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5 Essential Strength Training Exercises to Boost Your Cycling Performance

Maximizing your cycling performance isn’t just about building brute strength; it’s about being training smart. Strength training is crucial for enhancing cycling performance and preventing injuries. We’ve identified the five most essential strength training exercises that effectively train your core, stability, and overall strength.

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Squats

Squats are fundamental for cyclists because they target the major muscle groups used in pedaling, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Bodyweight squats and split squats are two major variations of squats that help improve muscle stabilization and core engagement for balance.

How to Do A Bodyweight Squat

Focus on maintaining control as you lower yourself down. Start by pushing your butt back slightly, then bend your knees to continue lowering yourself down. Avoid the common mistake of bending your knees first.

As you bend your knees, engage your glutes and shift your hands forward to maintain balance. Aim to lower your butt just below knee level. Keeping your glutes engaged will help maintain proper form. Press through your feet and extend your hips to return to the standing position to complete the movement.

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How to Do Split Squat

To perform split squats, you’ll need a bench and optional dumbbells for added resistance.

Start with your feet hip-width apart. Place your right foot forward and your left foot behind you on a bench about knee height. Keep your hands on your hips.

Keep your back straight and lower your left knee towards the floor. Ensure your front knee forms a 90-degree angle and does not extend past your toes.

Before your left knee touches the floor, press down on your right foot to engage your right knee. Push the top of your left foot into the bench and return to the starting position.

Aim for three to four sets of 8-10 reps on each leg. Rest for five minutes between sets.

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Planks

Planks are excellent for building core endurance, target your shoulders, abdomen, and lower back. It is a tough full body exercise that not only works the core, upper body but also your willpower. A strong core is essential for maintaining an efficient and powerful pedal stroke, as well as reducing fatigue and preventing injuries.

How to Do A Forearm Plank

Place your elbows under your shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. Maintain a straight line from head to heels, engaging your legs without locking or hyperextending your knees.

Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands, keeping your head in line with your back.

Hold this position for 30-60 seconds. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, aim to hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising form or breath. Progress to 60-90 seconds as you advance through off-season training.

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How to Do a Side Plank

This variation engages your obliques, the side muscles of your core.

Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Prop your body up on your hand or elbow while keeping your feet stacked. Maintain a straight line from your head to your heels.

To make the plank more challenging, raise the opposite arm or leg, or both, in the air. To make it easier, cross the top leg in front of your body for additional support.

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Russian Twist

The Russian twist is an excellent exercise for building core, shoulder and lower back strength. It is commonly used by athletes to improve rotational movement and also enhances hip and glute strength.

How to Do A Russian twist

Sit on the floor, rooted into your sit bones. Lift your feet off the floor, keeping your knees bent

Straighten and elongate your spine, leaning back to create a 45-degree angle with the floor. Your torso and thighs should form a V shape.

Extend your arms straight out in front of you, either interlacing your fingers or clasping your hands together. Use your abdominals to twist your torso to the right, then return to the center, and twist to the left. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

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Deadlift

Deadlifts are one of the best exercises for overall strength, engaging multiple muscle groups, including the back, glutes, hamstrings, and core. They help recruit all your muscle fibers to lift the weight. This simple compound exercise activates your legs, back, and core muscles, developing overall muscle strength, increasing power, and supporting the key movements required to make you an efficient and fast rider.

How to Do a Deadlift

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the knees and squat down to grip the barbell.

Focus straight ahead, push your shoulders back, and lift the bar until it reaches thigh level. Keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the movement.

Avoid jerking the bar off the ground. Instead, feel the tension of the bar against the weights and lift with a steady, fluid motion, keeping it as close to your body as possible.

Perform four sets of eight reps, with a five-minute rest between sets.

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One-Legged Drills

One-legged drills help refine neuromuscular efficiency and pedaling technique. Studies have shown that high-intensity single-leg cycling can significantly improve oxygen and energy use by the leg muscles, enhancing overall cycling performance.

Single-leg pedaling drills are best done on a spin bike where the weighted flywheel helps maintain momentum. This allows you to pedal with one leg longer and stronger before your hip flexors fatigue. Simply unclip one foot and hook it over the trainer or rest it on a stool or chair away from the bike.

How to Do One-Legged Drills

Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes as usual.

Unclip your dominant leg and pedal for 30 seconds with your non-dominant leg. Switch sides and pedal for 30 seconds with your dominant leg. Finish by pedaling for 30 seconds with both legs, focusing on keeping pressure on your non-dominant leg so the stroke feels even on both sides.

Repeat the sequence two more times. As it becomes easier, increase the interval time by 10 seconds until you are pedaling for one minute on each side.

How to Do One-Legged Drills

Meditation

Incorporating meditation during long rides can seem unconventional, but it helps in clearing the mind, conserving energy, and staying focused. Mental strength can significantly impact your performance, allowing you to push through discomfort and maintain confidence on the bike.

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Additional Tips 

Balance is Key

Overemphasizing strength could lead to unnecessary weight gain and hinder aerodynamics. Aim for a balanced approach that includes flexibility and endurance training.

Personalization

Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consider your flexibility, strength, and overall health to determine the best exercises for you. Consult with a physician before starting any new exercise program.

Safety First

Discontinue your exercise session immediately if you experience any pain, dizziness, or discomfort.

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