Build stronger legs for improved cycling

December 10, 2019 4 min read

Build stronger legs for improved cycling

Want to make improvements to your cycling performance? There are plenty of ways you can improve your speed, fitness and lung ability, however, one key thing you might want to consider is your leg strength. 

Of course, your cardiovascular fitness comes in as your number one health aspect to build and maintain for increased riding ability. If you have that in the bag and you are looking to add some power to your climbs or some explosion to your sprints, your leg muscles will benefit from some targeted training exercises. There is no need to go overboard or have legs that look like tree trunks, a few reps of the right exercises will put you in good stead for improved riding outcomes. 

As well as working your glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings for increased strength and stamina these exercises will help to improve your bike balance, increase your joint strength, flexibility and deliver some sexy looking pins.

1. Calf raises

Pedalling activates your calf muscles so they are constantly expanding and contracting with no rest. Unlike other parts of your body that get a rest when you chance position, i.e. get out of the saddle or move into the drops, your calves never get a break. 

Working these muscles off the bike will help reduce the risk of cramping as well as give them more strength. 

The easiest way to do calf raises without any gym equipment is to use a step or a slight ledge (like a street gutter or garden bed rim). Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with balls of your feet on the step and your heels off, so they are not supported by anything underneath. 

Rise up onto your toes slowly and squeeze your calf muscles, hold a moment or two before gently coming back down. 

Raise yourself onto your toes slowly before slowly dropping back down. The benefit to using the elevated step is that you can go a little lower than your starting point and get a nice stretch in there as well. 

Keep your shoulders back and your core strong. You can use dumbbells with this exercise as well, keeping your hands at your sides with the weights. 

Do this for 15-20 reps then take a little break and repeat. Do three sets in total. 

2. Kettlebell squat

This exercise has the same benefits as the barbell squat only you don’t need a squat rack. It also reduces the risk of back injury and helps boost your form and work really quickly.

You will need a kettlebell or a dumbbell, although it doesn’t need to be especially heavy, it’s the reps you do rather than the weight. 

Start with your weight in your hands at chest height and slightly away from your body. Hold it by the handle with both hands for a kettlebell or the weight at one end for a dumbbell.

Your feet will be well grounded and slightly wider than your shoulders. Tuck your elbows in and slowly squat, keeping your elbows in, more narrow than your knees. Your heels will be firmly planted on the ground. Stick your bottom out and continue to drop until your legs are at 90 degrees to the floor. 

The secret to this one is that the power stays in your heels and you push back up.

Repeat ten times then repeat four times.

3. Lunge with dumbbells

Lunges are one of those exercises that are easy to do just about anywhere and engaging your whole lower body, your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. 

Start by standing straight, legs shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Engage your core and step forward with your right leg and lower your body down. keep your back straight. Your knee should be bent to a 90-degree angle but should not go further forward than your toes. Make sure your weight is in your front foot’s heel and don’t let the knee that is back, touch the floor.

Hold for a moment then push up back to a standing position. Switch to do the opposite leg.

One set is completed when you have done ten lunges on each leg (20 single lunges). 

Repeat four times. 

4. Box jumps

One thing that will really help with explosive speed is fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Box jumps are great at training your muscles to contract before providing a sudden burst of power. 

These are called box jump exercises basically because you jump onto a box from a standing position. If you don’t have a solid, stable platform to jump onto, like a large wooden crate, you can just do a big jumping motion on the spot. Sports stadiums usually have bench seating that is great for these types of exercises. 

Start facing your jump platform with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. In one flowing motion squat down and jump up onto the platform. Step down and repeat. The less movement you have in your arms the better as you will be using more of your leg muscles and less momentum. 

This exercise sounds easy but it’s a real cardio blast as well.

5. Romanian Deadlift 

This is basically touching your toes with weights and it’s great because it really works to help improve endurance and flexibility of your hamstrings. It also does wonders for correcting any imbalance issues you might have. 

Start standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand in front of you palm facing in. Keep your back straight through the entire exercise. Your arms will hang perpendicular to the floor. 

Flex your hips, slowly sticking your butt out. You are looking for horizontal hip movement, make sure you don’t shift them downwards. Keep your weight in your heels and only allow a very slight bend in your knees. It will look a little bit like you are bending stiffly over to touch your toes with the weights. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings as you reach towards the floor. Keep going until your hips are not able to move any further back.

Pause and return to the start position by extending your hips. 

Complete ten reps then repeat three times for a total of 30. 

You can use these as a mixed circuit and do one exercise after the other or mix into your cardio routine.


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