, stand with your feet together and take a giant step forward with one foot. Bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle – your back leg will naturally straighten. Count to 10 and then bring your legs back together. Repeat with the other leg.
Once you have your balance down, do the same exercise with a weight in each hand. You can even do bicep curls while you’re down in your lunge. You can really get your heart rate going with lunges even though you’re not moving a lot.
This might not sound like it belongs in one of the best workouts for cyclists, but stay with us. You don’t have to go sailing to do a boat pose. Plus, it’s a low-impact way to work your abs and lower back. You can even do it while you’re watching TV.
To begin, sit on the ground with your legs out in front of your body. Put your legs together and lean your body back while lifting your legs. You can put your hands underneath your thighs to balance yourself. Your body should be making a “V” shape. Keep your shoulders and back straight and remain in the pose for about 10 seconds. Repeat at least five times (you can do more as you gain back strength).
These exercises make your glutes, legs, and lower back stronger. Over time, dumbbell deadlifts can make it easier to pedal for longer. Hold a dumbbell (you might want to begin with just five pounds) in each hand. Pick a spot on the wall in front of you to focus on. Then, bend over at the waist and lower your arms toward the floor. Your back should remain straight the entire time – stop when your back is parallel to the floor. Your head will remain looking up, which makes it easy to stop yourself from bending too far. Bending your knees slightly is OK, but keep them relatively straight.
Burpees have a bad reputation, but that’s only because so many of us hated them during gym class in junior high. The reality is that they can do a lot for your body and make you a stronger cyclist.
If it’s been a while since your PE teacher had you doing burpees, here is a quick refresher. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then squat all the way down and put your palms on the ground. Push your legs out behind you until you’re in a high plank position (you can drop your body to the floor and then go back to the high plank for added difficulty). Jump up to your feet and put your hands above your head. Then repeat 10 times.
Cycling exercises aren’t just about practicing on a stationary bike. Nailing down proper form is important, but conditioning gives you the foundational strength you need to tackle steep inclines and difficult switchbacks.
Once your body is strong, it’s time to start thinking about your equipment. If you don’t have the right bike, all the conditioning in the world may not be able to ward off sore muscles and difficult rides. Sixthreezero has the best bikes for men and women, ranging from breezy single speeds to tough 21-speeds. We even have electric bikes, which offer motorized power to supplement your pedaling.
Feeling stronger? Once you’re ready to explore tougher terrain we can help you find a new route. Join our Journey Club to uncover biking locations around the world and connect with other cyclists.