The ONLY 6 moves cyclists & triathletes need for strength training
Cyclists & Triathletes often focus on "Core" & "sport specific" exercises, but more often than naught, this leaves you ripe for an overuse injury. Here are the 6 movements cyclists & triathletes need to build performance, and injury resistance from their strength training programs
Since around 2010 cyclists and triathletes have come around to doing some kind of strength training in order to help boost their power, resilience, and improve their overall abilities to deal with the stresses their sport places on them.
Unfortunately, the myths, misconceptions, and poor practices that are so popular and prevalent in the mainstream fitness publications have found their way into the minds of well-meaning cyclists & triathletes. These practices leave many riders and triathletes burning time and energy, which are already so precious, on exercises and moves that don’t give much return, and can even do harm.
In todays blog I’ll share with you the only 6 moves that all cyclists and triathletes need for their strength training, to help you get truly stronger, fitter, and to decrease your risk of injury.
Movement #1 - Rotary Stability
Rotary Stability is, more simply put, exercises that teach your body, specifically your core (which by the way includes EVERYTHING between your neck, elbows, and knees), to resist forces that try to separate your ribcage from your pelvis.
Poor rotary stability leads to what some may call “energy leaks” which are pretty big, and can really sap what strength or power you do have.
Think about riding behind someone on the bike who is putting down some power at tempo, and you’ll notice that as they push down on the pedals with their right leg, their shoulders move over to their right, but their hips move over to the left.
That is one example of poor Rotary Stability.
Not only is it a huge power-sapper, but it can also lead to overuse injuries of the knees, hips, back, and even shoulders.
A super easy way to “test” this for yourself, is to perform the single leg hip lift, and see if you can:
- Keep your ribs and hips locked together to move as 1 unit through the entire movement
- Do so WITHOUT using your TFL (muscle that is about where your front pocket would be on a pair of khakis or dress pants), and instead using your glutes and obliques.
Here’s a short video demonstrating poor rotary stability when the right leg is doing the work
Adding in rotary stability exercises is as easy as including some single leg hip lifts (as you see in the video), or some Suitcase Deadlifts, which also will help improve your grip- something which has a much deeper positive impact on your strength overall.
Movement #2- (Overhead) Pressing
Triathletes tend to do a bit of a better job at hitting this movement than cyclists, as cyclists tend to think the movement is not “sport specific”.
However, the coordination and mobility needed for an overhead movement can play a good role in helping you learn how to produce power while keeping your body in great positions to put that power to use as movement at the limbs.
The overhead press , more notably for cyclists, when trained for movement proficiency (or if you prefer “cleanliness of the movement”) can play an important role in helping alleviate and even resolve ongoing neck, shoulder, and upper back tightness.
While I COULD show you an exercise or two to do, the vast majority of you will need to sure-up your neck, shoulders, and upper back before you begin thinking about overhead pressing….So here is a playlist from an article I contributed to in BICYCLING Magazine back in 2017 on how to beat neck and shoulder pain on the bike, as well as a recent Instagram TV Exercise that can help get you started on the right path (Standing Band Pull-aparts).
Movement #3 Pushing (Horizontal)
Many of us may believe that we are AWESOME at pushups, but the fact of the matter is that despite (or perhaps because of) all the time we spend in the “pushup” position on the bike, we’ve lost the ability to move well:
- Our Serratus Anterior muscles become stuck or turn off due to long hours in the saddle
- The Pectoralis Minor muscles become short and tight in order to do the job of holding us up on the handlebars
- Our Triceps (an accessory muscle) take over the job of the chest to hold us up (due in part to the pec minor shutting down)
- And our clavicles (collar bone) begins to “get stuck” and not move as it needs to, due to long hours in relatively static position
Want to clean up your pushups in 10 seconds or less?
Follow the cues and advice that I gave Hank on the GCN show in 2019
Taking the time to learn how to properly execute the push (or pushup) is incredibly important for both cyclists and triathletes, as the ability to properly push impacts your breathing, positioning on the bike, and even your recovery!
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Movement #4- Pulling
Pulling is often seen as the opposite of push, but they are actually more similar that opposite.
When it comes to our focus on the pull, we are actually looking to build coordination of the muscles to provide stiffness of the spine, while allowing the arms and shoulder blades to move.
For many cyclists and triathletes the pull can be a huge booster to performance, or hinderance. It all depends on if you’re able to get the right muscles to work together or not.
A fantastic place to start with a pull for many cyclists and triathletes is the 3-point hinge row, which can expose positioning flaws and weaknesses that you may have on the bike. This allows you to become a more aware rider, and gain strength to ride, climb, and sprint faster!
Pullups can also be a good pulling exercise, but due to the positioning of the shoulder, and the fact that many cyclists and triathletes have poor shoulder function as mentioned before, we’ll need an entire separate post to cover that.
Movement #5- Squatting
Ahhh, the squat!
Such a simple, yet challenging movement for so many people- let alone quad-dominant cyclists & triathletes who tend to think…..
Squatting, like many physical movement, is a skill that needs to be developed over time. But you don’t need heavy weights or barbells to begin to clean it up and improve it!
In fact, as my 60-day home bodyweight workout group has learned, slowing the squat down and doing it over a 4-0-4-0 Tempo, can make it 10x more challenging, and REALLY expose your flaws and weaknesses.
Feel for yourself!
Give the 4-0-4-0 Tempo goblet squats a try. Start off with 3 sets of 8, making sure you’re actually taking 4 seconds each for the way up and down, with no breaks, while keeping great posture.
No need for the weight, instead just keep your hands in the position I have holding the Kettlebell for the entire set.
Rest 1 minute between rounds
Movement #6- The Hinge
Lastly, we have the hinge. Also called a Deadlift, which includes the Kettlebell Swing.
This hinging motion is extremely difficult for many modern day folks to handle, as we spend so much time sitting, that it messes with our posterior chains ability to fire well, and in proper order.
I’ve been a huge proponent of Kettlebell swings for quite some time, as with a simple (single) kettlebell, we can get a great general fitness training affect that can significantly boost performance, and improve how your body moves.
In fact, I’d even go as far as calling Kettlebell swings “The Wonder bread of Exercises” (Burpees would be the exact opposite end of the spectrum, somewhere in “Useless waste of time and effort”).
The Kettlebell swing may be SIMPLE, but it is NOT easy….Especially for cyclists and triathletes who spend hours a week in a closed- hip position.
Take your time learning how to swing properly, and you’ll earn a lot of metabolic and strength, speed, and power rewards.
Cheat, and, well…… You just ton’t get much out of it and will be left greatly disappointed.
How to do the Swing Properly:
These 6 moves (and their many different variations) are all any cyclist or triathlete need in their strength training program.
Leave any one of these out, and you’re costing yourself either performance, longevity in your sport, or both.
However, don’t make the mistake of trying to train each one of these movements in every single strength training session you have!
Want to learn how to build an intelligent strength training for cycling, or strength training for triathlon program?
Subscribe here to the HVTraining Newsletter, the HVTraining YouTube Channel to learn more in our upcoming videos and posts!
Don’t want to wait?
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What about you?
Do you include all 6 of these movements in your strength training for cycling program?
Or perhaps your strength training for triathlon program?
Leave a comment down below, and I’ll be sure to follow up with you!
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