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Strength and conditioning for cyclists

The Tour de France is over but a whole new body of inspired cyclists are checking their tyres, donning their lycra and taking to the roads and lanes on two wheels.

Spinning fitness class

Ever-increasing popularity

Cycling’s popularity increases year-on-year. You may have swapped the car for the bike as part of your daily commute. You might have installed a stationary bike in front of your television so you can cycle while you watch your favourite shows. You might be part of the crazy crew that sweats for 45 minutes in the Kelsey Kerridge Group Cycling class or you may just enjoy tootling around the streets of Cambridge on your elegant sit-up bike. Whatever your cycling preference – you can be proud of the fact that you are getting a healthy and sustainable form of exercise.

Whatever your cycling choices, you can use the cycles in the gym or your own machine to improve your cycling and general fitness. And, in a bid to maintain or improve all-round fitness, we would suggest some strength and conditioning exercises for cyclists to make sure the muscles used by keen cyclists also remain as strong and flexible as possible.

Strength and conditioning for cyclists

Half squats

These leg-burning exercises are great for working the muscles you use in cycling as well as the muscles that surround your main muscle groups.

Half squats target the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

Stand tall holding a barbell across your shoulders. Bend hips and knees until your thighs are at a 45 degree angle. Power back up to your starting position. Complete 3 sets x 12. The weight should be enough that the final set is tough to complete.

Single leg hip-bridge

This is a great exercise for working the core and the glutes.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg straight in the air and lift your hips off the ground by contracting your glutes. Your entire body weight should be on your shoulders and one foot. Make pulsing movements with the raised leg so your toe is pushing upwards and your glutes are working hard to provide the power Complete 12-18 pulses before switching the legs. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Single leg reach

This innovative exercise works the hips, core and proprioception. It is great for balance and flexibility in the hips.

Place three water bottles in front of you in a trinagle, one slightly to the left, one to the right and one in the centre but ahead of you. Standing on one leg, perform a squat by bending the knee and reaching toward the left cone. Return to standing, then squat to reach the forward cone. Return to standing and reach towards the right cone. Repeat while standing on your other leg. As you become more balanced, move the water bottles slightly further away to increase your reaching distance. This will encourage the quads and hips to work harder.

Kneeling pull downs

This exercise works the trapezius, lats and rhomboids – in other words the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back. These are the muscles that can get tired on those long rides if we don’t pay regular attention to them.

Using the cable column in the Outlooks Gym, kneel on the floor and keep your torso upright. Grasp the pulldown handle with an overhand grip and hands slightly further than shoulder distance apart. Pull the bar down to your collarbone, in front of your body. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat three sets of 12. The weight should be such that the final two or three of each set are tough.

Boat pose

Pilates fitness class

This exercise helps develop and strengthen the muscles in the lower back. These come into play when you are riding hard and aggressively, such as in cyclocross or a time trial.

Start in a seated position with your knees bent in front of you and your feet flat on the floor. In one movement, lift and extend your legs in front of you and lean your body back so it forms a ‘V’. Stretch your arms in front of you and tighten the lower abdominal muscles. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat 10-15 times.

Add these strength and conditioning exercises for cyclists to your weekly cycling sessions and they will help you stay injury free and flexible despite the miles you travel on two wheels.