Lifting weights makes you leaner, healthier, and faster — and it’s especially important for women. Put these moves on your must-do list today for a better cycling body tomorrow. – By Selene Yeager
As women, we start with less muscle mass and bone density than our male counterparts, which makes us more vulnerable to becoming weak and fragile with age. And nobody wants to be weak and fragile. Cycling helps, but to maintain muscle mass and bone health—especially in your core and torso, which cycling neglects—you need strength training as well. Plus, new research shows that even highly trained female cyclists may hit some new PRs if they also hit the weights.
When your max strength increases, you have more muscle fibres at your disposal, so you can do more work with less fatigue. Research has shown cyclists can also reduce on-the-bike fatigue by performing core training, which is especially important for women who tend to carry their strength more in their legs and less up top.
Here are five moves you should be doing right now. Aim to do them twice a week, performing 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds rest in between
1. Lateral Lunge
Hold a medicine ball (5 to 10 percent of body weight) in front of your chest and stand with feet hip width apart. Take a giant step to the right and bend your right leg, lowering your hips down and back till your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Straighten the right leg, drawing the left leg in as you stand. Repeat to the opposite side. Alternate for a full set on each side.
Why it’s great for woman cyclists: Women have wider hips than men, which increases the angle from hip to knee and puts us at higher risk for knee problems. Lateral lunges strengthen and stabilise your hips, which gives you a more solid position in the saddle for powerful, pain-free pedalling.
2. Renegade Row
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, assume a push up position, feet hip to shoulder-width apart, arms fully extended. Tighten glutes and core and pull the right dumbbell to your right hip while driving the left weight into the floor for balance. Lower the right weight and repeat with the left. Alternate for a full set on each side. As you get stronger, you can take a narrower stance or even put your feet up on a box to make the exercise more challenging.
Why it’s great for woman cyclists: Women often have less joint stability than men. This move improves shoulder stability, upper back strength, and core strength and stability, all of which help you assume the cycling position for longer without aches and fatigue.
3. Elevated Single Leg Squat
Hold dumbbells at shoulders, palms facing in. Stand with your back to a chair or bench and extend your right leg back, placing the top of your foot on the surface. Your legs should be in a wide split stance. Maintaining a straight, tall posture, bend your front leg to as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Press back to the starting position and repeat for a full set; then switch legs.
Why it’s great for women cyclists: This move hones in on the glutes, abs, and lower back for greater strength and stability through the core and hips, which women need. Performing one leg at a time helps erase left-right muscle imbalances and improves your pedal stroke.
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4. Leg Kick Push Up
Assume a push up position. Bend your arms and lower your body until your arms are bent 90 degrees and your chest nearly touches the floor, simultaneously contracting your glutes and lifting your right foot off the floor. Press back to start, lowering the right foot. Repeat, this time lifting the left foot. Alternate feet throughout a full set.
Why it’s great for women cyclists: Push ups are great for everyone, but especially for women who generally need to bolster their upper body strength. By adding a kick back, you get extra core and glute strength so you have a rock solid platform to push those pedals against. You’ll also have a greater ability to transfer power from your upper body pulling on the bars to your lower body pushing the pedals in and out of the saddle.
5. Squat Jump
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead (A). Bend hips and knees and squat back as though sitting in a chair, extending arms behind you. Swing arms forward and jump up into the air as high as possible while extending arms overhead(B). Land softly, immediately lowering into another squat and repeat for a full set.
Why it’s great for women cyclists: Nothing builds strong bones like jumping, which is critical for women cyclists who may do very little impact exercise. What’s more, jumping can also protect your knees by making them stronger. Recent research on women with mild knee osteoarthritis, found that those who did high impact exercise, like squat jumps, three times a week for 12 weeks actually thickened the cartilage in their knees by 7 percent and improved their leg extension force (important for turning those cranks) by 11 per cent.
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