Cyclists, as with all athletes, need to ensure a level of robustness able to withstand the maximal demands that the sport can (and will) throw at us. Appropriate physical preparation programs have been shown to reduce modifiable injury risk factors while improving our performance (1); both clearly important facets in success. Previous debates have suggested that strength training may not benefit endurance performance and indeed prove detrimental, however, modern research has quashed this, noting that a combination of endurance training as well as maximal strength and power training can result in up to a 5% increase in time trial performance (3). Maximal strength training sees us lift heavy loads for low reps at near maximal efforts, while ‘power’ training utilises a continuum of light to heavy loads with an emphasis on moving with intent (i.e. high speed) in accordance with the load (2). These qualities go hand in hand; if we can improve our maximal strength, we will have a greater platform to develop our ‘explosive power’ – important for those hills and sprint finishes.
Road cycling is a demanding, repetitive sport that can take its toll on the body. Having a solid strength base can aid in our ability to perform these repetitive, cyclic movements time and time again. Further to this, it can help to improve the amount of power produced per pedal stroke, increasing the speed, and therefore distance at which we are able to move at a given work rate.
To help reduce your risk of injury and improve cycling performance, we have developed a list of 5 exercises that you can use at home or on the road with minimal equipment required.
World’s Greatest Stretch
- Standing up tall, hug one knee to the chest.
- Release, step out and lunge into a push up position, with the lunging leg in line and outside of both arms.
- Rotate the arm closest to the lunging leg as far as possible, keeping the back/base leg knee straight. Rotate back into the pushup position.
- Rock back onto the back leg keeping the front leg straight for a hamstring stretch, holding for approximately 5 seconds.
- Complete 3 full cycles each side.
Side Lay Leg Lift
- Lay on your side bending the bottom knee at 90 degrees, forming a straight line from knee to shoulder.
- Bridge up using the bottom knee and elbow as the 2 points of contact with the ground.
- Keeping the top leg straight, raise from the hip by contracting the glute, bringing the foot up to level with hip height.
- Lower with control and repeat.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 each side.
Double Leg Hamstring Bridge
- Lay flat on your back, with roughly a 100 degree bent at the knee.
- Press the back of your heels into the bench, raising your hips to a position which sees a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Hold with hips bridged for 2 seconds before lowering with control.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Stand with feet in line and shoulder width apart. Step forward with one foot and lower the back knee to the ground, staying tall through the body.
- When lunging, aim to keep the lunging knee in line with the toes, avoiding collapsing in.
- Press through the front heel to raise yourself back up to neutral and repeat with the opposite leg.
- 3 sets of 15 each side.
- To increase difficulty weight can be added (be creative by utilising full milk cartons).
- Lay flat on your back, raising legs to a tabletop position with a 90 degree bend at both the knees and hips.
- Always maintain contact with the ground with your lower back, avoiding arching up and losing contact.
- From here, lower one leg out with control (3-5 second lower) while the opposing leg stays still in the tabletop position, before returning and alternating legs.
- Lowering the leg while maintaining a bent knee will make the exercise easier, extend the leg fully for a more difficult exercise.
- Repeat 3 sets of 6 each side.
Logistics and Summary
Complete the World’s Greatest Stretch as a mobility drill at the start of the session before rolling through the remaining exercises back to back in a loop until you have completed 3 sets of each. Look to perform this session twice per week to improve performance and resilience to injury. As always if you have any questions or would like some Information on a program tailored to your needs, get in touch with the team at RAD today.
- Bazyler, C. Abbott, H. Bellon, C. Taber, C. & Stone, M. Strength training for endurance athletes: Theory to practice. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 37(2): 10-22, 2015.
- Hoff, J. Gran, A. Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves endurance performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 12: 288-295, 2002.
- Sunde, A. Storen, O, Bjerkaas, M, Larsen, M. Hoff, J. & Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves cycling economy in competitive cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(8): 2157-2165, 2010.