...Hit the gym!
As we reach the height of the summer and the daylight has us waking early in the morning, some of us have a big cycling event planned. Whether it's the River Ride, the Leadville 100 or just a long ride with friends, this is time of year that we bulk up on extra miles in preparation for our event. You may be surprised to know that great benefit can come from training one day per week off the bike.
When we hear “off the bike,” it’s usually associated with a day of rest and recovery. To get max benefit from your training, it’s logical to take a rest day as well as a cross-training day. By spending one solid hour in the gym cross-training, your body adapts new strengths that can be applied to long endurance efforts or short racing efforts.
In taking a closer look at our posture on the bike, it’s clear the body is being held in a fixed position (using unilateral strength of each leg). Working full body exercises in the gym helps to build body awareness, balance, pelvic stability and neurological messaging.
The torso is the casing for our primary engine on the bike - our lungs! Specifically when climbing, if our shoulders and chest are always rounded and closed off we are limiting our ability to fully expand the lungs. Bad posture on the bike can seriously hamper success and is easily remedied with exercises in the gym. Another benefit to working in the gym is muscle balance. Each cyclist has a dominant leg that we rely on to set the tempo or initiate that hard burst of effort. So taking time off the bike to work on enhancing our non-dominant leg's strength will bolster our efficiency on the bike.
We can use these two exercises back to back to address both posture and leg strength. Start off standing with feet matched, holding a weight on your right shoulder. Stride your right foot back into a lunge position and lower so your right knee until it’s an inch off the floor; hold for a spilt second then exhale and drive your right hand to the sky. From here, engage the glute and quadriceps on the left leg, and from the left side pull to standing and row your right knee into your chest. Continue for a total of 8-12 reps first on one side, then switch sides.
As you finish the second side, release the weight and come into a lunge position. Then alternate hoping left to right focusing on explosive movement away from the ground, while stabilizing the eccentric contraction on your down stroke. Do 10-14 reps per leg, then take :30-:45 sec's of recovery. Repeat these exercises 2-3 more times.
This is just one example of how to combine strength and speed to benefit cyclists. Strength work is not just about increasing our efforts, it helps our neurological system recruit dormant muscle groups that are under developed, promoting overall health and fitness. If your passion is the open road or flying down a single track, doing a little gym homework on the side will keep you striving towards your next big event!
Brendan Finneran is a Cycling Coach and Personal Trainer at Dogma Athletica. He can be reached at RUintense@hotmail.com or by calling (970) 688-4433.