Most cyclists can feel that as you ride, your quadriceps and hip muscles are providing a majority of the power to the pedal stroke. These muscle actions occur on one pedal at a time, sometimes for several hours. Therefore, it’s important to come up with a plan to keep your quadriceps and hips strong to minimize the possibility of overuse injuries and improve your strength and power.
- Reduce muscle imbalances
- Emphasize balance and coordination
- Work muscles in an integrated fashion, making these exercises ideal for other sports and activities
- Are time-efficient, making it easy to include them in an in-season workout
Split Squat1 of 9
If you haven't done any single-leg work, the split squat is a great place to start. Stand with a split stance as shown. The distance of your stance will vary depending on your hip flexibility.
Split Squat (cont'd)2 of 9
Drop down into a split squat position keeping the knee of your lead leg behind your toes. Focus on your lead leg doing the work as you stand back up. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Start with just your body weight; when you are ready to add additional resistance, hold the weights as shown. When you hold dumbbells at shoulder level, your center of gravity is raised requiring more control and stability.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat3 of 9
This exercise is similar to the conventional split squat except you will elevate your trailing foot on a bench, putting more demand on your lead leg and challenge hip mobility. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height as shown and perform the prescribed number of repetitions for each leg.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (cont'd)4 of 9
If you find this uncomfortable in your trailing leg, choose a lower bench. For an added stability challenge, place the foot of your trailing leg in a suspension trainer.
Lunge5 of 9
The lunge is a valuable exercise for cyclists as it works on eccentric strength. When you lunge forward, the muscles of your hips, trunk and thigh have to decelerate and stop your body's momentum before pushing back to the starting position. Referred to as an eccentric action, this exercise lengthens muscles while developing tension. Cycling has virtually no eccentric action, so the inclusion of this type of exercise can drastically improve your overall lower body strength. Hold a pair of dumbbells as shown (or simply use your body weight) and take a long step forward into a lunge, keeping your knee behind your toes and avoid collapsing your knee to the inside. Push back to the start and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Step-up6 of 9
This is a twist to the traditional step-up to make the exercise a little more challenging. First, find a step that's not too high–an aerobic step works well since you can adjust the height. A good starting point is about six inches. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height and place one foot on top of the step.
Step-up (cont'd)7 of 9
Now, it's important to visualize the raised leg doing the work as you make your way through the set. Many people have a tendency to push off with the bottom foot–try not to do this. Step up and raise your trailing leg as shown. Doing this will challenge your balance more than a traditional step-up.
Step-up (cont'd)8 of 9
Return to the starting position, but do not let your trailing foot touch the floor. Let your foot hover an inch or so above the floor for a second or two while keeping an upright posture before starting the next repetition. If the positioning of the exercise feels awkward, move your lead foot to the edge of the step so that your trailing foot is to your side instead of behind (as pictured). This will increase the difficulty of the exercise as the muscles of your lead leg will be under constant tension. And since your trailing leg does not touch the floor, it will be impossible to push off with that foot. Many find this version of the step-up quite challenging. If you are having difficulty, reduce the height of the step to around four inches and/or start with bodyweight alone. Keep at it, though–this is a great exercise. Perform the desired number of repetitions, and then switch legs.