Living Room Strength Training for Cyclists

by David Shaffer

Spring weather is just around the corner, so it’s almost time to ride (or haul) your bike over to the local shop for the annual tune-up and start dreaming of warm days and long, winding roads. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a bicycling boom, so some of you might be giddy with excitement thinking about your newfound love for the two-wheel lifestyle. Some of you might be envisioning how an improvement in the saddle could help you beat your Strava times from last summer. And, unfortunately, some of you are recovering from injuries–or have fought them in the past–and may enter every cycling season with the same unsettling thought, “Let’s see how long I can last this year.”

Whatever the case, there are a few things you can do now to greatly improve your odds of a healthy, positive experience. While proper nutrition and sleep are always at the top of the list, focusing on strength training is also important. Here are six exercises you can do in your living room that will take your cycling to new heights. This list is a great place to start, but you can always seek out more help from an experienced professional. (A quick disclaimer – you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness program.)

Single-leg Balance – It’s fun to think about the large muscle groups, but balance can be a great way to warm-up the smaller stabilizer muscles that are crucial for injury prevention. Start by balancing on each foot—preferably without shoes—for thirty seconds. Once you can do that easily, try shifting your focus, closing your eyes, or standing on a pillow, blanket, or other unstable surface.

Plank – The basis for any training program should always be core strength and stability; and love it or hate it, the plank is the king of core exercises. Start with a front plank by lying on your forearms and toes – or modified on your knees – and squeeze your abs to support your back. From there, you can adjust the difficulty by increasing the duration of each plank, lifting one leg at a time, rotating side-to-side, and many more. Aim for two to three minutes in total, combined time of all repetitions.

Forward Lunge – We use both legs simultaneously for walking, running, and cycling, but they work separately, rather than in tandem. By focusing on each leg individually, you will accomplish equal strength and efficiency and continue to work on balance. Start in a standing position and take an exaggerated step forward with one leg. Your goal is for both knees to approach a 90-degree angle. Then push hard into the floor with your front foot to return to standing. You may alternate legs or complete all repetitions on one side before switching. Aim for two to three sets of 10-15 repetitions per leg. Holding onto a chair can help to regress the exercise, while wearing a backpack or holding dumbbells can add weight and increase the difficulty.

Single-leg Romanian Deadlift – This is a great exercise for the glutes and hamstrings that also continues to work on balance. Start standing straight up, with your knees soft (not locked out). Keeping your shoulder blades squeezed and your back straight, hinge forward at your hip and raise one leg straight out behind you. Continue forward toward the floor until you resemble a table-top or letter “T,” then return, under control to standing. Repeat ten times on each leg for two or three sets. This exercise can be regressed by keeping the rear toe on the floor, and it can be progressed by holding weights.

Hip Bridge – Here is a great little exercise that targets the glutes, specifically. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Squeeze your butt to lift your hips off the floor and push them as high toward the ceiling as possible. Repeat 15-20 times for two or three sets. For added difficulty, switch to single leg. Extend one leg straight out along the floor and press through the other foot. Lift the hips and straight leg in unison. Repeat 10-15 times per side.

Squat Jump – This exercise, great for the end of a workout, translates to the bike well. Start in a standing position and lower down in an air squat position. Keep your hips back and your weight evenly distributed throughout your foot—avoid lifting your heels and shifting the weight to your toes. When you reach the bottom of your range of motion, explode upward and jump, bending your knees when you land to absorb the impact. For a regression, don’t leave the ground, but instead power up onto your toes. By stringing the jumps together without pausing in between, the difficulty will increase dramatically. Aim for two or three sets of 15-20 repetitions.

David Shaffer is a member of the HABPI Board of Directors. David is a certified personal trainer and running coach with a studio in Gettysburg. He is also an avid lover of all things outdoors.