While nothing beats being in the saddle, these gym exercises will make you a faster and more powerful rider.
In an age of marginal gains, we’re all striving for that extra one percent, and while nothing can compare to time spent in the saddle, cyclists are increasingly now turning to the gym to help improve their performance.
Whatever you endgame, whether it’s training for a strong sportive finish or just looking to get in the mix on a local club ride, the exercises below will help increase your strength, power and ability on your bike.
The humble lunge is perfect for those wanting to workout at home. Simple and straightforward, lunges work every muscle in the lower body, targeting the hips, quads and hamstrings.
The workout: Three sets of 10 reps with a 45-second rest between sets.
- From a standing position, step forward with your right leg.
- Bend your trailing left leg until the knee is almost touching the floor. If it’s difficult to begin with, start with the knee lightly touching the ground.
- Push back into a standing position using your right foot.
- Repeat with your other leg.
Top Tip: To remain balanced and prevent injury, remember to keep your spine aligned. Keep your shoulders back, your chin up and always look straight ahead.
2. Kettlebell swings
An explosive full-body exercise, the kettlebell swing is an effective way to improve endurance and develop a stronger pedal stroke.
The workout: Three sets of 15 reps with a 90-second rest between sets.
- Pick a weight you’re comfortable with.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold the kettlebell firmly in two hands between your legs and, in a fluid motion, swing the kettlebell up to chest height.
- Control the kettlebell as it falls back down, hinging your hips to allow it to swing back between your legs.
Top Tip: Aim for full hip extension on that all-important up swing. Thrust through your thighs, tightening your core and glutes as you lift.
Despite what you might think, the deadlift is not to be feared. Activating your legs, back and core muscles, this simple compound exercise will develop your overall muscle strength, increasing power and supporting the key movements required to make you an efficient and fast rider.
The workout: Four sets of eight reps with a 45-second rest between sets.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at the knees and squat down to grip the barbell.
- If you have the correct position, your forearms should be gently brushing the outsides of your thighs, with your shins lightly touching the bar.
- Focusing straight ahead, push your shoulders back and lift the bar until it’s level with your thighs.
Top Tip: Start off light and perfect your technique. Don’t jerk the bar off the ground, instead feel for the tension of the bar against the weights and then lift with a steady, fluid motion, keeping it as close to your body as possible.
Burpees are a dynamic whole body exercise that you can do anywhere. Stringing together a number of functional movements, the burpee not only trains your muscles and joints, but also raises your heart rate and burns calories.
The workout: Three sets of 10 reps with a one-minute rest between sets.
- Squat down with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on the floor in front of you.
- Kickback your legs into a push-up position.
- Now hop your feet back in towards your hands, returning to a squat.
- Spring into a jump, throwing your arms up and leaping as high as possible.
- Land and repeat.
Top Tip: Try doing variations on the standard burpee. For example add a push-up into the mix when you kickback your legs.
5. The palloff press
Great for creating hip stability and building spinal support, the palloff press is a vital workout for training the core muscles you need on longer rides.
The workout: Two sets of 10 reps with a 30-second rest between sets.
- Attach a D-handle to a cable or functional machine.
- Standing side on, hold the handle in both hands with your arms extended.
- Take the weight and tension onto the cable.
- Position your feet hip-width apart and bend slightly at the knees.
- Bring the cable into your chest and then push away.
Top Tip: Keep your shoulders and hips square, and remember to engage your glutes. If you find the urge to rotate your body is too strong, consider starting with a lighter weight.
6. Glute bridges
Ideal for working those muscles needed to hold a low, comfortable position on the bike. Glute bridges will strengthen your glutes and abdominals whilst also stretching out any tight hip flexors and lower back problems.
The workout: Three sets of 15 reps with a one-minute rest between sets.
- Lie flat on the floor with your legs bent at 90 degrees.
- Drive through your heels, pushing your hips up as far as you can go.
- Gradually lower your hips to the starting position and repeat.
Top Tip: Take your time, don’t attempt to rush through the reps. Hold your position on each upward lift of the hips and try to squeeze your glutes throughout each repetition.
7. Box jumps
This basic plyometric exercise will make you a stronger and more powerful cyclist. Training the fast-twitch muscles needed for sprinting, box jumps are ideal if you’re looking to add sharp bursts of speed into your repertoire.
The workout: Three sets of six reps with a 90-second rest between sets.
- Choose a box height you’re comfortable with.
- Stand in front of the box with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
- When you’re ready to jump, squat down slightly then explode upwards.
- At the same time extend your hips, swing your arms up, and push down into the ground to propel yourself onto the box.
- On landing, make sure your feet are flat and your knees are slightly bent.
Top Tip: Jump from and land in a quarter squat position. If you find yourself landing any deeper than this, then you’re probably trying to jump a box that’s too high.
8. Russian twists
A great workout for the often-overlooked oblique muscles, the inclusion of a Russian twist in your exercise programme will improve posture and enhance flexibility.
The workout: Three sets of 10 reps with a 60-second rest between sets.
- Sit on the floor with your feet raised off the ground.
- Twist your torso from side-to-side, squeezing your abs as you turn.
- Don’t let your feet drop.
Top Tip: The Russian twist is a hard exercise for beginners so try to breathe through each rep, keeping your shoulders relaxed and your abdominals engaged.
Potentially the most important exercise a cyclist can do. The squat uses the quads, hamstrings, hips and knees, increasing flexibility and athletic movement.
The workout: Three sets of 10 reps with a 90-second rest between sets.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Start to lower your body into a sitting position by bending the knees and pushing the hips back.
- Attempt to sit down as far as possible, but keep your feet flat on the floor.
- At the deepest part of the squat, hold the position.
- Rise back up and repeat.
Top Tip: Try doing weighted squats once you have the technique locked in. If you’re unsure about using a barbell, kettlebells or a weight in each hand will work just as well.