Pedal Power: how to improve your cycling
Cycling is a popular pastime in Great Britain with around 5.1 million people (about 8% of the population) aged 5+ taking to the road three or more times a week (The National Travel Survey 2014).
Some of the best personal trainers incorporate cycling into their client’s exercise routines and some group fitness instructors run spinning classes.
The World Track Cycling Championship will take place in London from 2 to 6 March this year, while the success of Yorkshire hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014 has led to an annual Tour de Yorkshire (28 & 29 April and 1 May 2016).
To celebrate Britain’s love of the bike, this blog focuses on three exercises to improve your pedal power. While all can be done at home, a personal trainer will be able to help you hone your technique.
Exercise 1 – Single leg chair squat
To work: The quads and glutes (see our blog on: Muscle of the Month: the gluteal muscle group).
Why?: Improve proprioception and muscular balance in the lower leg, upper leg and hip complex. Increase uni-lateral strength leading to an increase in pedal frequency (pedalling faster!!) and improved efficiency.
- Sit upright close to the edge of a chair seat with your arms crossed
- Stretch out your left leg, resting on the heel, with the knee slightly bent
- Engage your abs and raise yourself slowly to a standing position, allowing your left foot to lower without moving the position of the heel. Ensure your glutes move backwards, as they would in a standing squat
- Reverse the movement by slowly sitting back down
- Repeat with your right leg stretched out
Reps: Three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Increase intensity by: removing the chair and increasing the range of motion. Raising the stretched-out leg around six inches off the floor.
Exercise 2 – Plank with row (also known as a 'renegade press up')
To work: The core, back and shoulders (see our blog on: Defining core strength).
Why?: A strong core will help with the efficiency of movement when cycling, while increasing stability and helping to guard against back pain and injuries.
- Place two small dumbbells shoulder width apart on the floor
- Get into a plank position with feet slightly wider than hips and hands gripping the dumbbells as they sit on the floor
- Keeping your core and glutes engaged and your back stable, lift the right dumbbell in a rowing movement
- Repeat on the left side
Reps: Alternate 5 reps per arm, for three sets.
Increase intensity by: Increasing the dumbbell weight, slowing down the movement or lifting the opposite leg as you row (see our blog on: Asymmetrical and unilateral exercises).
Exercise 3 – Jump squats
To work: Quads, hamstrings, glutes.
Why?: Plyometric exercises like squat jumps can speed up the rate of force development (RFD) allowing you to produce the same amount of force (or more!) in a quicker time frame. This will increase your power output and improve your pedal efficiency when cycling (not suitable for those with ankle, knee, hip injuries etc).
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart
- Lower into a squat, then quickly jump as high as you can, raising your hands above your head
- Land the jump and swing your straight arms behind your back
- Immediately repeat the squat and jump
- As this works fast-twitch muscle fibers, carry out before other leg exercises
Reps: Five reps, for three sets
Increase intensity by: Increasing the height you have to jump by jumping on to something (box jumps). Or jumping over a series of hurdles repeatedly to challenge balance, speed and the skill of jumping!
Make sure that you adopt the correct posture for these exercises and don’t forget, you can always ask for further guidance from us or a a personal trainer at your local gym or sports centre.