Functional Strength Training for Cyclists
Simply put, functional strength training is strength training exercises that are useful. You’re not going to build glam muscles with functional strength training. Instead, you’re building strength to excel in your sport – in our case, cycling. Sure, you’ll look good too.
Major Muscles Used in Cycling
The major muscles used in cycling are the glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and quadriceps. While these are all the legs and hips, you can’t forget your core and upper body. Your legs may be doing the brunt of the work, but your core keeps you balanced and helps you with tight turns while your upper body, well, supports your upper half.
When you conduct functional strength training, you’re training your body to perform its best during cycling.
Squats work your glutes as well as your quads and hamstrings. You can conduct squats using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight.
Single leg deadlifts not only work your hamstrings and hip flexors, but they also help identify weaker muscles. When you single out legs (or anything, for that matter), you’re likely to see deficiencies easier, which means you can strengthen the weaker one efficiently.
Calf Raises are solid calf-strengthening exercises. You can do it with or without weights, on or off a ledge. As cyclists, we’re prone to overactive gastrocnemius and soleus, so it’s probably better you stretch and foam roll your calves more than strengthening them.
Balancing Hip Flexion or Lying Prone March will work out those hip flexors. Again, as cyclists, we’re prone to have over active psoas muscles, so you want to stretch them as well. Off-season, when you’re not cycling as much, then yes, strengthening your hip flexors are key, but you definitely want to stretch them with poses like the seated butterfly stretch and pigeon pose. Your hips and back will thank you.
Core is essential to cycling and controlling yourself on the bike. The Plank and all its variations is great for developing core strength. There are too many kinds of planks to list and luckily, with that amount, you’ll never get bored.
As we see in the pro peloton, cyclists lack upper body muscles. Sure, there’s the whole power to weight ratio, but taking care of your upper body will only help you on (and off) the bike. Don’t worry about gaining tons of weight from developing your upper body.
When you’re supporting yourself on the bike, you’re probably using your biceps, upper back, chest, and triceps, so strengthening all those muscles during the off-season is key. Exercises like Shoulder Presses, Tricep Dips, Pull-Ups, and Rows target those muscles.
The winter is the best time to develop and strengthen those cyclist muscles, so you can come back to the season stronger than last year.