It stands to reason that the more you ride your bike, either on the road or on one of the many turbo trainers available from online cycle shops, the easier it gets to become a strong, safe and confident cyclist.
But, if you’re serious about improving your cycling speed and performance, then you’ll need to complement your on-bike activities with some off-bike, strength training exercises and the following tips will help you do just that:
Work the Whole Body
Cyclists rely primarily on the lower body to power their bike and this makes it tempting to focus solely on working the glutes and legs with squats, dead lifts and lunges, but to really improve performance, it’s vital that the core and upper body are also trained for strength.
Balance any workout regimes to include exercises that build strength in the abs, pectorals, triceps and biceps with press-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. Do 4-6 reps of each, 2-3 times at 60 second intervals, 2-3 times per week.
The aim of the game is to build strength, not bulk, and you can do that by using your own bodyweight for resistance or by using additional weights during squats, pull-ups and deadlifts.
To build refined muscle mass, complete no more than 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps, with breaks of 2 minutes between each, 2-3 times per week.
Cycling often requires quick bursts of power and acceleration and that’s controlled by fast-twitch muscle fibres. The best way to strengthen these fibres is by performing short sprints and fast lifts, squats and resistance exercises.
To begin with, use your own bodyweight as resistance and then increase the difficulty by adding dumbbells, kettle balls and resistance bands into your regime. Keep the reps short and your movements quick and fluid.
Mix It Up
Building and maintaining strength means making exercise part of your lifestyle in the long-term, and one of the biggest challenges to doing this can be sustaining the motivation to workout.
To make it easier, keep your strength training regime varied. Work out at home as well as the gym and mix it up with alternatives like swimming.
As a form of aerobic exercise, swimming can help keep your cardiovascular system healthy so it delivers oxygen to muscles during training or cycling, but if you use training aids that add resistance to arm and leg strokes, swimming can also develop lean muscle and overall physical strength.
Think Beyond Muscle
Building strength isn’t just about developing muscular control and response, it’s about developing flexible joints and bone density to give you full range of cycling movement and the ability to delay fatigue.
Yoga is a great way to complement strength training. It helps build and maintain lean, balanced and flexible muscles, ligaments and joints, and also develops calm and focussed thinking.
Unlike the exercises recommended above which should be completed no more than three times a week, yoga can and should be practiced daily. There are thousands of free yoga tutorials online suitable for beginners or those with experience.
In order for your body to build strength, it needs the right kind of fuel and although it’s possible to get this from a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in proteins, wholegrains, fresh fruits and vegetables, you can top-up your daily intake with dietary supplements.
Creatine supplements and whey protein have both been shown to enhance resistance training performance by increasing muscle strength and lean mass, while electrolytes can be used to prevent cramp and fatigue and aid recovery after a workout or race.
To find out more about supplements and strength training regimes for cyclists, or get new equipment, clothing and accessories, contact the knowledgeable and friendly team at online cycling shop Formby Cycles.