How to get stronger legs for cycling

Follow these easy exercises to build up your leg strength on the bike

While cardiovascular fitness is a must for high-level cycling, improved leg strength can help with a more balanced physique.

Try these four exercises to build thighs, quads and calves of steel that German track cyclist Robert Förstemann would approve of.

Related: Exercises you can do off the bike

Related: How to build overall strength for cycling

1. Squat jumps

Squat jumps are one of the best ways to boost your explosive power:

Doing squats is beneficial for cyclists because it helps to keep the hamstrings balanced by working them in a different way to the pedalling action.

As a cyclist you should aim to squat down fairly low, so that your thighs are roughly parallel with the ground – an angle your legs will be used to through pedalling.

From the squat position, jump up as high as you can, as hard as you can, but keeping your hands as close to your hips as you can so you don’t create artificial momentum.

Repeat this 15 times in sets of four, doing them quickly and powerfully to build up strength.

2. Lunges


Lunging engages your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles so they are an excellent all-round exercise for improving leg strength. They also help iron out any minor imbalances in thigh strength.

Start by standing with one leg slightly in front of the other, then step forward with your right leg so the bend at the knee is 90 degrees.

Keep the weight towards your heels and then bring your body back to a standing position, pushing off the front leg, before repeating on the opposite leg. Repeat this 16 times.

3. One-legged pedalling

One-legged pedalling can:

Start pedalling and then unclip your left foot, holding it clear of the rotation. Pedal for two minutes before switching legs and repeat for three sets.

To start with you will probably find your movements a bit jerky on the upstroke due to weak hip flexors, but the more you do this exercise, the stronger your hip flexors will become and you will soon find yourself pulling on the upstroke as well as pushing on the downstroke.

4. Calf raises

Calf raises are an effective exercise that can be done anywhere:

Your calves are constantly being flexed and abducted while cycling, so carrying out toe raises on rest days mimics the action this muscle makes on a bike, building its strength further.

Stand on a flat surface with your feet shoulder width apart and raise yourself up onto your toes in a slow, easy motion, then lower yourself back down equally as slowly. Repeat 20 times and do this for three sets.

If you’re feeling keen, you can increase the intensity of this exercise by combining it with a squat, which will work both your thighs and your quads simultaneously.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Cycling Plus

published by Immediate Media
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine – the manual for the modern road cyclist. Try your first five issues for £5 when you subscribe today.
  • Discipline: Road
  • Location: Bristol, UK

Related Articles

Back to top