Strength training for cycling

Cycling regularly is a wonderful exercise for your lower body — and while lower body strength is important for cycling, improving your upper body strength is also necessary.

Lacking upper body strength is a real problem for cyclists. Road riders need upper body strength to gain an edge against competition on the road, while mountain bikers use their upper body strength to jump, lift the bike, or push their heavy mountain bike over rough terrain. Upper body strength is just as important for cyclists as leg strength.

<h4>How to build upper body strength in the offseason</h4>

The best time to build your upper body (and lower body) strength is during the winter or other offseason for cycling. Building strength does not mean adding bulk — rather, you need to build a level of muscle strength that you can easily maintain during riding season.

Putting on strength from time in the weight room helps in your bike’s overall performance. When you do weight training for your legs, a traditional three sets of leg presses is far different from the grueling demands of tens of thousands of pedal strokes during a career as a cyclist. Remember that riding resistance is about twenty or thirty pounds per pedal stroke, so an ability to convert your weight room training into cycling strength is a matter of testing your newfound muscles on cycling intervals, time trials, and lots of exercise on your bike in the hills.

<h4>The importance of strength training for cyclists</h4>

Believe it or not, the upper body and abdominal muscles are a major part of a good pedal stroke. If you have a strong torse, you’ll have the power to push your quad strength down onto the pedal.

Strong cyclists hardly move their upper body while pedaling. Weaker cyclists will be moving a lot more — especially towards the end of a long ride. Having muscle power in your quads and legs starts at your core and in your back.

Muscle strength and endurance are also important to keep you from wearing out due to jarring movements and potential falls that every cyclist must face. Good upper body strength contributes to balance as well.

<h4>Two strength training options for cyclists</h4>

There are two basic approaches to resistance or strength training that are both ideal for cyclists.

The first is the “simple” approach that cyclists can do at home and on their bike. This method does not require the use of weights or training tools beyond the ones you already own.

The second method is a more “traditional” strength training program for cyclists that uses free weights to build strength.

Whichever plan you choose, you need to perform it a minimum of twice a week to get the maximum benefit. Three strength training programs a week is ideal.

<h4>Simple strength training for cycling</h4>

If you don’t have access to free weights, or aren’t interested in weight training, there are other strength training exercises you can do to improve your cycling form.

Take a long endurance ride and shift down on the bike so you can concentrate on working through a tough pedal stroke for thirty seconds. If you repeat this exercise three or four times, you’ll know the limits of your upper and lower body strength. Take plenty of five minute rests at first so you don’t tax your muscles.

If you don’t want to do squats to strengthen your legs and back, try one of these squat alternatives:

-Do dips with your hands on the backs of two sturdy chairs.
-Do crunches on the floor to strengthen your abs and lower back.
-Do traditional push-ups to improve your arm and ab strength.

<h4>Traditional strength training for cycling</h4>

If you have access to a gym, the following exercises are ideal strength training for cyclists.

Pull ups – This trains you to “pull up” on your bike on a steep uphill ride.
Squats – Hold your thighs parallel to the ground during squats to test your ability on steep hills.
Upright rowing – This makes your deltoid and shoulder muscles strong for extra protection in case of a spill.

Strength training for cyclists isn’t about hitting free weights and doing a ton of push ups. You need to tailor your strength training for the kind of riding you do most often.