As cyclists, we have to balance being strong with being lean. We need to develop muscle to power us along but we also need to control muscle growth otherwise we’re carrying more weight than we need to. One way to stimulate muscle growth without going overboard is with bodyweight training.
Bodyweight training has several advantages. You don’t need gym equipment, you learn to control movement, you increase mobility and improve coordination. All things that benefit a cyclist. If you can become stronger while also benefitting yourself in other ways, why would you not?
So how can we make reasonable and sustainable gains in just ten minutes a day?
The squat is the king of the compound move and can work wonders for your lower body. This single exercise works your hamstrings, quads, calves, hips, lower back and abs and is well worth doing.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you and squat down by lowering your backside towards the ground. Keep your weight on your heels and your back and head as straight as you can.
Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground and hold for two seconds. Then push with your legs to return to the starting position. Rinse and repeat.
More of a challenge: Lower yourself further to provide more resistance.
The push up is another effective bodyweight exercise that can benefit the cyclist. It works the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, hips and stomach which will provide strength and upper body stability.
Lay flat on the floor facing down. Place your hands flat below your shoulders with elbows out to the side, legs straight and toes on the floor. Straighten your arms until just before your elbows lock and hold for two seconds. Lower your body until your nose almost touches the ground and hold again for two seconds.
More of a challenge: Raise one leg off the floor as you push up. Alternate legs every repeat.
A strong core makes a strong cyclist and no exercise is more effective at that than the plank. The plank challenges the lower back, abs and your entire core.
Assume the push up position but rest on your forearms instead of your hands. Have your upper arms 90 degrees to your lower arms and rest your entire bodyweight on them. Keep the rest of your body in as straight a line as you can manage, like a plank of wood. Tense your abs as you hold the position. Hold for 30 seconds.
More of a challenge: Side planks are harder. Rotate your body 90 degrees from the plank position so you are resting on one elbow. Maintain that straight position with your hips off the floor. Raise the topmost arm straight up in the air. Hold for 30 seconds, rest and then swap sides.
The jump lunge is a very challenging exercise that will punish you the better you do it. It works the legs hard, but also improves balance, coordination and VO2 max.
Assume the lunge position with one leg forward bent at 90 degrees and one leg back with knee lowered almost to the ground. Find your balance. Next, jump explosively into the air by pushing from the front leg. Swap legs while you’re in the air and assume the lunge position once more.
To begin with, concentrate on being smooth and balanced with the movement. As soon as you get the hang of it, work on explosive power.
More of a challenge: Place the front leg on a thick book or otherwise elevate that leg.
See a jump lunge in action here.
The tricep dip is another very effective bodyweight exercise that can benefit cyclists. It works the shoulders, arms and core.
Sit on the edge of a chair or stair with knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands on the edge of the surface about shoulder width apart and slide forwards until your weight rests entirely on your hands. Keep your back and neck as straight as possible as you move. Tense your core and slowly lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds and return to the starting position.
More of a challenge: Move your feet further away from you as you progress.
A note on form.
All exercises depend on you doing them properly to be truly effective. All movements should be smooth and steady, not rushed or snatched. Move deliberately, hold the position for the time stated and then move deliberately back into the start position. Hold for another time period before repeating. All except the jump lunge which is supposed to be hard and fast!
I suggest doing these exercises in the order provided as they challenge different areas of the body. This gives muscles a minute or two to rest before being worked again. Perform each exercise for two minutes to make up the ten minute bodyweight training routine.
If you’re new to cycling or to exercise, check with your doctor before starting any kind of new exercise. It might also be wise to warm up before attempting these and warm down once finished.
So that’s the ten minute bodyweight training routine for cyclists. Told you it could be done!