• Al Painter Jr

My 3 Favorite Lower Body Exercises For Cyclists

An exercise is only as good as its accessibility. The ones that have the highest level of effectiveness have the lowest levels of "activation energy" to both set up and do. Meaning? Typically, when something is more incovenient to do, the more apt you are to NOT do it. Check out Shawn Achor's "Happiness Advantage" for more information on that. Its an awesome book you should read either way. So, if you don't like the gym. You won't go. If it is inconvenient to your daily schedule, you won't go.


If there are too many hoops to jump through to get a workout started at home, you won't do it. If you don't have programming to follow, 21 years of training people has taught me the workout won't get done. Especially when we take into account a most likely time crunched schedule. So how do we make that easier? We make it more accessible. I get to dial in UCI XCO performance levels on the bike, you'll need some free weights to figure out your 1RM (one rep max) and then calculate the optimal percentages of that number to build strength, power, etc. Not too mention BOTH a perfectly dialed in periodized program on and off the bike geared toward your A-Races do you can podium peak to stand on the top step of the box.


If you're an iron lifting bike rider who loves the gym, the exercises below will make that better. If you're a more recreational rider who loves to be outdoors, the exercises below will make that more enjoyable. My guess is if you're reading this, either way you love to ride your bike. You just wouldn't mind being a little stronger to enjoy it that much more. And that's exactly why I wrote this. 1) 2-Arm 2-Leg Exercise Band RDL If you can't get to a gym (or just plain old don't like it), or don't want to spend upwards of $1500 on a set of kettlebells or dumbbells for your home, exercise bands are incredibly advantageous. For about $50 you can get a great set of bands to use just about anywhere. I've used bands and bodyweight to help people get pretty damn strong off their bike. This exercise will hit every muscle in your posterior chain, or the most important component on your bike. Sorry folks, this piece of kit on your bike can't be bought online or in your LBS. You have to do the thing to get the ring!

Pros:

  • Incredibly functional

  • Can be used as a post ride lower body recovery move.

  • Improves your posture

  • Goes a long way to do undo the seated position at work, on the bike, etc.

  • Builds loads of glute strength.

  • Gives you the same muscle activation patterns as a kettlebell swing.

  • Has multiple variations that will challenge even the most advanced trainees.

  • Can be done at the gym with a cable pulley machine.


Cons:

  • You need somewhere to anchor it. Ideally with multiple height options.

  • You need good form to maximize the benefits.

  • You actually have to buy one. Remember, activation energy.

  • The exercise loading vector is out in front of you instead of vertical like with weights.

  • While you can stand on 41" looped bands to get vertical loading vectors, as bands get thicker/heavier, they get trickier to both stand on and hold.

2) Split Stance Kettlebell Goblet Squat

If you want an exercise that is incredibly cycling specific, this is the one. Your feet are in the position as your pedals in the 3 and 9 o'clock positions while you work your glutes and core in essentially the way they work with you ride. Especially out of the saddle.


Pros:

  • VERY cycling specific

  • Total body core exercise

  • Helps grip strength

  • Builds glute strength

  • Works the back half of the body

  • Can be done standing on a 41" exercise band.

  • If you've dropped down in a split stance to tie your shoes, you've essentially done this exercise.

  • You can also load this exercise with barbells+bands in the Zercher position, sandbags, mulch bags, soil bags, rocks on the ground and pretty much anything that's got some heft to it.

Cons:

  • You'll need a gym to take full advantage of heavier weights in 5-10lb increments as you progress.

  • You'll need free weights at home which can get pricey.

  • The piper can ask for a higher restitution for recovery time.

  • As weights get heavier, the exercise can be more challenging to set up.

3) Anti Rotation Exercise Band Lunges This one falls into the category of incredibly convenient from an accessibility standpoint. I love this exercise for a ton of reasons, the biggest of which is it looks nothing like riding a bike and that might be its biggest advantage.


Pros:

  • Takes the body into planes of motion that cycling doesn't.

  • Builds the lateral hip strength that helps cornering and riding switchbacks.

  • Lights up the abs on the side closest to the origin.

  • Builds both hip stability and mobility as you get stronger.

  • Can be done anywhere the band can be anchored.

  • Can be done at the gym with a cable pulley machine.

  • Great post ride recovery reset with lighter loads.

  • To make it harder, you just move further away from the band origin.

  • Can also be done as an isometric "plank" for people with mobility limitations.

  • Has tremendous benefit for the muscles of the feet when done barefoot.

  • It can be used as both a strength and mobility (which is what you really want, not flexibility) exercise.


Cons:

  • Hip mobility can limit your range of motion.

  • If you're used to using your muscles like this, they might let you know the next day you need to do it more.

  • You're not doing it yet?

  • Not too many cons to doing this.

Whether you are a casual rider out for some fresh air, or love pining a number to your jersey or a zip tying a number plate to your handlebars, these exercises will help you have more fun doing it. If you're ready to take your core strength to the next level, contact me and let's see how I can best help you do that!

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