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Why you need to do strength training to be a better cyclist

Cycling is an endurance sport. To get better at it and avoid injuries, you need to focus on strength training

Train the muscles that help you cycle.
Train the muscles that help you cycle. (Istockphoto)

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Since the beginning of the covid-19 lockdowns in India in March 2020, a huge wave of people in the country have taken to cycling. Anecdotal evidence points to a majority of them actually enjoying their time in the saddle, which means they have continued with the sport. However, not all cyclists work with coaches that carefully plan the progression and loading for their clients. 

It should be remembered that training plans for cyclists don’t just involve more cycling. Every cycling coach adds strength training sessions in the plan. MS Sriram, a Bengaluru-based cycling coach and founder of Sprocket Science India, a doorstep bike fit and servicing start-up, includes a minimum of two strength training sessions per week for his clients. “Cyclists need to make sure their muscles are strong enough to sustain extended periods of cycling and that’s just one of the reasons why cyclists need to include strength training sessions over and above all the cycling that they do,” he says.

Also Read: The best strength workouts for runners

Cycling, at the end of the day, is an endurance sport, quite like long distance running. Even though it is one of the most low impact endurance activities, cycling involves extremely high repetitive thigh and leg actions. The quadriceps and calves are the primary muscle groups used in this sport. “Cyclists, therefore, need to develop strength, power and endurance in these muscle groups to aid them in enhancing cycling performance. One must understand that the muscles are stimulated very differently compared to running,” says AK Abhinav, strength coach at Life of Tri. “However, there is no impact on the musculoskeletal system like when running, so the muscles are not subjected to a violent stretch before producing force. Another difference is that the trunk and upper-body are also not subjected to rotation like when running.”

 Given the nature of cycling and the muscles involved, the primary strength training routines for cycling should include strength, power and endurance routines for the quadriceps and calves. The other muscle group that cyclists should focus on are the hamstrings and glute muscles as they play a huge supporting role in cycling. Conjunctional abdominal and hip flexor strength and power routines, when added to the training, help increase a cyclist’s power output, says Abhinav. He adds that isometric strength routines for the trunk (upper and lower back) and neck muscle groups is important too. These help with holding optimum posture while pedalling. Moreover, scapular stabilisation is required for optimum shoulder posture.

Also Read: How to do ab rollouts properly for a strong core

Since there are diverse objectives to achieve, a cyclist can do up to six short strength sessions per week or have three high volume sessions a week, suggests Abhinav. All routines can have exercises with 10 to 15 repetitions done for 3 to 5 sets depending on the objective of the training cycle. Here are Abhinav’s two workouts for cyclists:

Workout 1 

Three sets

10 Back Squats 

10 Single Leg Elevated Bridges 

10 Tuck Jumps 

10 Bulgarian Squats 

10 Bulgarian Squat Jumps 

10 Single Leg Deadlift 

Three super sets

10 Renegade Pushups 

10 Contra-lateral Plank Extensions 

Also Read: How to build muscle like Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Workout 2 

Three sets

10 Single Arm Dumbbell Push Press 

10 Single Arm Dumbbell Row 

10 Single Leg Tuck Jumps 

Three super sets

10 Dumbbell Split Jerk 

10 Nordic Curls 

Three sets

10 GHD Back Extensions 

30 seconds Sorenson Hold 

30 seconds Reverse Sorenson Hold 

Three super sets

10 Prone Angels 

10 Prone External Rotations 

Three super sets

30 seconds Single Arm Plank 

30 seconds Side Elbow Plank 

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

  • FIRST PUBLISHED
    17.01.2022 | 10:00 AM IST
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