Cycling Leg Power Development Without Weight Training Equipment


Floyd Landis, Tour of California Time Trial
Looking to buy weight training equipment because you’ve heard that team GB use the gym to increase their leg power?  Well don’t just yet, I might have an alternative for you…

You don’t need weight training equipment to strengthen your legs for the purposes of cycling.  Now that might not be the case for someone like Contador or Wiggins, but it certainly is true for the likes of you and me.  You can increase your strength without the need of the best weight training equipment, all you need is your body weight and your bike.

But if you ARE looking for articles on using weights, have a look at the bottom of the page for other articles.  That said, give this routine a go first and you might be able to delay putting hand-to-pocket!

What you are aiming to do is overload your muscles since this will engage the large and powerful fast twitch muscles.  Why build these muscles?  Well doing so will mean that when you hit the hills or need to maintain speed over a distance, your body will be that bit more efficient and won’t burn the energy away.  So although you want to avoid mashing on your sportives, training at these heavier rates for intervals will have a great effect on your cycling.

Firstly, make sure that you have warmed up completely.  You can warm up in various ways from gentle cycling to walking around the block, or even a few relaxed exercises from that fitness video you got last Christmas.  Don’t do static stretches, which is where you hold a particular uncomfortable position for a while because they will relax your body, risking some injury.  The idea of a warm up is to get your nerves all firing which will make you perform better and keep you safer.  A not-static stretch would be something like lunges around the room.  Looks odd, works a treat.

Secondly, you can do this with your body weight rather than using home weight training equipment.

Stand with your feet together and raise your left leg in front of you keeping it as straight as you can.  Just about 6 inches will do it.  You will look like you are holding the pose of someone who is starting to march.

Keeping your leg raised 6 inches above the floor, and not allowing your right knee to move beyond the toes of your right foot, lean forwards and lower your backside to the floor.  Go down as low as you can and then push yourself back up as quickly as possible, keeping your left foot raised throughout.  And repeat up to 10 times.  If you need to then hold on to something for balance only.

The next body weight training equipment-free exercise is to raise your leg just behind you, again a couple of inches.  Keep looking upwards and, making sure that your knee doesn’t go beyond the toes of the opposite foot again, bend your leg so that you can touch the floor and then push up again.  Make sure you stick out your bottom, and hold onto something for balance if you need to.

For your calf muscles, stand with just your toes on the bottom step of the stairs and lower yourself down slowly on just one leg, then push upwards really fast, hold at the top, and lower and repeat.

The alternative to cheap gym equipment on a bike

Well you’ve been told not to mash, but that’s exactly what you are going to do.  For about 20 seconds.

Find yourself a piece of road which is pretty flat, and over about 10 minutes increase the difficulty of your ride by selecting bigger cogs on your derailleur.   What I like to do is to spin about about 80 rpm easy, and then move up the gears trying to hold the spin above 50.  Once you get below 50 and can’t sustain it, drop back for a minute and rest, spinning easy again at 80 for the next 5 minutes to recover your energy.

Now you are going to do your sets, very much as you would do if you were working with home weight training equipment, and using a technique that you might not have tried on the bike.

You are going to repeat the following 6-10 times for 20 seconds to a minute each time, with a 60-120 second break between each set.  The breaks should be easy pace at about 50 rpm.  If you don’t you can get cramps!

Simply go to the biggest chain ring you have, and choose a gear where you are mashing at 30 rpm.  You should be in agony with the weight of it after about 10 seconds or so.  If not, then increase the gear (smaller).

You probably won’t be able to do the higher gears at first, not to worry, build up to it.  I find that having a glucose tablet or drink straight afterwards and before can help stave off some of the negative effects of this training method.

Make sure that you certainly don’t do high aerobic activity the same day or the next day since you will get an interference effect which will undo all your good work.  Keep it easy.  Do this exercise interval once a week.

Again, rather than buy cheap home weight training equipment if you are a runner, you can do something very similar but instead of using chainrings and the like just find a hill.  Power up the hill as fast as you can for 20 seconds then walk back down.  In fact I have found this really good as my current winter training since the days aren’t long enough to get my bike out!

Creative Commons License photo credit: whileseated

Below are more articles which deal more specifically with Weight Training issues if you have progressed beyond the no-equipment/body weight stage

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