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Effective Strength Training for Cyclists

By Gaelle Abecassis | Feb 2, 2024

Strength training is an oft-overlooked super-supplement for cyclists. It develops the power used for sprints and muscling over hilly terrain. It fends off the muscle fatigue you feel at the end of a long ride. Strength training exercises with weights promote bone density, which can be a problem with the non-weight-bearing nature of riding a bike. And it helps neutralize muscle imbalances that can develop from the fixed position of cycling.

Before you get too concerned about bulking up or losing flexibility, the good news is that strength training for cycling is different from traditional weight lifting. The goal is to integrate this strength work into your bike training to make you a better, stronger rider, not a bodybuilder. As such, you can do most of the moves detailed below at home without weights in 30 minutes or so, 2-3 times a week. 

Don’t worry; you can still do your hard cycling intervals since resistance training focuses on muscles, not your cardiovascular system. For help adding a strength routine to your cycling program, you can enlist a coach such as Humango’s AI coaching app. It’ll integrate strength sessions into a weekly program, adjusting your cycling workouts to build off the strength work instead of leaving you to guess when you should do it.

Basic Stability Program

Cyclists need a powerful platform to push against as they drive the pedals through the pedal stroke. That platform is your core. So, the stronger your core, the harder you can ride. Fortunately, it doesn’t take squats and deadlifts with heavy weights to accomplish this. Bodyweight exercises will offer impressive gains, especially if you’re starting from zero. 

Back expert Stuart McGill, PhD, came up with three simple core exercises to shore up core stability in people with back pain, and they work for cyclists, as well. You can also complete one rep of each exercise as part of your daily warm-up.

Modified Curl-Up:

  1. Lie on your back and bend one knee while extending the other.
  2. With your hands underneath your lower back and your back in a neutral position, brace your abdomen, then lift your head, shoulders, and chest. Avoid tilting your head back or tucking in your chin.
  3. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then lower your upper body back down slowly to the floor. Repeat with the opposite leg bent and the other leg extended. That completes one rep. Work up to completing 3-4.

Side Plank:

  1. Lie on your left side, with your left elbow under your shoulder, forearm on the ground, and left hand on your hip.
  2. Keep your legs straight with your feet stacked on top of each other.
  3. Without twisting or leaning forward, lift your hips off the floor and hold your body straight for 10 seconds, then slowly drop to the floor. 
  4. Repeat on your right side to complete one rep. Work up to complete 3-5 reps.

Bird Dog:

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. 
  2. Raise your right arm straight forward and your left leg straight back while keeping your spine neutral (no twisting).
  3. Once the arm and leg are fully extended, hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Lower the arm and leg and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Work up to complete 3-5 reps.

Power Moves

The following exercises target the key cycling muscles — quads, glutes, and hamstrings — with help from your core to keep you stable (stability again!). Remember, you don’t need to win these strength sessions by busting out your personal best in reps or weights. You want to complete each exercise with enough left in the tank to complete no more than two more reps. Two caveats, though. First, do a warm-up set of each exercise with no weights. Second, if you feel your form is not perfect due to muscle fatigue, stop and try again the next workout. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.


  1. Take a step back. Brace your torso and lower your body with your torso upright, hands by your sides. Make sure your forward knee doesn’t lean over your toes. Slowly press yourself back upright when your forward leg reaches a 90-degree bend.  
  2. Switch legs and repeat.
  3. Start with 10-12 reps of each leg, working up to 3-4 sets.
  4. Keep progressing by holding a light dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.

Single-Leg Deadlifts

  1. From a standing position, slowly bend forward from your waist, keeping your back straight, while you lift one of your legs straight behind you simultaneously.
  2. Your planted leg should be slightly bent, and you should feel the tension in your glute and hamstring muscles, not your back.
  3. Once your torso is level with the ground, slowly raise it back up, focusing on your glutes to do the work, not your back.
  4. Repeat with the other leg to complete one rep. Repeat for 8-10 reps. Work up to 3-4 sets.
  5. As you grow stronger, add light dumbbells or kettlebells to each hand.

Front Squats

  1. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, or weight plate at chest height with both hands.
  2. Slowly lower your body, keeping your torso as upright as possible. Stop when your legs reach a 90-degree angle.
  3. Quickly raise yourself to standing.
  4. Repeat for 10-12 reps and 3-4 sets.

Whether you’re a strength training rookie or a seasoned cyclist who’s rediscovering the benefits of basic resistance training, incorporating these simple but effective strength exercises into your training routine will help you build a stronger engine capable of powering your cycling performance to the next level.

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Posted by Gaelle Abecassis