The following are three five-move circuits that get the job done. Each circuit hits all your major lower-body muscles from every angle. Cyclists benefit from doing single-leg moves as well to build balanced strength.
Rotate through these circuits, performed two to three days a week, to keep your muscles guessing and prevent boredom or burnout.
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Circuit #1: Squat1 of 17
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at your shoulders, with your abs tight. Bend your hips and knees, pressing your hips back and lowering into a squat until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Push back to the starting position. Repeat.
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Circuit #1: Kettlebell Swing2 of 17
Stand with your feet wide, holding a kettlebell with both hands, arms hanging in front of you. Keeping your back straight and pressing your hips back, squat and swing the kettlebell between your legs and behind your hips. Stand up, pressing your hips forward and swinging the weight to shoulder height. Repeat.
Circuit #1: Single-Leg Deadlift3 of 17
Hold a kettlebell by the handle in your right hand. Stand on your right leg. Keeping that knee slightly bent, bend at the hip, extending your left leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering the kettlebell until you are parallel to the ground. Return to the starting position. Repeat for a full set and switch sides.
Circuit #1: Side Lunge4 of 17
Hold dumbbells (collectively weighing 5 to 10 percent as much as you) in front of your chest and stand with feet hip-width apart. Take a giant step to the right and bend your right leg, lowering your hips down and back until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Straighten the right leg, drawing the left leg in as you stand. Repeat on the opposite side.
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Circuit #1: Box Jumps5 of 17
Stand facing a 12- to 18-inch box or step. Squat back, then jump up, swinging your arms forward for momentum. Land firmly on the box with your knees soft to absorb the impact. Step down and repeat.
Circuit #2: Leg Press6 of 17
In a leg press machine, position your feet about hip-width apart on the platform. Press the sled away from you, straightening your legs, and then unlock the sled. Bend your hips and knees and lower the sled until your legs are bent 90 degrees. Push back to start. Repeat.
Circuit #2: Planted Step-Up7 of 17
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand facing a foot-tall bench or high step. Step onto the bench with your right leg. At the top of the move, contract your glutes and extend your left leg behind you. Keeping your right foot on the bench, bring your left leg back down, and lower your body until your left toe just touches the floor. Immediately repeat, completing a full set with one leg. Then switch sides.
Circuit #2: X-Lunge8 of 17
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, hands on hips. Take a giant step diagonally forward with your right leg, crossing in front of the left. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees and lower your hips toward the floor until your right leg is bent 90 degrees. Push back to the start. Repeat with the other leg.
Circuit #2: Figure 4 Bridge9 of 17
Lie back on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Push into your left foot and press your hips into the air so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your bent knee. Return to start. Repeat for a full set, then switch sides.
Circuit #2: Split Jump10 of 17
Stand with your right leg forward and your left leg extended behind you. Bend your right knee and dip your left knee toward the floor, so you're in a lunge position. Place your arms straight out in front of you or out to the sides. Swiftly, jump up and switch legs in the air, landing in the opposite position. When the back knee grazes the ground, jump again.
Circuit #3: Deadlift11 of 17
Stand up straight, holding a barbell in front of your thighs, with arms extended and palms facing back. Bend your knees slightly. While keeping your back flat, slowly bend at the waist, lowering the weight as far as comfortably possible. Pause and contract your glutes to raise the weight back to the starting position. Note: This is an advanced move, so start with lighter weight to get the form down.
Circuit #3: Pendulum Lunge12 of 17
Stand holding dumbbells at your sides. Take a giant step back with your right leg, bending the left knee so that the left thigh is parallel to the floor and the right knee dips toward the floor. Press into the left foot and bring your right leg back up, immediately swinging it in front of you into a forward lunge: Bend your right knee, so your right thigh is parallel to the floor, and allow the left knee to dip toward the floor. Continue alternating front and back, then switch legs.
Circuit #3: Side Step-Up13 of 17
Stand on the edge of a box or step with only the right foot, allowing the other leg to hang in the air, while holding dumbbells at your side. Pull your navel toward your spine and, keeping your chest lifted, bend your right hip and knee to the step and lower the left foot as far as comfortably possible. Return to the starting position. Repeat, then switch legs.
Circuit #3: Stability Ball Hamstring Curl14 of 17
Lie on your back with your legs extended and heels on a stability ball. Contract your abs, back, and glutes and press into your heels, lifting your hips off the floor so your body forms a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Bend your knees and pull the ball toward your butt, so your feet are flat on the ball. Pause, return to the start, and repeat.
Circuit #3: Jump Squat15 of 17
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Sit back into a squat, lowering your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then, jump up as explosively as you can while reaching for the ceiling. Land gently and immediately lower into another squat. Repeat.
Pro Tips16 of 17
- Lift to momentary fatigue—the point at which you can't perform another rep with proper form.
- Some days, go heavy enough you can only eke out six to eight reps. Other days, lighten up and perform higher reps (12 to 15) to fatigue. For jumps, go by feel.
- Plan your strength sessions on the same days as interval workouts or hard rides. Yes, that makes those hard days even harder—but it allows for proper rest and recovery on easy days.
- Lift seasonally. Carve out a 12- to 16-week period during whtich to build strength, and transition into an easy maintenance phase after that with workouts once or twice a week. Skip the weights during taper weeks if you're training to race.