Effective Strength Training for Cyclists

Effective Strength Training for Cyclists

As one progresses trough the year and the different Mesocycles of it’s training calendar, a very important area will have to be addressed during Off Season Base, which is Strength Training. Although bigger muscles do not directly correlate with a faster rider, they do assist any in accelerating with greater power more easily and with more control. It also provides a greater ability to handle the bike and what the trails have to offer. Most importantly strengthening the body muscles greatly assist in preventing injuries, especially in the lower back.

Make sure to include a transition phase into the strength training; this will vary in length usually lasting from a couple of weeks to a month. This means using low weight exercises to prepare your body for what is to come on the future sessions. Another important area to considerate is your scheduled rides, during the days that you have your strength workouts plan an endurance reduced time ride to avoid over-training and over-exhaustion.

All of the muscle groups have to be trained including the core, chest, arms, and shoulder among others specially the ones primarily used on the pedal stroke. In order to be as efficient as possible when doing strength training for any cyclist, first a basic understatement of what muscles are used when during each of the pedal strokes that we turn has to be acquired.

Here is a great diagram created by Stephen Lardson (USA Cycling Coach) showing when and which muscles are used during each pedal stroke:


Cycling Pedal Stroke & Muscles UsedHere is another great diagram created by coach Stephen Thordarson with the results from a Electromyography (EMG):

Pedal Stroke Muscles

Coach Lardson and Coach Thordarson both do an outstanding job of displaying the different phases of the pedal stroke along with the muscles being used. One can easily understand that there are two primary phases to the pedal stroke, which are the Power Phase and the Recovery Phase. The most important one of them being the power phase, this is where the majority of the energy is exerted and transferred onto the bicycle. We can understand from this information that a very important muscle group are the Hip Extensors – primary the ‘Biceps Femoris’ and the “Semitendinosis’ Muscles – are the most used muscle group during the pedal stroke. The ‘Gluteus Maximus’ and ‘Vastus Lateralis’ muscle do work during the initial phase of the power phase, primarily when the knee is flexed. After the knee is extended the lower leg muscles start coming into play, first the ‘Soleus’ muscle, shortly after we start seeing activity on the ‘Gastrocnemius Rectus Femoris’ muscle. During the recovery phase we see the majority of the muscles work pretty evenly, although the ‘Tibialis Anterior’ does work during the second part of the upward part of the stroke (between ~260 and 360 degrees). None of these muscles never really stop working during the pedal stroke, they instead distribute the load and reduce it during a small amount of time to allow for a quick and continuous recovery.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how the muscles distribute the workload during the pedal stroke, you can start to focus on those areas to improve your performance. A very important note is that you do not want to neglect the other muscles neither, this is can create muscular imbalance primarily on the hip stabilizers. Muscular imbalance like Lower Crossed Syndrome could increase your possibilities of injures due to falls or overtraining, for this reason as mentioned before it is very important to address all muscular groups during your training. The core, back, chest, arms and shoulder muscles are as well very important to train, as they will improve your ability to control and transfer your power and the bike.

I have put together a list of exercises that I have found to help increase your ability to improve your power output and handling skills. Remember we are all different, which means there is no one magic routine or solution to get fitter.

  • Leg Workouts
    • Squads
    • Wide Leg Squads
    • Forward Lunges
    • Backward Lunges
    • Crusty Lunges
    • Heel Raise
    • Hip Thurst
  • Arm Workout
    • Barbell Curl
    • Concentration Curls
    • Drag Curls
    • Triceps Extensions
    • Triceps Press
  • Chest Workouts
    • Barbell Bench Press
    • Guillotine Bench Press
    • Incline Bench Press
    • Decline Bench Press
  • Core (Abs) Workouts
    • Dumbbell Side Bend
  • Back Workouts
    • Bent Over Two-Dumbbell row
    • One arm dumbbell row
    • Stiff Leg Deadlift
  • Shoulder Workouts
    • Alternating Deloitte Raise
    • Arnold Dumbbell Press
    • Dumbbell Raise
    • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    • Front Dumbbell Raise

Thank you for reading, please leave your comments or questions below.

Thank you for reading!

Gilberto Cortez - USA Cycling & TrainingPeaks Certified Coach

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