TOOLBOX: As the summertime rolls in many cyclists are dropping strength training to get more time in on the bike. But if you’re looking to ensure that your winter strength training wasn’t wasted, these 4 key exercises will keep you stronger on the bike.
As more cyclists have hit the weights the last few years, I’ve had more and more reach out asking me how to “not waste their time in the weightroom this winter”. Many are often very surprised when my response is:
“Focus on learning to move well for the FUNdamental 5+1 Movements:
- Rotary Stability
Don’t worry about load for the first few months, and then be sure to continue heavy strength training through the peak season.“
Today I’d like to share with you a few of the exercises you can use in your mid-season strength training programs. These exercises serve multiple roles within the strength program, and when used properly, can help you keep your gym sessions short, pointed, and extremely beneficial to your riding. You can learn about The Vortex Method of year-round strength training either by reading my book, or by taking the world’s first and only Strength Training for Cyclists Certification course, which will open for enrollment here in early June 2021.
Our sport of cycling doesn’t challenge our shoulder blades or arms to move much in an overhead fashion. While many may not see this as a problem, it can in fact negatively impact our entire spine’s health, as the body closes down some segments of the spine to reduce movement, and opens up others to compensate. Not to mention, good luck getting your favorite coffee mug off the 2nd shelf in the cupboard in the morning!
The Kettlebell halo is a great exercise to help you learn how to lock together your hips and ribs, while getting movement from the shoulder blade. However, start with very light weight (2#) and first learn how to move the shoulder blade on the rib cage.
Begin with 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions each way.
An incredibly versatile exercise, the Isometric Suitcase Hold challenges the body to maintain good alignment, while firing up the muscles that stabilize us laterally, including the glute medius, adductors, obliques, and more. All of these muscles are incredibly important muscles to helping you ride stronger.
So why simply hold the position instead of move? This creates not only a postural challenge, but also a metabolic effect, forcing the muscles that are working to build stronger neural connections and better local energy production.
Start off with 3x 15 seconds each side for a perceived exertion of 7 (medium hard, could do another 5 seconds with great technique).
While we all like to think about deadlifts and squats to build better strength for cycling, there is much to be gained by training the feet to work better and more efficiently. While this may seem a little silly given that we spend lots of money on super stiff soles in our cycling shoes, in fact, the muscles of the lower leg can have an impact on performance as they tire before the larger “prime movers”.
The Short Foot Exercises start off with 2-3* 15 seconds each foot, and be sure to be smart about these, as they are incredibly challenging to the muscles, and with the muscle being so small, they’re easy to overuse.
Another exercise to help you maintain great overhead movement, the Floor Kettlebell Pullover is a great 3 for 1 tool, if you execute it properly.
Learning how to keep the ribs down through a full 360 degree abdominal brace, you’ll be firing up some muscles in a way not often used in our sport, which can serve you well on your quest to stay healthy, strong, and with good ranges of motion about each joint.
When done throughout the range of motion you have strength & control over, this exercise helps teach the muscles of the mid back to better stabilize the shoulder blade, and at the same time have the muscles called Intercostals, which run between each rib, lengthen and work alongside your diaphragm. This also is exactly opposite the crouched forward and closed position of riding.
Start very small with this exercise and be gentle!
If you have not done any overhead exercises yet, this is not the one to start with. Instead, perform the Reach, Roll, Lift, in order to build the basic movement skillsfirst.
Mid season strength training is a must if you’re seeking performance gains, and even more so if you want to feel and move better on and off the bike. Each of these exercises allows you to get benefits far beyond the traditional squat/ deadlift/ rowing exercises that many cyclists use, while helping you counteract the long hours spent on the bike.