Six Best Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists

The best strength training exercises for cyclists are multi-joint workouts that promote stability and mobility.

It’s critical to get into the gym to build strength for cycling.

And it’s a better idea to do a full-body workout instead of only focusing on legs and hips.

Squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, chest presses, and rows can all work major muscle groups and build core strength and stability.

The best strength training exercises for cyclists are multi-joint workouts that promote stability and mobility, like single-arm and single-leg work.
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

But what can you do at the gym if you’re unsure about your form or don’t want to work with barbells?

You’re not missing anything, and, in fact, using free weights can help build even more stability because they can be very unstable loads.

For all of these exercises, aim for fatigue.

With the exception of the single arm or leg movements, you don’t need to worry about exact rep counts.

Aim for eight to 12 reps in order to build fatigue in the target muscle group. (Fatigue means you could life one or two more reps. So you’re tired but not failing.)

1. Kettlebell or Dumbbell Deadlifts

Deadlifts are one of best strength training exercises for cyclists and for functional exercise.

Essentially, you’re picking a heavy object off the floor and standing up with it – all with good form.

Deadlifts, like squats, involve bending the hips and knees while stabilizing the torso with your core.

Start by standing over the weight with your feet on either side.

Push your hips back first, then bend your knees, coming into a deep bend.

Tighten your core, and flatten your back.

Stand up by driving your heels into the ground and extending your legs.

Check to make sure your knees stay roughly above your shoelaces, and your back stays flat.

The target muscle group is your glutes.

2. Single Arm Shoulder Press with Rotation

We do this shoulder press, often adding a push with the knees, because it not only builds so much strength in the shoulder joint, but it requires you to keep your core tight and activated.

Stand with core stable and spine straight.

I often ask clients to swing the weight up to their shoulders with some momentum. When you start with heavier weight, it’s easier to swing the weight to your shoulder than muscling it up.

Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with your elbow at your side and the weight at your collarbone.

Press weight straight up with arm extended to the side while you turn to the opposite side. So if you’re pressing with your right arm, rotate to the left.

You can bend your knees and give yourself some momentum with a push.

Keep your core tight with your breath. Inhale while the weight is coming down, hold your breath to tighten at the bottom, then exhale as you extend your arm.

Your target muscles are your shoulders.

3. Another Great Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists: Single Leg Deadlift

This is another one of the best strength training exercises for cyclists that targets your glutes while forcing your core to stabilize your body.

If you have not done these before, stagger your feet so that your weight is fully on the front foot. You use the ball of your foot on the ground to stabilize your position.

Once you understand the movement, you can start lifting the back leg off the ground to create more instability

Hinge at your hips and tip forward, keeping your base leg straight, but not locked out. The movement is like reaching to touch your toes.

Try to keep your hips and shoulders level.

Beginners can hold the kettlebell or dumbbell in both hands. Once you get the movement, you can use one hand for one set, then switch to the other hand for a second set.

4. Single-Arm Chest Press

Like the single-arm shoulder press, the single-arm chest press works numerous muscle groups and requires a lot of core stabilization.

I usually find it’s easier to use a dumbbell for this. You can also have two dumbbells and hold one above your collarbone while you press the other up.

Lie back on bench holding single dumbbell at your armpit.

Extend your arm upward so your elbow is straight but not locked out.

Inhale the weight coming down, and exhale as you push it up.

What’s great about this work is that your core has to stabilize you so you don’t fall off the bench!

5. The Best Strength Training Exercise for Cyclists: Bulgarian Split Squat

For me, the Bulgarian Split Squat is the best strength training exercises for cyclists because I can really load up on weight without risking the injury with heavy squats.

Start by using no weights.

Stand a few feet in front of a bench. You’ll have to experiment with the distance.

Send one foot back to place on the bench. Try to keep the top of your foot flat rather than curling your toes.

Drop your back knee down slowly and controlled while leaning slightly forward.

At first, you may not be able to bring your knee all the way to the ground, but that should be your goal.

Even though your back knee is bending, your front leg is doing all the work.

Once you bring your back knee as far down as you can, drive up with your weight on your front heel. Make sure your knee stays over your shoelaces.

6. Single Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

You have a couple of options in doing this exercise.

First, stand with a staggered stance. Hold the dumbbell or kettlebell in the opposite hand as the forward foot

Hinge at the hips and bend over, letting the weight straight down.

Pull the weight up to your arm pit while you exhale, lowering the weight back down so your arm is fully extended and inhale

Keep your shoulder joint engaged, keeping it tight when the arm is extended.

Another option is to hold the weight in your right hand with your left hand and left knee on a bench.

When you use that method, you can rotate your torso to create more work for your oblique muscles.

Add in Some Core Work

Even though you’ve done a lot of work with these exercises to work your core muscles by requiring them to stabilize your body, doing some additional core-specific work is necessary.

Try one or more core exercises in addition to the other full-body work you did earlier.

Best Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists Focus on Full-Body Movement

What questions do you have about strength training?

If you are local to Milwaukee, you can schedule a consultation or gym visit with me starting March 1 at my Simple Training studio in Hales Corners, WI.