How to Maximize Pedal Power & Avoid Injury with Cycling Strength Training

Dec 20, 2023
Road Cyclist

When you think of cycling, you think powerful legs and a strong, beating heart. You also think of a sore lower back and overtightened hips. How can we make the former more efficient and the latter less prevalent? The answer is strength training. Strength training for cyclists is one of the best ways to improve performance and mitigate injury. Let us show you the why and how.

Should Cyclists Do Strength Training?

A resounding ‘yes’ is the answer we’ll look to firmly instill by the conclusion of this article. 

There are simply too many problems that come about from cycling alone to not supplement its participation with some sort of ancillary component. It is not a complete sport (there are, in fact, no complete sports), which means that some parts of our bodies will be overused and overdeveloped, while other parts will become weak, frail and vulnerable to injury.

It is a tall order to try and avoid such negative outcomes and enjoy cycling pain-free. To do so, we need the support of a well-balanced and professionally designed strength training program for cyclists. Something that takes into account the positions the bike puts us into, the demands of the sport overall, and the damage that can be produced both short and long-term as a result.

4 Common Problems for Cyclists

Being accessible to almost everybody, cycling comes with its own unique set of issues for the bodies of those who participate in it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and avid cyclists (both recreational and professional) are all too familiar with the following problems.

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Lower Back Pain

More than half of cyclists report having lower back pain, making it the most common ailment people deal with in the sport. The low back is put under tremendous load and strain on the bike as a result of a seated and folded forward posture. Strength in the core musculature, something cycling does not inherently build, is lacking in many cyclists and contributes to low back pain.

Knee Pain

Cycling is a lower-body dominant sport; overdeveloped, tight quadriceps and IT bands are often the result of all the constant pedaling. This can have significant influence on the different structures inside and around the knees. Patellas go off track, tendons get tight and blood flow gets restricted. Cyclist’s knee and similar conditions tend to pop up regularly.

Tight Hips

A shortened range of motion in the hips, characterized through the lack of full extension, is coupled with decreased muscle activity in the glute muscles. This combination culminates in a tight set of hip flexors and weak set of hip extensors, causing pain in the front of the hip, hip instability, and resultant problems up and down the chain from the hip joint.

Neck Pain

Your head actually weighs quite a bit…about 8% of your body weight. As it drifts forward in front of your collarbone, the load on your cervical spine begins to multiply; doubling with every inch of forward head posture. Cycling is notorious for this kind of strain, with other postural faults contributing to the problem (such as curved upper backs and rounded forward shoulders).

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

What Makes Cycling Strength Training Successful?

In order to effectively account for the problems listed above, while at the same time maximizing our performance on the bike, we need to keep certain things in mind. The below components are important considerations that need to be integrated into any properly balanced strength training program for cyclists.

  • Full-body, functional movements
  • Upper body exercises
  • Hip stability training
  • Unilateral (one-sided) training
  • Core strength & stability
  • Plyometrics (explosive power)
  • Postural correction
  • Stretching & mobility

A good program is capable of combining all of these points and more to help balance the cycling athlete both on and off the bike. This translates to less injury, stronger pedaling, effortless endurance, and pain-free cycling.

Sample Strength Training Routine for Cyclists

Looking for a program that does everything we described and more? Dynamic Cyclist is the world leader in providing high-quality, functional programming to help cyclists achieve their goals. We offer a library of hundreds of HD streamed routines in different categories of fitness, including strength training, stretching/mobility, injury prevention, and more.

Below you’ll find an example of a whole body routine taken from our ‘Intermediate Strength Training section’. To gain access to everything we have to offer, and join a team of tens of thousands of cyclists at all skill levels worldwide, sign up for a 7-day free trial by clicking this link.

You will need the following for this routine:

  • Resistance band
  • Pole (broomstick)

Total time: 30 minutes

Warm Up

Alternating Reverse Lunge Twist

Instructions

  • Start by standing on the front of your mat with your elbows up and parallel to the ground
  • Step back into a reverse lunge and twist the torso in the opposite direction of your back leg
  • Twist back to center and then step back up to your starting position
  • Alternate legs, stepping back with the other leg and twisting the opposite way
  • Repeat back and forth for 45 seconds

Squat to Good Mornings

Instructions

  • Start with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, hands on the sides of your head
  • Lower into a full squat (or as low as your strength/flexibility allows)
  • From here, bend over into a good morning position (picture 3)
  • Straighten the torso back to standing by pushing the hips forward
  • Repeat this sequence for 45 seconds

Whole Body Routine (Circuit 1)

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat one exercise after the other. After all have been completed, rest for 30-60 seconds. Complete 3 rounds total before moving to the next circuit.

Tick Tocks

Instructions

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart, hands on your hips
  • Shift onto one leg while lifting the other leg laterally up into the air
  • Bring your leg back down and shift onto it while lifting the other leg up into the air
  • Alternate legs back and forth

Squats w/Band

Instructions

  • Place a mini resistance band just above your knees and get into a squat stance
  • Hold your hands out in front of you as a counter-balance
  • Drive the knees out against the band and drop into a full squat
  • Push yourself back up to standing by squeezing your quads and glutes
  • Repeat this for 30 seconds

Banded Front Raise

Instructions

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Place a mini resistance band just above your wrists
  • Push the arms outwards to create tension in the band
  • While maintaining tension, slowly lift the arms up to just above the shoulders
  • Lower back down while keeping tension on the band
  • Repeat

Lateral Band Walks

Instructions

  • Place a mini resistance band just above the knees
  • Get into a ¼ squat position so there is activation in the thighs
  • Your knees should be about shoulder width apart
  • Walk one knee out so they’re now wider than shoulder width
  • Bring the opposite knee back in so they are again at shoulder width (knees should never get closer together than shoulder width apart)
  • Walk in this manner to one side of the mat before 

Whole Body Routine (Circuit 2)

After circuit 1, take a 1-2 minute rest before performing circuit 2. Again, perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat one exercise after the other. After all have been completed, rest for 30-60 seconds. Complete 3 rounds total.

Leg Circles

Instructions

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent
  • Straighten one leg by contracting the quadriceps muscles; pull the toes towards your shin
  • Make circles with your leg while keeping the tension on your muscles
  • Repeat for 30 seconds
  • Switch legs, repeat

Prone Hamstring Curls

Instructions

  • Place a mini resistance band around your ankles
  • Lie in a prone position on your stomach
  • Spread your legs slightly so there is tension on the band
  • Curl one heel up towards your hips while pressing the other foot into the ground
  • Lower your raised foot back to the ground, then lift the other foot
  • Alternate back and forth for 30 seconds

Prone Posterior Lift w/Pole

Instructions

  • Lie in a prone position on your stomach with your arms overhead holding a pole/broomstick
  • While keeping your body on the ground, lift the pole as high as you can off the ground
  • Pause for a split second at the top before lowering down
  • Repeat for 30 seconds

 

  Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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