Hey cyclists and mountain bikers—with the 2021 Tour De France going strong, now’s the time to think about how to strengthen your time in the saddle. For most cyclists, strength training isn’t in the plan and it’s all hours spent in the saddle and logging long, slow miles (aerobic base training), hill sprints, and tempo rides. However, just as it’s been shown that runners seriously benefit from strengthening with load and resistance training—for performance gains, more speed, better resistance to injuries, and rehabbing from injuries—it’s a good move for cyclists to add some strength work to improve their riding game.
MOVEMENT PREP—FIRE UP THE RIGHT MUSCLES TO RIDE
General strength training is definitely something all cyclists should add to their weekly routine, but an even more vital habit to get into is “movement prep”—a quick series of activation drills that fire up all the elements you need in your ride—hip extension, hamstring flexibility, lumbopelvic control, core stability, a and just an allover warmup.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Let’s get to it.
MOVE 1: KETTLEBELL DEAD CLEAN HOLD
The Kettlebell Dead Clean is an essential move to learn before more complex skills like Kettlebell Swings and Snatches. By holding this move without reps (aka, what fitness professionals and trainers call “isometric”), you work every muscle in your body. It’s the perfect way to warm up not only your muscles, but your cardiovascular system. For proper Kettlebell Dead Clean technique, we recommend working 1:1 with one of our TRX® trainers, but here’s an excellent breakdown. To perform this move, go as heavy as you can—for reference, our model in the video is 5’9, 125lbs and is using a 45lb bell.
- Position the Kettlebell right at your ankles, feet a little more than hip width apart
- Hinge your hips back, making sure your back is nice and straight
- Grip the Kettlebell horns, squeeze your lats like you’re trying to hold a pencil in your armpits.
- Exhale, tighten your core like you’re about to receive a punch then push HARD through your feet, standing up tall, simultaneously pulling the Kettlebell so it floats up, rotating your hands to catch it at the top.
- Stand nice and tall, firing up your glutes, quads, inner thighs, core, and shoulders to hold as still as you can. You should be peeking through the space in the Kettlebell handles.
- Goal is to hold this position for 45 seconds (but just hold for as long as you can and build up over time).
MOVE 2: KETTLEBELL HALO + SPLIT SQUAT
Time to break out the lighter TRX® Kettlebell. This is another full-body warmup that also targets very specific things, like hip extension, which is super important for any athlete. Any cyclist knows that riding in the saddle is a lot like being in a super slouched crouch—aka hip flexion. Spending a lot of time in this position means your front side gets really tight and your back side gets really overworked. When you strengthen everything involving hip extension (aka, your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors, plus low back), you gain more strength where you want it, and more flexibility where you need it.
- Get into a lunge position (FYI: lunges are just split squats in motion).
- Make sure you’re on the ball of your back foot the entire time
- Fire up your back leg glute. Keep a straight line from shoulder down to knee.
- Hold your Kettlebell upside down by the horns at your chest
- Rise up onto the ball of your front foot—this works the calf and ankle, which are also very important for every cyclist.
- Slowly rotate the Kettlebell in a slow circle around your head. Complete 4 reps, then switch directions.
- Repeat with your leg positions reversed.
MOVE 3: TRX® KETTLEBELL ARM BAR
Every cyclist’s reality—tight hamstrings. Believe it or not, even though quads definitely power every pedal stroke, the hamstrings light up just as much. The constant pedaling over long miles catches up with every cyclist, and hamstring cramps—as well as nerve tightness—can become a real pain in the butt (literally). Some of this can be resolved with electrolytes or a proper bike fit, but a lot of it can also be resolved with some loaded weight moves that strengthen as you lengthen—hamstrings generally prefer this kind of movement over static stretching. Enter the TRX® Kettlebell Arm bar combined with leg lifts.
- Check out this vid to learn how to lift your Kettlebell into an arm bar. Our goal is to just get into the first position.
- Bend the same knee as the arm that’s holding the Kettlebell.
- Push your other hand into the ground, fire up your core, and flex your straight leg’s toes up toward the sky.
- Lift your leg up as high as you can toward the sky—don’t move your hips or anything else but the leg.
- Stop as soon as you feel tightness in the hamstring, then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat for 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
MOVE 4: TRX® STRENGTH BAND HINGES
The perfect way to get your glutes fired up and your hips loosened up. Strong glutes and hips are what power up every part of the pedal stroke—this move is an easy and non-technical way to practice the hinge movement and target your hamstrings while they’re fully lengthened. It’s super important to strengthen muscles at full length so they’re more resistant to injury.
- Loop your TRX® Strength Band around a secure object, like a heavy TRX® Kettlebell or tree or pole.
- Loop the other end around your hip crease and scoot forward until there’s tension when you’re in a kneeling position.
- Pop up on the balls of your feet, then hinge your hips back as far as you can go, then thrust them forward, firing up your glutes, forming a nice straight line from shoulder to knee at the end position.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
MOVE 5: TRX® STRAP PLANK HOLD
The beauty of core strength is it goes beyond having defined abs and obliques—it’s also one of the best ways to improve your balance, posture, low back pain, and pelvic stability. When your entire core is strong and more resilient, it helps offload any stress on other muscles that tend to pick up the slack, like your back (and even your hip flexors).
- Lengthen your straps until they’re low enough to slip your feet into.
- Get into a plank position, hands on the ground
- Alternate between holding a plank and holding a bear plank by tucking your knees in at roughly 90 degrees
- Your core should be tensed up the entire time (as if you’re about to receive a punch)
Add all of these moves before your next rides and see how you feel! You might just notice that your body feels more capable and primed for going the distance—almost as if you could ride the Tour De France, yourself (okay, maybe not that, but you’ll definitely feel the positive difference).
OH, AND DON’T FORGET…
Behind every TRX® Suspension Trainer workout is how you hang it to best fit your training space and style. That’s where our anchors come in. Need something portable? Or something super secure for your garage home gym? It’s all here—shop them all.