My name is Claire and I am very honoured and proud to say that I am one of the Bikmo ambassadors. I love everything triathlon, especially cycling, but this requires a lot of time training-wise due to the 3 disciplines. This said, I am a huge believer in including at least one cyclist strength and conditioning exercises session per week. As a personal trainer and corrective exercise coach at Optimum Health Coaching, we hold weekly classes which are becoming more and more popular due to the results we are achieving. Participants are noting that they feel stronger, look leaner, have remained injury-free or, no longer have niggles which have stopped them doing the sport they love. Most important of all though, they are running, swimming and cycling more efficiently and faster, with weekly PB’s coming in from most clients!
The classes are circuit-based aimed at increasing and improving mobility, stability, stamina, flexibility, balance and lower limb proprioception. The beauty of strength training and the exercises we use in the classes is that they are easy to replicate at home or in the gym so really there is no excuse for not including at least one 20 minute session per week in your training schedule.
So why include it? Let’s take running for instance, no matter how fast or slow you might be, running involves standing on one foot at a time, never both. When our foot strikes the ground in running, we put 4 times our body weight through it. If we weigh 75kg (just under 12 stone) then that is 300kg per foot strike through your leg. If we run at 80 strides per minute that is 24 tonnes per leg. If we run for an hour, that is 1440 tonnes per leg. So it is easy to see why runners tend to pick up injuries and niggles easily. If you have any kind of imbalance in your body, for example, a weak core, this will impact on other areas of your body as it must compensate for this to keep you balanced. For this reason, strength training, even the minimal basic kind will reduce your risk of injury and at the same time will improve your speed and distances you are able to run. The stronger your upper body and arms, the more momentum they can produce to help propel you forward. The stronger your lower limbs, the more power and force they will generate to push and move you forward. Some of these same principles can be applied to cycling in that you require a strong and solid core and single-leg forces, pushing and pulling.
Cyclist strength and conditioning exercises, do you do it?
Strength and conditioning (S&C) will not bulk you up, nor do you need lots of equipment and expense. Below is 5 of my favourite bodyweight exercises which we include in our classes and which I love including in my own S&C sessions. We encourage people to do these exercises barefoot as well as shoes and trainers take away the natural stabilising and proprioceptive feedback from your feet, you have over 100 muscles in your feet, so by doing this in itself it will help you strengthen both your feet and ankles. Think of it this way if your foundations, in this case, your feet, are not strong and stable then everything above them will be off-balance and compensating in some way and that equates to potential loss of power!
Exercise 1. SINGLE LEG STAND-UPS
Simply sit in a chair and stand up only using the one leg, no helping hands or using the other foot to stabilise you. Sounds simple enough right? Try it, it’s not as easy as it seems. You will naturally have one side that is stronger than the other. Repeat this for 30 seconds on each leg and repeat 3 times through.
This exercise works your core, glutes and quads as well as helping with single-leg strength, balance and stability.
Exercise 2. SUPERMAN
Lie facedown on your tummy with your arms stretched out in front of you with your palms down, squeeze your glutes and lift both your legs, arms and your chest up off the floor at the same time. Hold this for 10 seconds and then relax and rest back on the floor for 10 seconds repeat this 6 times. This move will strengthen your glutes, lower back and especially the erector spinae muscles which are small muscles which run along the length of your spine. When we ride our bikes these are stretched out due to the forward posture of cycling.
Exercise 3. JUMP SQUATS
This is a fantastic exercise for your quads and is definitely a slow burner! These will help strengthen your quads and glutes, the prime movers required in pedal strokes. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet turned out very slightly. Keep your hands together in front of you (or to make it harder hold hand weights!) Bend your knees and send your bottom back as if you were about to sit down on a chair behind you. Once you have gone as low as knee level (or as low as is possible in your range of movement) rise up by driving through your feet and explode up into a jump. Land softly and drop straight back into the next squat. Repeat 20 times and do 3 sets with a minute rest in between each set.
Exercise 4. ARABESQUES
A personal favourite of mine as in my head I look elegant while doing them, but the reality is I am far from it! This exercise is great for challenging your balance and single-leg strength and stability. It will work your core, glutes, hamstrings and quads. While standing on one leg, slowly bring your opposite knee up in front of you, hold for a few seconds then slowly kick your foot backwards and up, again hold for a few seconds then return to the start position. Repeat this for 30 seconds on each leg (1 set) repeat this set 3 times with a 30-second rest in between each set.
Exercise 5. GLUTE BRIDGE
Lie on your back on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms by your sides. Lift your bottom up of the floor, bringing your hips up as high as possible, brace your core and squeeze your glutes at the top of the move, hold for 10 seconds then relax back to the floor for 10 seconds, repeat this 10 times. This move will strengthen your glutes and core which will help to keep you stable in the saddle and generate much-needed power on your paddle stroke. This move can be adapted slightly by placing your feet on top of a bench or sofa rather than flat on the floor.
All the above can be made more challenging by adding hand weights, if you don’t have your own equipment why not improvise and use heavy bags or bottles of water instead.
So you have started to include a 20-minute strength session in your training week, unfortunately, it now takes hard work and consistency to start seeing the rewards of your efforts, although improvements (particularly core strength and balance) have been noted in as little as 3 sessions. By keeping the exercises the same you will be able to see and gauge this progression and improvement for yourself.
So, still not convinced about including a cyclist strength and conditioning exercises session in your weekly training? Cyclist, runner or swimmer, what have you got to lose!