Sometimes we associate building strength with ‘bulking up’ and piling muscle upon muscle. However, strength training is less about being ripped and more about getting the most out of our muscles, no matter what activity we are engaged in.
Strength training has a range of different benefits for runners and cyclists and other endurance sports;
In particular, it is a worthwhile exercise to maximise performance. Strength training helps to build muscles, allowing us to burn calories more quickly and help keep our weight under control. It can also increase energy levels and build lean muscle mass.
Strength training can also help improve flexibility and overall motion while making our bones stronger. Stronger bones and more flexible joints decrease the risk of injury, and the increased flexibility can help improve performance.
Strength training for a cyclist can help to focus on a few key areas. It’s no surprise to learn that the most beneficial strength exercises for cyclists focus on the quad muscles since they will derive much of the power.
However, posture and balance are key components of cycling and strength exercises can help in that department too while also reducing the risk of long-term back pain.
Here are just a few strength exercises that can help improve your pedal power:
1. Before you go near the quads, it’s important to not ignore the potential for back pain, given that you will spend large periods hunched over in the saddle.
2. This exercise helps strengthen your lower back muscles, prevent back problems, and provide you with more power in your pedalling motion.
3. You should lie on your front with a cushion or rolled-up towel place around your abdomen. Your pelvis must be touching the floor. Gently lower your whole body towards the floor so that your nose almost touches the ground.
4. Then, slowly lift your chest and abdomen off the ground while keeping your pelvis rooted to the floor. You will begin to feel the muscles in your back stretch, and your spine extend. Repeat this movement as many times as you feel comfortable.
1. Standard squats are a great everyday way to maintain the power in quads and glutes, but this exercise can help take things to the next level.
2. Begin by placing your feet apart, lining them up with your hips. You then move one of your feet backwards as far as it will go but make sure not to move your upper body. Then place your other foot slightly in front of you.
3. Slowly lower yourself towards the floor while keeping your front foot flat on the floor and your back foot on the tips of your toes. Make sure to align both your knees during the movement and once you have done about ten reps, switch the position of your feet and repeat the movement.
1. It’s not just the quads that bring the power when it comes to cycling; the calf muscles play their part, too. This exercise will help you hone those lower leg muscles, resulting in a smoother and more powerful pedalling motion.
2. For this, you will either need to be near a wall or have a chair to hand. Stand up straight and extend your arms to support you by the wall or back of a chair. Keeping one leg planted on the ground, begin to raise the heel of your other foot off the ground. Keep the toes and ball of your foot on the ground as you do this. Make sure you have your weight shifted onto the leg you raise each time.
3. Do about ten reps on each leg before you start to feel fatigued in your calf muscle.
1. Running relies heavily on moving efficiency, particularly if you are constantly seeking to improve your performance. If you are running against others or even against the clock, you’ll want to make sure to maximise your running efficiency to get the desired results.
2. Although a runner’s physique may not scream ‘strength,’ improving your strength can lead to becoming a better and more capable runner.
You may not be moving in this exercise, but you are helping to load up some serious core strength. Lie flat on your front and then prop yourself up with your elbows. Make sure that your back and legs are straight and hold that position for 20-30 seconds. As you do so, remember to tighten your core muscles and breathe normally throughout. The more you do this exercise, the longer you can hold the plank.
1. Push-ups are a great strength exercise for runners because they help with core strength. A strong core, arms and shoulders can help enormously with posture and running form. This allows you to run more efficiently because you are not wasting energy due to bad posture.
2. Start in a position similar to a plank, but instead hold yourself up by the palms of your hands. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the floor before pushing yourself up again just as your chest brushes the floor.
3. Perform three reps of 10-15 push-ups. If you find push-ups difficult at first, try supporting your legs by placing your knees on the floor throughout the exercise.
Lunges target the main muscle groups required for running – the quad, glutes and core. They also help to control the hips, which is great for honing an efficient running form.
To perform a lunge:
1. Start by standing up straight with both feet slightly apart.
2. Keeping one foot planted on the floor, step back as far as you can reach with the other leg.
3. Bend the knee of your front leg as you step back with the other leg.
4. Return both legs to the starting position and repeat for about 10-12 reps.
5. Then switch legs and repeat the movement.
Strength exercises require no equipment and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Strength training is a great way to improve performance, and you will soon see the results once you get out on the open road again, either on foot or on your bike.
Performing strength exercises just once or twice a week for about 15-20 minutes at a time can help your body in optimum condition and keep you on the road to peak performance.
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