Does your passion for cycling fall somewhere between professional bike racing and recreational weekend rides? You may be ready to take your cycling to the next level and sign up for a biking competition. Once you’ve made the commitment, the next step is training. Logging miles on your bike to increase your strength and cardiovascular fitness is, naturally, an important part of preparing for a race. But don’t overlook the benefits of developing a cycling strength training plan to not only improve your performance, but help prevent injury.
Don’t ignore your core
“Strength exercises for cyclists should always include core strengthening movements,” advises David N. Vegari, MD.
An orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in total knee and hip reconstructive surgery, Dr. Vegari sees patients at Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health.
“Core strengthening is important for the explosive power that you need for biking. It’s also good to understand that any time you are doing very aggressive activities that focus on one area of the body, such as the way cycling exercises focus on the legs, you are more predisposed to developing injuries in other areas, such as the lower back.
“By making sure your core is strong—including your lower back muscles—it will help you maintain good posture on the bike and avoid neck and back injuries,” he explains.
Strengthening your legs
Leg weight training for cyclists should include exercises to strengthen the larger muscle groups in the quadriceps and hamstrings. At the same time, alternating your workouts to include low weights with high repetition will help you strengthen the smaller muscle groups as well.
Like core strengthening, leg strengthening provides you with the explosiveness you’ll need to power through a race. Building strength in your legs and other stabilizing muscle groups will also help support your joints and offload stress on weaker body parts, so you can avoid achy knees, a sore back and painful hip flexors.
Whole body fitness
Dr. Vegari supports a whole-body approach to training for cycling and other sports.
“While strength training is important to performance, cardio plays a role as well. You need to focus on the whole body and doing more than one type of exercise. This can help you avoid plateauing and, more importantly, leaving yourself prone to injury,” he says.
There are many types of programs to follow, and you don’t need a gym membership to participate. Workouts that include plyometrics (utilizing explosive movements like jumping), agility training, strength training and cardio can be done at home with minimal equipment.
“If you are in good enough physical shape to follow a high-intensity training regimen like P90X, FOCUS T25 or Insanity, it’s ultimately going to lead to higher performance for you in your cycling and other sports,” says Dr. Vegari.
Cycling is relatively low-impact when it comes to your joints. If you do develop hip or knee pain, it’s a common mistake to shut down your exercise routine in response.
“The key in that situation is to see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis before changing your routine,” says Dr. Vegari. “It’s important to first know exactly what is causing your pain. Oftentimes, knee pain originates from the back or hip. Once you know the source of your pain, your doctor or physical therapist can recommend an appropriate workout to get you back on track.”
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.