Try These Leg Exercises to Boost Lower Body Strength
When it comes to building power in the legs, cycling alone will only take you so far. While there is certainly enough resistance for your muscles to try and overcome, it will only boost the endurance of your muscle fibres which is important in preventing fatigue. However, for building powerful, muscle-bound legs, more resistance and muscle isolation is needed to increase strength which, in the long run, will make you a more explosive rider.
Continuing on from our first training tips article , we’ve come up with a list of exercises that are proven to build mass with a view to increasing your cycling performance.
The king of all leg exercises, squats are an absolute necessity in leg strength training. They are one of the most effective compound movements you can perform, which is the term given to an exercise that works multiple muscle groups. Primarily, squats are effective in working your quadriceps, gluteus maximus and hip flexors, but also engage your hamstrings and abdominal muscles to help stabilise yourself.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, either without added weight or a barbell placed on the tops of your shoulder behind your head (dumbbells can also be used) with abs engaged. Send hips back and bend knees to lower until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground.
While it may seem as if the quadriceps and the glutes do most of the work while you are out on the bike, you’ll notice the size of most professional cyclists’ calves.
The calf essentially acts as a stabiliser, making sure the foot remains securely on the pedal. Calves act as a link between the foot and the power production of quads/glutes, so they are constantly contracting and detracting while pedalling.
With this in mind, calf raises are a great way to start building muscle on an often neglected muscle group. Most gyms will have dedicated machines for this exercise where you can increase the weight exerted on your calves. However, you can also do this by standing on the edge of an elevated platform with just the tops of your feet, and then extending yourself upwards while engaging the calves, before slowly descending back down and repeating.
Bulgarian Split Squat
These will be sure to have you sofa-ridden for at least a day after.
Stand facing away from the bench, holding a barbell across your upper back or dumbbells in each hand. Place one leg resting on the bench behind you, laces down. Squat with your standing leg until the knee of your trailing leg almost touches the floor. Push up through your front foot to return to the start position.
Isolating each leg will maximise the work your muscles are put through, and this exercise is very effective for creating stability in the core as well as working your quads and hamstrings.
Along with squats, this again is one of the most effective compound lifts you can perform. Often used as a back exercise, the deadlift is also incredibly taxing on your hamstrings.
Proper form is absolutely essential on this exercise, and starting light is advised as to not cause injury.
Stand up straight, holding a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs, with arms extended and palms facing inwards. Bend knees slightly. While keeping your back neutral, slowly bend at the waist, and send hips back to lower the weight as far as your body will comfortably let you. Pause and contract glutes to raise the weight back to the starting position.
A variation on the classic forward lunge, these will get the blood pumping and the legs burning quickly.
The curtsy lunge is an effective, functional, and compound exercise that hits your quadriceps and glutes, and while it may seem difficult to master at first, the key is in balancing yourself and keeping your core engaged at all times.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips for stability. Take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left, or vice-versa. Bend your knees and lower your hips until your left thigh is nearly parallel to the floor, and then repeat with the other leg.