Chances are if you are reading this blog in the UK winter time the weather outside is dismal and grey. Now whilst you may be able to force yourself out there in to the dark depths of the UK winter – you may not be able to enjoy it as much. So, what can you do with those extra hours?
Sure, you can definitely give a virtual trainer like Zwift a go, but this is also the perfect time to get some winter training in, if you start now you’ll adequately prepare yourself for the upcoming riding season.
If you get down to your local gym (maybe you can even cycle there if the mood takes you, but the ride home may be a tricky one!) you can start building and maintaining your strength on the bike with a few simple exercises today.
You’ll quickly notice your overall power, strength and endurance on the bike begin to increase. As the old adage goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now – and if you start gym routine today (even a small one) I can guarantee you will see the improvement back in the saddle.
Personally, I’m always looking for ways to improve season to season, whether that’s in terms of strength or endurance, and push myself to be the very best – I’m constantly learning regardless of age and experience, and I’ve found that there is always something new to add to your training regime to keep yourself in prime condition. I've found that it's also vital to keep your diet in check.
I’ve got some great exercises to prepare yourself for the cycling season ahead, and in turn improve your overall performance through these winter months.
It’s nothing too complicated, but it is worth considering these exercises are a foundation to build from – speak to the others in the gym if things start getting a bit stale and you want to advance further. Take things nice and steady, think about your form and getting the movements right, but most importantly: stick to it. 2-3 times a week at least.
Keep in mind that the weights noted are what I was using – start with whatever you feel comfortable with.
I strongly recommend starting with a lower weight than you think, focusing on your technique is correct first and working up from there by increasing the weight used. Check with a gym instructor if you're unsure what size weights to use.
Heavy weights combined with bad form/posture is a quick way to injure yourself!
First, warm yourself up and get some stretches in.
1. Plate Squats
4 sets x 8 repetitions – Starting with 5kg working to 15kg
- Using a free weight close to your chest, squat slowly starting nice and controlled - beginning with 5kg then building up to 15kg as you build confidence and control.
- This exercise is a great place to start, as it opens up your glutes and legs before going on to the full legwork.
2. Leg Press
5 sets x 5 repetitions - Starting with 130kg working to 200kg
- Make sure your Knees are over your toes,
- Feet nice and flat on plate, back nice and flat against back of seat. Your foot positioning can be shoulder width apart, or slightly closer.
- When compressing your legs, bring the weight slowly towards you, then push away quickly but with control.
- This exercise will complement your pedalling power when cycling. I look to build up to 200kg over a few gym sessions when I’m feeling stronger, but keep in mind your fatigue as you get toward the end of session - so it’s important to not overdo it with the weight. Build it up slowly or you could hurt yourself.
3. Leg Extension
3 sets x 10 repetitions (single leg at a time) - 5kg to 10kg
- No rest between sets here, just alternate legs.
- When extending your leg, keep it a nice and quick action, till leg is straight then slowly lower
- Look to increase weight over your gym sessions
- Don’t overdo it with the weight, build it up steadily or again you could hurt yourself.
4. Hamstring curls
3 sets x 10 repetitions - 15kg
- It’s important to be nice and slow with these, focus on the technique and your control of the weight.
- When lowering your legs stop just before the weight hits the bottom and raise again so you still the feel of the weight – try not to release the weight and keep it a consistent motion.
These are some great exercises to get yourself going in the gym. If you commit to consistently going to the gym and repeating these exercises (and even adding your own) you will improve your power and endurance on your cycle. Keep this going for 2-3 times a week and you will easily see the difference, I’d say even within 3 weeks!