Want to have thighs like tree trunks? Have a read of this advice to help you get legs strong enough to power you up the steepest of climbs while on your bike.
Ken Doyle, co-author of Weight Training for Cyclists, says that squats are the most important off-bike exercise. “Squats strengthen most lower-body muscles by simulating the hip and knee pedaling motions.” In other words, squats mean watts.
The quadriceps and hamstring muscles that make up your thighs are your pedaling powerhouse, so give them a boost with squats and these three other off-bike exercises.
Start with your back slightly arched, abdominals clenched, feet directly under your shoulders and chest out. Inhale and start squatting, keeping your knees over your feet. Dip to an 80-degree knee angle. Exhale and rise, keeping proper form.
Repeat eight to 12 times, rest for one to three minutes and repeat, doing up to three sets. Learn proper form before increasing resistance.
2. Dead lift
“Dead lifts are great for pedaling in the aerodynamic position for long periods,” says Doyle.
Start with a bar on the ground that’s 30 to 50 per cent of your body weight. With feet shoulder width apart, grip the bar, hands slightly wider than your feet. Breathe in and lift slowly by straightening the knees, raising the shoulders up and back, and moving the hips forward. Keep your abdominals tight, chest out and shoulder blades back.
Exhale at the top, pause, then slowly reverse the movement, keeping torso erect and chin up. Do 15 to 20 reps, rest for one to three minutes and repeat. Do up to three sets.
“Lunges work many of the lower body’s cycling muscles and help build stabilising muscles,” says Doyle. By targeting one leg at a time, they will also help to correct imbalances.
Start with a wide split stance, your feet parallel and facing forward. Clench your abdominals, keep your head up and bend both knees until the back one almost touches the ground and the front knee is at an angle of about 90 degrees.
Repeat eight to 12 times on one leg, then swap legs and repeat. Do up to three sets. As you get stronger, add resistance by holding weights in each hand.
4. Leg curls
“This exercise targets the hamstrings, which are so often underdeveloped in cyclists compared with the quadriceps,” says Doyle. They will improve sprinting, climbing and standing starts.
Using the gym’s leg curl machine, choose a weight roughly 15 to 20 per cent of your body weight. Start by tensing your abdominals so your lower back stays in contact with the pad as you pull your heels down and back.
Pause at the end of the motion before slowly releasing back to the start position. Repeat eight to 12 times, rest for a minute and then repeat up to three sets.