If you are not used to strength training and lifting weights, it is advisable to start with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, so that you can focus on getting your form right. Right form or posture while lifting weights is of utmost importance for the strength training session to be effective. Once you get the correct technique and form, you can either increase the weight or the number of repetitions you do. Lighter weights and increased repetitions will result in building up your endurance while heavier weights with fewer repetitions will build your strength.
Below are six exercises that will strengthen your body and are highly recommended for cyclists.
The plank is the most recommended exercise for strength training as it is an extremely effective way to strengthen your core, from your shoulders to your thighs. This is very beneficial for cyclists as it strengthens your back too, and a strong back improves your stability on a cycle. It also helps avoid back injuries and excessive pain that comes with long hours of being bent over the handlebar.
This exercise is simple to perform but requires a bit of effort. To do the plank, you have to lie down on a mat, keeping your stomach flat on the ground. Prop your body up on your elbows and toes. Elbows are in line with your shoulders. It is important to remember to keep your back as straight as possible without letting your rear side stick up in the air or letting your back dip in towards the ground. You will feel a burn in your abdomen and thighs primarily, this is good. The longer you can hold this position, the stronger your core gets. Try holding it for a minimum of 15 seconds and increase it as you get stronger.
Target your core, glutes and quads. This is an effective exercise for cyclists as cycling involves and requires these muscles to be strong. It is important to make sure your form is correct while doing squats or else it wonÛªt be effective.
To do a squat, make sure your legs are shoulder width apart with your toes pointing in front. Next, move your body down pushing your butt out, as if you were sitting down on a chair. You can keep your hands stretched out in front of you to maintain balance. Make sure that your knees are not beyond your toes nor are turned inwards. Hold this position for 2 to 5 seconds and repeat. Try doing a minimum of 15 squats to start with.
Lunges target your glutes and hamstrings, which are important muscles to strengthen for powerful pedaling. To strengthen your core and stabilize your body, you can hold weights while doing lunges.
To do this exercise, stand upright back straight - hold a single weight above your head or two dumbbells by your side. Step one leg forward and push your body down by bending your other knee. Make sure the knee of the leg that is in front hasnÛªt gone beyond your toe as this will put unwanted stress on your knee. Hold this position for 2 to 5 seconds and repeat putting the other leg forward this time. Each set counts as one whole count. Try doing a minimum of 10 whole counts to start with.
Often underestimated by cyclists, upper body strength plays a big role while cycling. Have strong shoulders and arms will help not only while climbing but it also helps prevent fatigue while on long rides. As the name suggests, this exercise strengthens your triceps. It is also a great exercise to build your core strength.
To do this exercise, place your palms on a bench or a chair with your fingers facing forward. Bend your arms to lower your body towards the ground, as close to the floor as you can get. Hold for 2 seconds and push your body back up. Make sure that your back is always straight and is as close to the bench as possible. Your legs can be stretched out fully in front of you or bent at 90 degrees (as if you were sitting down on a chair). Try doing a minimum of 15 dips to start with.
Though the name sounds scary, this exercise is crucial for strength training for cyclists. Due to it being full body movement, it not only strengthens your hamstrings and glutes but also activates your core are strengthens your back. You will need a bar with weights to do this exercise.
To do a deadlift, place the bar on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet apart, shoulder width. Keeping your back straight, reach down to hold the bar. As you do so, make sure you push your butt out as you do while doing a squat. Lift the bar up keeping your arms extended and your knees and back straight. Hold this for 2 seconds and put the bar weight back on the floor. Repeat this for a minimum of 10 times. Make sure that you use a comfortable weight to do this exercise and increase the weight used only when you know you are strong enough. Using a heavier weight than necessary will only result in excess strain on your back and knee muscles.
PRESS UP/ PUSH UP:
Press ups or push-ups target and strengthen your upper body primarily. A press up involves use of your arms, shoulders, core and back muscles. It is essentially a kind of plank positioning.
To do a press up, lie with your stomach facing the floor. Place your toes on the ground and your palms facing the ground next to your chest. Push your body up with just your palms and toes on the ground. This is your starting position for a push up. Lower your body with your chest, as close to the ground as possible, bending your elbows and using your core and arm strength push yourself back to the starting position. If this is difficult, you can support your body weight by putting your knees on the ground, and use your knees and palms as support while you push up. Concentrate on the positioning and the overall strength you use to push yourself back up.
Remember to keep your back straight and butt in line with your back. Do not let your back dip towards the floor or round nor let your butt go higher into the air. Try to do as many press ups as you can but with the correct form. It is better and more beneficial to do fewer press ups with perfect form, than several improper ones.
Strength training is a great addition to your cycling routine and you will undoubtedly feel and see the positive effect it has with regard to improving the quality of your rides. If you are new to strength training or are getting back to it after a long break, remember to start slow and easy. Do a few repetitions of each exercise and use light weights for the exercises that involve weights. You can increase the amount of repetitions or the weight you use gradually, once you have let your muscles get used to the movements and use of weights. Abrupt increase in weight or in the number of repetitions will only cause excess stress and strain on your muscles which can lead to extreme soreness and injuries which take long to recover from. Half an hour of strength training about twice or thrice a week should do the trick.