Too often, cyclists have strong quads and weak hamstrings, according to John Hughes, a Boulder, Colorado, cycling coach (coach-hughes.com) and author of Distance Cycling, due out in July. "But powerful pedaling requires strength in both the fronts and backs of your thighs as well as in your hips and butt." For a strong and muscularly balanced lower body, Hughes recommends these exercises three or four times a week on nonconsecutive days.
Lunge: Strengthens hips, butt, and fronts and backs of thighs.
Do it: Starting in a standing position, hands on hips, step forward with your left foot and bend both knees, lowering until your left thigh is almost parallel to the floor (keep left knee over ankle). Press into your right foot to stand back up. Continue by stepping your right foot forward. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions per side. Do the second set backward: Step back onto the ball of your left foot to get into the lunge. Again, do 10 to 15 reps per side. When you can do two sets of 15, add resistance by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Single-Legged Pedaling: Strengthens hips and backs of thighs; also teaches muscle memory for smooth cycling.
Do it: Using a trainer set at a moderate resistance, pedal for 30 to 60 seconds with your left leg (rest your right foot on a box), then with both legs. Do this three times. Switch legs and repeat. If you started at 30 seconds, add five seconds a week until you reach 60. When you reach 60, add a fourth set.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl: Strengthens and stabilizes abs, butt, hips, hamstrings and knees.
Do it: Lie on your back with your feet on a stability ball. Inhale, tightening your abs, back and butt muscles. Lift up off the floor to create a straight line from feet to shoulders. Exhale and bend your knees, using your heels to pull the ball toward your butt (feet will be flat on the ball). Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 repetitions. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. When you can do two sets of 15, add a third set.