If you’re a serious cyclist, you probably devote a lot of time to your cardio training and do some strength training for the legs, probably squats and leg extension. Squats and cardio will only take you so far until you reach your limits with them. You need to look beyond at other areas to keep improving. Even Lance Armstrong can only improve so much. Here are a few other bodyparts to work out.
No, you don’t use your neck at all to cycle, except to keep your head up. And after 2 hours of cycling or more, your neck can become stiff holding that big head of yours in this unnatural position, looking up. A painful neck can make you focus on that and concentrate less on the race.
To improve blood circulation afterwards and relax tense muscles, do some stretching by moving your neck from side to side and front and back. In the long term, you can do some light muscle-building exercises.
The neck is supported at its base by the trapezius muscles. Do some shrug exercises to build up this muscle. The shrug exercise is just that – you shrug your shoulders up and down; you can hold weights in your hands to make it harder.
Arms and Torso
As you lean on the handlebars, your arms, particularly your triceps, hold up the weight of your upper body. After long hours in the saddle, they’ll get tired too. The chain of muscles that prop up your body as you lean forward is the pectorals that make up the chest muscles, your anterior and exterior deltoids (shoulder muscles) and your triceps at the back of your arms.
You don’t want to work every single one of them separately as it will take you a lot of time and energy. You want to train everything altogether and the best exercise for that is the bench press, a fundamental exercise to strengthen the pushing muscles. If you want to pay particular emphasis on your triceps, the smallest and weakest muscle in that chain, check out the best triceps exercises you can do and the worst to avoid.
Finally, last but not least are your back muscles. Not only is the crouched position in the saddle not good for a healthy back, the back serves an important purpose in linking the leg powerhouse with the torso and arms. This is at its most obvious when going uphill, whether you stand on the pedals or not. You pull the handlebars hard towards you while pushing down with your legs. A powerful back will help you pull harder and provide better leverage.
To work out your back, do some rowing exercises with weights, not the cardio rowing type! You can also do chin-ups, an excellent but hard exercise to do. The biceps help a lot in the pulling movement and are considered the weakest part of the chain but they also get a workout when you do back exercises, so there is no need to work them separately.
To strengthen your lower back which gets a battering in this crouched position, do a lot of hyperextensions. This exercise requires a special bench where you lean forwards at the hips and then straighten up again. If you don’t have the bench, you can ask someone to sit on your legs while your lower body lies on a bench.
I’m an avid cyclist and like running too. But my bigger passion is weight lifting and I found out that strengthening other muscles seemingly unrelated to cycling helped me improve. So I am sharing these tips with you to work your secondary muscle groups and hopefully get better like me. Try them, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!