So, you’ve bought your brand new bike, pulled on the Lycra, and got fully kitted out for some extensive road cycling. But after 5 minutes, you’ve found yourself gasping at the side of the road, hunched over your shiny new handlebars, wondering what’s gone wrong.
Whether it’s a case of pushing yourself too hard too soon, lack of experience, or simply underestimating how difficult that uphill climb would be, burning out when cycling is a common problem. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and even the most seasoned of riders can over face themselves every now and again. If you’re new to road bikes, it’s even more likely that you’ll experience exhaustion. It can take a while to get used to the feel of cycling, and knowing when the right time to stop is.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. A large part of becoming an adept road cyclist involves training both on and off the bike, and building up core strength. Like any endurance sport, you need to train the right muscles to handle the specific exercise you’ll be doing.
Whether you’re a beginner in the saddle, or a long time rider just wanting to build up a little more strength, take a look at the 5 exercises for cyclists below.
One of the best exercises for cyclists is also one of the simplest. Planks can be carried out pretty much anywhere with absolutely zero equipment, and are ideal for strengthening your shoulders, back, and abdomen. Working on these areas keeps your core strength in check, improving both posture and endurance when on your bike.
To perform a plank, place your forearms on the floor with your elbows located adjacent to your shoulders, and arms parallel to your body. Then, ground your toes into the floor, and raise your body up to rest on your forearms and toes. When doing this, it’s important to keep your neck and back straight; it helps to focus on a spot about a foot in front of your hands.
When in a plank position, it’s good to work up in increments. For example, start by holding for 10 seconds, then 20 seconds, then 30 seconds. Then hold for longer amounts when you feel confident.
2. Lateral Lunges
Lateral lunges are one of the most beneficial exercises for cycling, as the focus on one leg at a time mimics the cyclical motion of pedalling. This exercise works the hips, hamstrings, and inner thighs, and works some of the muscles that receive the most strain when cycling.
To perform a lateral lunge, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Then, while keeping your left foot flat and your left leg straight, move your right leg wide to the right. Next, drop your hips, sit back into a squat, and keep your head and chest high. Your right thigh should be parallel to the ground, and you should feel resistance on your thighs and hamstrings. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly move back to the starting positions. Now, repeat with your left leg. You should alternate between legs around 15-20 times in one workout.
Lateral lunges can be performed with or without weights, but if you’re a beginner it’s a good idea to start without. This exercise is also good to perform right before heading out on your bike, as it makes sure that your muscles are limber and prepared.
3. Push Ups
An army favourite, push ups are also an underrated exercise for cyclists. This is because push ups largely focus on upper body strength, something that many cyclists seem to neglect. In fact, the upper body is just as important when you’re riding as your legs. Strong arms, back, and abdomen can help you to keep balance, and in turn reduce early fatigue.
If you’re one of the few people on earth who don’t know how to do a push up, here’s how. Lie down facing the floor, and support your body with your hands flat to the floor. Your arms should be apart at a distance just wider than your shoulders, and your toes should be against the floor in a way that feels comfortable. Then, push your body away from the floor, hold, and bring it back down again. Wasn’t that easy?
Push ups can be worked as an incremental exercise. Start off with 10, then do 20, then 30 – whatever you feel comfortable with. However, don’t over face yourself, and only do an amount you feel comfortable with.
4. Catapult sit ups
This next exercise is a true all-rounder, working on your entire core strength. When performed correctly, catapult sit ups work your back, abdomen, and leg muscles, giving your whole body a workout.
To start out, lie on your back on the floor with a slight bend in your knees. Then, press your feet flat on the floor, with your heels firmly pressed down, and extend your arms so they’re behind your head. Then, keeping your feet flat on the floor, “catapult” your body forwards into a seated position. Hold for a moment, then gently lie back down. Repeat in whatever increments you feel comfortable with.
Not only is this exercise great for whole body core, it also prepares you for the explosive motions common in cycling; for example, needing to push harder to get up a hill, or overtake a competitor.
The burpee is another simple exercise that works the whole body, and also throws in a little light cardio for good measure.
To do a burpee, begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Then, quickly lower your body into a squat, placing your hands palm down on the floor in front of you. Next, kick your feet back so you’re in a push up position, lower your chest, and perform a push up. Then, move your feet back to their original position, stand up quickly and smoothly, and jump in the air, clapping your hands above your head. Then, start all over again. A typical set is around 15 full burpees, but you can amend this to suit your own fitness and comfort levels.
Remember that road cycling isn’t a sport that relies on huge muscles, so don’t expect a 6 pack or bulging biceps. Rather, these exercises are designed to build the general strength and fitness needed in an endurance sport like road cycling, in order to keep up balance, strength, and to prevent fatigue.
It’s also important to remember that you’re likely to find riding difficult if your bike isn’t properly set up. If you’re unsure how to do this, a visit to a bike shop like Halfordsis a good idea. You should be able to get some info on how to best set up your road bike for your build, height and posture, so you can avoid burning out and damaging yourself. With the right preparation, the right bike, and the right frame of mind, you should be riding like a pro in no time.