As a cyclist, it's not so much that we're really weak in some key muscle groups. But it's clear that doing some specific things to address our three weakest muscle groups can have a profound effect on our riding.
It's also clear that the "off-season" for many of us is a time when – even if we happen to live in one of those year-round riding climates – we tend to not feel quite so compelled to ride as often, and instead don't mind actually doing some other types of workouts.
As many other coaches have often said, a change of pace and a mental break will only help to make you better and more eager to hit the road again strongly in the new season.
So, if you're open to working on some weaknesses this winter, here are the three muscle groups you might target:
Cyclists rely on their core as their main support structure. A strong core supports the cyclist for nearly all the movements of cycling, and is especially important to the pedal stroke.
We've surely all done loads of sit-ups and crunches over the years. But there's nothing better than a plank to really work the core.
- Put your hands on the mat perpendicular to the floor and shoulder width apart. You can warm up with this basic plank push up.
- Hold for a count of 60, then lower your knees and upper body back to the mat.
- Repeat several more times.
- If this is new to you, try and hold for 10 seconds, slowly building strength until you can hold for a full minute or two.
- Form is important. Keep your back flat and straight.
The glutes are the most powerful muscle group in the body and are the muscle group that most affects how much power you can apply to the pedals. Weak glutes make for a weak cyclist. The stronger your glutes, the stronger you'll be on the road.
- Top photo: Lay flat on your back with feet flat on the floor.
- Bridge up using the glutes only.
- Middle and Bottom Photos: If you have a ‘Stability’ ball, this is a harder exercise since you are isolating the glutes more as well as kicking-in stabilizer muscles using your core.
- Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. (Many alternative exercises are discussed in our eBook.)
3) Upper Back
As the miles roll on and fatigue sets in, the upper body starts to "slump" over the bars. You will know this is happening to you when your shoulders start to get closer to your ears. This position, in addition to demonstrating fatigue, zaps your power as well. Because of extended hours in the saddle, desk jobs, working at the computer, poor posture, etc., cyclists tend to have weak back muscles – which, when strengthened, will help pull you back straight again.
- Lay on top of your stability ball, maintaining a straight/flat position.
- Starting with your hands flat on the mat, raise your elbows toward the ceiling, concentrating on using your shoulder blades to pull your arms up and off the mat.
- Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. (When this gets too easy, go to 3 sets or use a 5 pound weight in each hand.)
If you're open to adding some stretching and core strengthening to your workouts this winter, our eBook Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist is a great place to start. All stretches and exercises are illustrated with photos of co-author Amy Schultz (like those above), with text descriptions below the photos explaining how to do each exercise.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he's a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He's the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick's full bio.