ANNEMARIE ALF, PT, DPT, CSCS
The first thought that comes to mind when strength training for cycling is likely, the need to train the legs. All the power comes from the legs right? Well not exactly, and more often then not the most important muscles often get forgotten about.
The most successful athletes take a whole body, holistic approach to training, improving overall movement which leads to the highest level of performance. That means optimal mobility, stability, movement preparation and activation, movement based training, strength and power, and of course for cycling- endurance training. It’s also important not to forget about recovery and regeneration.
As cyclists we spend most of our time in a seated hip and lumbar flexed position. That means our hip flexors can become stiff or shortened, our hip rotators are typical tight and hip extensors shut down, core stabilizers may be weakened and thoracic spine mobility decreases all leading to less than maximal power output. Every athlete needs optimal movement patterns and kinetic linking through the ‘pillar’ which is the connection between the shoulder, trunk, and hips. Its more than just the ‘core’ in order to generate the highest power output. In the sport of cycling maximum power endurance is needed for the best results. In order for our body to produce the maximal force times distance over time, we must have optimal mobility, stability and strength.
The main hip flexor muscles are made up of the illiopsoas, rectus femoris and the tensor fasciae latae (along with a few others). To improve mobility in the anterior hip region, try these 2 go to exercises.
Because cycling is typically a sagittal plane activity, meaning occurring in a linear direction, a cyclists hip rotators can become very tight which lead to decrease glute and posterior chain activation. The gluteus muscles and posterior chain are the powerhouse muscles of the body, that often get overlooked in the cyclists strength training program. For the posterior chain, first we need to improve mobility, followed by activation, and finish with strengthening. Strength is the foundation for development of the rest of physical qualities.
Hip rotator mobility can be improved by:
Before any training or cycling, you need to be sure to get the glute muscles turned on and activated.
As mentioned above. the posterior chain is often overlooked in many training programs. These muscles are not only the powerhouse muscles, they are also the most important in preventing injury. A staple in every athletes training program needs to be the deadlift and the RDL- or romanian deadlift. The technique of both of these exercises is extremely important. If done improperly can cause injury.
Strength is the foundation for development of the rest of physical qualities. Strength endurance is the ability to produce force for time. The more strength you can generate, and the longer you can do it for, the faster you will ultimately travel over distance. Power endurance relates to how much force can be produced in a certain amount of time. Cycling is really about power endurance, which is how much power you can put in each crank over a duration, rather than just force, aka: Work/Time. So if you start to pedal slower you can still put in the same amount of force, it's just moving slower; but power drops if speed drops. Training for power endurance is brutal, but its where you get the most bang for your buck as a cyclist. You can do this both on and off the bike. On the bike it is easy to measure with a power meter. Off the bike power endurance is best trained with olympic lifts, kettlebells, or machines that can track power output over time, such as a Keiser machine.
Besides, the above listed mobility and strength exercises some other staple cycling exercises would still include squats, lunges, split squats and step ups.
Of course, we can not forget about the ‘pillar’ or foundation of where all kinetic linking occurs. If the ‘pillar’ is weak there will be energy leaks, leading to overall decreased power output.
The shoulder/ thoracic region of the pillar must be mobile. Often, as cyclists the upper spine is in a poor rounded position leading to poor posture with tight pec minor muscles and decreased thoracic mobility. To improve the mobility in these areas follow the following to exercises.
Core stability and activation is the most foundational level strength that is needed for injury prevention and is the link to the extremities to generate power. Without a strong, stable core we are not able to generate maximum power therefore leading to decreased performance.
There are a million different ‘core’ exercise options. But here are 2 go-tos! Neutral spine position is most important.
Olympus Movement and Mobility’s objective is to create longevity and superior performance executed through a well- designed program tailored to the athlete's specific needs.
For more specifics on overall specific programming for cycling, triathlon, and trail running contact Olympus at: www.olympusmovement.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.upriseperformancecamps.com for all your endurance sport programming and camp needs.
Arnstein S, Oyvind S, Marius B, Morten H L, Jan H, Jan H. (2010) “Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy In Competitive Cyclists”. Journal of S Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol 24 No. 8, 2157-2165.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ANNEMARIE ALF, PT, DPT, CSCS
DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY, STRENGTH & CONDITIONING SPECIALIST
Physical Therapist for the Chinese Olympic Gymnastics Team
Annemarie is licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She was the first American Physical Therapist to work with any Chinese Olympic Team at an Olympic Games. She attended the 2012 London Olympic Games with the Chinese Olympic Gymnastic team who achieved eight total medals, more than any other nation. In 2014, Annemarie founded Olympus Movement and Mobility , which is a holistic approach to the temple that is you. We go beyond just treating your injury. Olympus is about improving your overall movement, which will lead to increased performance. We deliver a hands- on, top tiered professional approach to physical therapy. Emphasis and direction are placed on mobility, injury prevention, strength and conditioning; as well as regeneration and recovery to ensure that you are always prepared to train and compete at the highest level. Olympus Movement and Mobility is the official physiotherapist and mobility specialist to UPRISE Performance Camps. UPRISE is a program designed for emerging & elite endurance athletes in search of their ultimate potential.
Author: Annemarie Alf
"We Specialize In Optimizing Teen And Active Adult Lives In North County San Diego By Addressing The WHOLE Person. We offer A Holistic, Integrative Approach To Performance And Wellness That Will Assess And Address The Root Causes That Lead To Pain, Hormonal Imbalances, Fatigue, Weight Gain And/ Or Decreased Performance."