Cycling is a great activity for health, fitness, and weight maintenance. It’s also fun, especially when you take it out of the gym and into the real world. If you enjoy cycling, you’re getting a lot of important benefits:
- Cycling is a great cardiovascular workout. It elevates the heart rate and leads to improved cardio fitness.
- For anyone with joint pain, cycling is easy on the knees and hips.
- Although not adequate alone as strength training, cycling does build muscle.
- Cycling also builds bone density as you push down on the pedals.
- Studies have found that cycling rather than driving to work reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer and even extends life expectancy (1)
But today we thought we would touch on five of the best home strength exercises to help you go fast and reduce your chances of having any niggles as you tick those pedals over.
Straight Leg Hold
It will come as no surprise that your quadriceps take a hammering from cycling, in particular your rectus fumoirs which is the only quadricep that crosses your hip. This exercise works on your ability to contract this muscle effectively. It may also have the added benefit of loosening off your hamstrings.
- Lay down on your back, lock out one knee and slowly lift your leg around 2 feet (60 cm) off the floor.
- Hold that position for five seconds, focussing on keeping the knee as straight as possible.
- Relax the leg back to the ground before repeating a further five times.
- If you find you cramp, place your leg up on a couch or something similar for support. Extend your knee again but let the couch take some of the leg’s weight
Modified Star Side Plank
Your trunk side-bends during the cycling motion. Strengthening the muscles that are responsible for that motion is a good idea. This exercise work on your side-bending capacity.
- Lie on your side with your forearm resting on the ground with your legs in a straight line and feet placed on top of each other.
- Bend the bottom knee backwards.
- Lift your body off the ground supported by your foearm and bottome knee, into the modified side plank position.
- Now separate your legs from one another by raising the uppermost leg into the air.
- Hold that position for 10 seconds, focusing on keeping your body as straight as possible.
- Slowly relax down to the ground before repeating a further 6 times.
Repeat on the other side
The split squat provides a significant challenge for your quadriceps and your glute max without requiring additional weight. If you have dumbbells available then feel free to use them. This exercise will work well regardless.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slide one foot back as far as it will go without your lower back arching.
- Lean your trunk forward slightly and then slowly lower yourself towards the floor. Keep the foot of your leading leg flat on the ground and stop before your trailing knee touches the floor.
- Slowly begin to push yourself back up again using your front leg as much as possible. Your trailing leg will contribute, but focus your attention on the glute and quadricep of the forward leg. Ensure your forward knee tracks in the same direction as your foot throughout.
- Do 15 repetitions before switching your legs.
The muscles of your lower back make a significant contribution to the cycling motion. There is also evidence that weakness in these muscles may be a factor in the back pain many cyclists experience. This exercise is a useful way to begin strengthening those muscles.
- Fold up a thick beach towel like the one pictured above and place this on the ground. Lie face down with your abdomen over the top of it making sure the front of your pelvis remains on the floor.
- Rest your forehead on the ground and place your hands on the back of your head.
- Slowly start to extend your spine, raising your trunk as high as you can without moving your pelvis.
- Repeat until you feel mild fatigue in your lower back muscles.
Single Leg Calf Raises
Your calf muscles play a role in both transmitting power to the pedals and flexing your knees as you pull through at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Let’s face it, defined calves also look cool. Don’t judge me.
- Stand face-on to a wall or the back of a chair.
- Shift your weight on to one leg and slowly start to lift your heel off the ground.
- Make sure you keep the knuckle of your big toe in contact with the ground and lift the arch of your foot as high as possible.
- Make sure as you rise you are not shifting your body forward, ensure your going straight up.
- Hold the top position for a second before slowly lowering your heel back down to just above the floor.
- Maintain a small bend in your knee throughout and keep your weight over the working leg.
Below are some norms for this exercise to add a little motivation.
20-29 years – Males 37 reps; Females: 30
30-39 years – Males: 32 reps; Females: 27
40-49 years – Males: 28 reps; Females: 24
50-59 years – Males: 23 reps; Females: 21
60-69 years – Males: 19 reps; Females: 19
70-79 years – Males: 14 reps; Females: 16
80-89 years – Males: 10 reps; Females: 13