In this time-pressed society we live in, a targetted resistance workout maximises your opportunities to train. Tammy Curtis tells us how.
In an ideal world I’m sure most of us would be out riding daily for hours on end, enjoying the thrill of freedom on two wheels, with training consisting of chasing better Strava PRs. But instead there are often many other duties to fulfil, making our time on the road somewhat limited. So what can we do off the bike to keep improving when time is of the essence?
One great way to optimise time out of the saddle is to complete short but regular resistance training sessions. The many benefits of resistance training include increased bone density, injury prevention, muscle conditioning and strengthening posture and core, just to name a few.
So it’s hard to go past including resistance work in your weekly routine. The benefits have great carry-over to cycling when the exercises chosen match target muscle groups and energy systems.
Here are a select few exercises that give you good bang for your buck. Complete them in this order in just 30 minutes inside your own home. The Gymboss app is a great tool to keep timing and number of sets.
With just two short resistance training sessions per week, you will reap the rewards the moment you get back on two wheels. Time will be on your side.
For the best program for your individual needs, see your doctor or a fitness professional.
Tabata squat and hold
Classification: lower body conditioning
Tabatas have been popularised in many fitness routines over the last five years and are a brilliant way to intensify training in just four minutes. They can also be used for an integrated warm up. This particular Tabata routine is suited to cycling given its lower body endurance requirements. Perform simple body weight squats for 20 seconds, then immediately hold the bottom of the squat for 10 seconds, repeat eight times.
20 seconds bodyweight squats
10 seconds squat hold
Repeat 8 times (for 4 minutes in total)
For an advanced version, try holding some dumbbells or carrying a weighted backpack.
Push ups (slow eccentric) with hand release
Classification: upper-body strength
Upper-body strength is crucial for controlling the bike, particularly when out of the saddle. This exercise adds a different dimension to a regular push-up by adding a core-strength element as well as an upper-back activation. From a push-up position, lower your whole body to the ground slowly (over five seconds) keeping good form and the core heavily engaged. As the whole body touches the ground release hands and at the same time squeeze shoulder blades together and pause for one second. Then place hands back on the ground and push your body back up to the start position, again with core heavily engaged, making sure there is no dip in the body.
2–3 sets of 8–10 repetitions
An advanced version is to do the same exercise but with one leg elevated.
Single leg squats
Classification: leg strength
We all tend to have one dominant leg, just as we tend to have one dominant hand. This leads to tight muscles and a postural imbalance that may cause injuries over time and hinder cycling performance. One way to help even up this imbalance is to complete unilateral exercises (one side at a time). Single-leg squats really hit the nail on the head and are quick to reveal our stronger and preferred leg. Start balancing on one leg, arms out the front, and elevate the leg lifted to behind the body. Lower slowly while maintaining balance and form – chest up and hips horizontal (a mirror will help you see this). Your knee should remain in line with your foot. Try to keep your heel grounded. Work down to a depth that enables you to return back to the starting position while maintaining good form. The deeper the better, but good form is a must.
2–3 sets of 8 each leg
The advanced version is the same movement but with the raised leg elevated in front of the body (also known as a pistol squat).
Prisoner squat jumps
Classification: lower-body power and conditioning
Developing leg power is essential to holding front position in a peloton, to keep from being dropped or in a sprint to the line. This exercise takes the upper body out of the equation to make sure all power is developed through the legs. Standing upright, place interlaced hands behind the head and prepare to squat. From here lower the body down quickly and immediately jump straight up with a maximum effort. Repeat non-stop for 10 repetitions with the goal of jumping as high as possible each time.
5 sets of 10 repetitions
For an advanced version, hold a weighted backpack across the chest or increase to 15 jumps.
Classification: lower-body conditioning
Given cycling is ultimately a single-leg repetitive motion, single-leg burpees are ideal to condition one leg at a time. This variation of the classic burpee will load up the legs and core a little more and definitely raise the intensity with the whole movement. From single leg standing, lower down to a deep squat position with hands on the floor and one leg lifted. Hop the standing foot back to make a push-up position with your core engaged. Hop back to the squat position and then hop with maximum effort straight up on the same leg. Repeat for 30 seconds on each leg.
30 seconds of repetitions on left foot
30 seconds of repetitions on right foot
Rest 1 minute
Repeat 5 times
For an advanced version, you could add dumbbells in your hands.
Classification: flexibility and core strength
Hamstring flexibility is a must for efficiency on the bike. It will allow the pelvis to sit comfortably on the seat and the lumbar spine to adapt to the seated position for many hours. Extended inchworms build on this flexibility as well as challenging the core. Start by bending your torso down and reaching the hands for the floor. Try to keep your knees locked as much as possible. Walk your hands forwards, extending as far as possible so that the body is hovering just above the ground. Hold this position for 10 seconds before walking hands back to toes and then standing tall.
2–3 sets of 10 repetitions
An advanced version can be done on one leg each side.
Tammy Curtis is a personal trainer, educator and former athlete based in Ashburton, Melbourne (www.fitforall.net.au)
Exercise photos by Rebecca Jennings.
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