Upper Body Exercises Are Often Neglected by Two-Wheel Enthusiasts
As we have touched on in previous ‘training tips’ articles, cycling is very much focused on the power of your legs, your core stability and the conditioning of the cardiovascular system.
Indeed, professional cyclists are typically slight in build, with powerful lean muscle on the legs and very minimal bulk on the upper body. Being lightweight is not a necessity, but at that level every possible advantage must be considered.
While cycling is very much a lower body-orientated sport, the importance of maintaining a level of strength in the upper body is essential to a balanced, stable ride and will help in making you a healthier, more rounded sportsperson.
Let’s take a look at some of the best isolation and compound lifts to tone the upper body.
Overhead Shoulder Press – Lift the dumbbells to about ear level, with your palms facing forwards and your elbows out to the sides and bent at a right angle. Engage the core and keep your back straight – begin to raise the weights above your head, almost to where the sides of the weights touch. Pause for a moment before slowly lowering the weights to the starting position.
Lateral Raises – This can be done seated or standing up, but begin with dumbbells in each hand down by your side. With elbows ever so slightly bent inwards for greater stability, raise the weight out and upwards until they are parallel to the ground. Pause and then lower to the start position.
The shoulders are essential for proper stability and support, particularly for mountain biking enthusiasts who will endure turbulent terrain and will need to absorb a lot of shock through the arms and shoulders.
The overhead shoulder press is the go-to exercise for increasing size and strength in the front section of the shoulders, while lateral raises work several muscle groups including the back, neck and arms.
Bicep Curl – Another very effective isolation exercise, bicep curls are a must for building stronger arms. Begin with a dumbbell in each hand and down by your side, but with your palms facing forwards. Slowly bring one weight up, using the elbow as a hinge and keeping the top half of your arm firmly tucked against your rib. Slowly bring back to the start position, and repeat with the alternate arm.
Tricep Kickback – These can be completed with dumbbells or the cable machine. Start with a weight in each hand, palms facing towards each other and knees slightly bent. Hinge forwards and downwards at the waist, keeping the spine neutral. Bring the weight back behind you until your arm is straight and pointing in the opposite direction to the way you are facing. Hold for a few seconds to engage the tricep, and repeat on the other side.
There are a plethora of variations and compound lifts to try for building muscles on the arms, but these are a great place to start. Each specific muscle group is relatively small, so be careful not to overtrain them – start by doing 4 exercises a week.
Dumbbell Row – If you have a gym bench, use it to bend over and support your body by placing your left hand and left knee on the bench, and your right foot on the ground (if not, a flat, knee height surface will suffice).
With the dumbbell in your right hand and a straight back, lift the dumbbell up and towards your hip; your forearm should be perpendicular with the ground. Slowly lower the dumbbell before repeating the process.
Face Pulls – A cable machine or a set of resistance bands are required for this next exercise. Grasp the handles with both hands with your palms facing in. Step back until your arms are fully extended, lean back slightly to take some of the weight. Start by engaging the weight, and then pull the cable towards your forehead, rolling the shoulders back and engaging the rear deltoids. Pause for a few seconds, and slowly bring the weight back to a comfortable position and repeat.
The dumbbell row is perfect compound back exercise; it works the lower and upper back in tandem, helping to create a sturdier base for support on the bike.
Face pulls are great for building upper back and shoulder muscles, helping to effectively overcome tough terrains and keep you on a steady path while climbing.