We don’t all necessarily want to be faster on the bike. But I think every last one of us roadies would like to maintain the strength we have, or get even stronger, in the muscle groups that count, specifically the glutes, legs, back, hip flexors, shoulders, arms and core. And we all undoubtedly would like to be pain-free when we ride.
A regular strengthening and stabilization routine can help you achieve these aims.
But there are innumerable strengthening and stabilization exercises, so how do you know which ones will help you the most for cycling? It’s confusing, to say the least. And this confusion and lack of understanding helps explain why so few cyclists add strengthening and stabilization to their regular exercise routine – even though they deliver myriad valuable benefits, not just for cycling but for everyday life.
This week, we launch Strengthening and Stabilization Training for the Cyclist, our new 44-page eBook in which my co-author and I clear up the confusion and take the guesswork out of knowing what to do, and how to do it, to implement a strengthening program that will ultimately make you a better cyclist. (Our companion eBook, Stretching and Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, targets effective core-strengthening and stretching exercises specifically geared toward cyclists.)
The new eBook likewise was specifically created for the cyclist. It includes 32 fully described exercises, clearly demonstrated in photos that accompany each exercise. (My co-author, Amy Schultz, is my daughter; she’s completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, is an accomplished cyclist and has done extensive research on athletes and injury prevention. Amy demonstrates the proper form for all the exercises in the eBook, just as she did in the Stretching and Core eBook.)
Most of these exercises are programmed to target multiple muscle groups, so you get increased strengthening and stabilization. These exercises have the potential to provide you with more enjoyment on the bicycle. You will get stronger and, therefore, cycle more efficiently. You will also have more flexibility and therefore be more pain-free.
The 32 exercises run the gamut of targeted muscle groups including:
- Hip Flexors/Core
- Lower Back
- Shoulders/Upper Back/Middle Back
Once you go through the eBook and try a variety of the strengthening exercises, you will quickly see what you will need to work on and find your own favorites, as well.
We start by walking you through a description of the various “cycling muscles” and what functions they perform in cycling.
Example from the eBook:
There are 3 different muscles that make up the “glutes”:
Gluteus Maximus – the largest glute muscle. It acts to extend and externally rotate the femur as well as laterally stabilize the hip and knee joints.
Gluteus Medius – the next largest glute muscle. It primarily acts to abduct the hip and stabilize the pelvis. Part of the fibers also extend and externally rotate the femur, and the other part flexes and internally rotates the femur.
Gluteus Minimus – the smallest of the glute muscles. It also acts to abduct the hip, stabilize the pelvis and aides in assisting both the Minimus and Maximus muscles.
Cyclists use this group of muscles most the time during each revolution of the pedals, especially during the down-stroke (12-3 o’clock). The problem is that these glute muscles can get tight due to overuse in cycling. Proper stretching of these muscles is important to keep their length, therefore keeping them powerful and preventing injury. These muscles are important for stabilizing the cyclists’ pelvis both on and off the bike, and are therefore essential to keep strong and flexible. Strong glutes can prevent other types of injuries, primarily low back, knee and ankle. They also will make you a faster and more powerful cyclist.
For this exercise, we will strengthen the Glutes – the most powerful muscle group used in cycling. Grab your yoga mat and Stability Ball (SB). See the descriptions below the photos for how to do this exercise.
Step 1 – Place your upper back on your SB as in the upper photo.
Step 2 – With feet flat on the ground, engage your core and squeeze your glutes together as you lift into a bridge. Lift until your spine is in a straight line with the pelvis – spine and upper legs parallel to the ground. Make sure to prevent your low back from arching (Lordosis). Do not let knees go past toes, ideal is to keep your knees bent at 90°. Then, slowly lower to the starting position. As pictured, this is 1 repetition.
How Many Sets and Reps?
For your first time through the exercises, we recommend starting with 1 set of 10 reps, eventually working up to 3 sets of 15 reps.
Slowly transition from the starting position to the end position using a slow count of 3 (or about 3 seconds). Hold for a count of 2 seconds at the top then lower using a count of 3 seconds.
Remember to ‘FLEX’/engage/contract the muscles being used throughout their entire Range of Motion – ESPECIALLY your CORE. This will work each muscle group in both concentric and eccentric phases of contracting, building up even more strength with each exercise.
The Key is Consistency
In general, each exercise only takes 30 seconds to 1 minute, so the time spent to complete a routine of your choosing is only 20-30 minutes! It is best to do these exercises every other day. (Of course, you could choose to do half of a full “routine” every day instead.) You should reserve 20-30 minutes to run through all of these exercises. With that said, you don’t need to do every exercise in this book each time you work out. Pick a couple from each section and try and spend up to 30 minutes on the routine. The key is consistency!
Should I Do These Exercises Year-Round?
Yes. Because of those myriad benefits mentioned earlier.
Not only will these exercises help you stay in shape, increase your strength and prevent injuries, hips, core and back stretching and strengthening improves your mobility, improves your joint health, improves your posture, normalizes the forces on your discs, and reduces and/or relieves certain back pain.
With respect to cycling, these exercises help to maximize your power in the pedal stroke. Why? In short, they help you produce higher power output by aligning and stabilizing your body so that you can pedal more efficiently. For any triathletes out there, these will help with your running as well by increasing stride efficiency, increasing speed and decreasing your risk for repetitive injury.
We believe it is very important for you to consult your physician or physical therapist if you have back pain and the source of your pain has never been diagnosed, because it is important to rule out any potential serious problem(s).
One Final Note
All proceeds from Strengthening and Stabilization Training for the Cyclist will go to Amy to help her pay her tuition and books as she completes her Doctorate of Physical Therapy.
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.