2 Key Strength Exercises to Prevent Cycling Injuries
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Your #quadgoals might be wreaking havoc on your bod. These moves from cyclist and trainer Riki Bryan will keep you riding stronger for longer. – By Matthew Ankeny
Riki Bryan, founder of the Hard Boiled Holistics “functional movement studio” in New York City, has a surprising perspective on gyms: He doesn’t like them. “I’d rather be cycling or surfing or doing something fun outdoors,” he says. “But in NYC, it’s hard to do that on a daily basis. So, I thought, how do I keep my body ready for those times when I do those sports?”
The DJ, designer, and cyclist developed a unique fitness philosophy that borrows from tai chi, yoga, boxing, weight lifting, and bodyweight exercises. His workout system boosts strength, mobility, and flexibility—which has big benefits on the bike.
“Cyclists need to narrow the imbalances between muscle groups,” says Bryan. “They can overdevelop their quads, which then start to pull on their knees; if you know any cyclists, you know cyclists who have knee issues. They don’t spend enough time developing the hamstrings, glutes, hips, and abdominals, and the supporting muscles that will help delay fatigue on long rides.”
For cyclists, Bryan recommends two moves: the flamingo and the pistol squat, both of which activate the entire body and strengthen the muscles often neglected when we ride. Do these exercises two or three times a week, he says.
This move is the more accessible of the two, and works the posterior chain—basically, the backside of your body, in particular the hamstrings and glutes—and your core, including hips, abs, obliques, and adductors.
1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Unlock one knee, bending it slightly. Pull your shoulders back and keep your back straight and flat.
2. Hinge at your hips, engage your hamstrings and glutes, and raise the unbent leg backward while reaching toward the floor with both hands. Extend the leg straight back, as you aim to reach the ground with your hands. Breathe in while you’re going down. (Bryan says, “It’s important to find the meditative qualities of exercise.”)
3. Slowly release to the starting position. Exhale while you’re going up. Bryan says to do 80 per cent of your “self-estimated maximum potential.” What this means: If 10 reps is the maximum you can do without significantly compromising your form, do eight reps in a set. If it is easy for you to do 10 reps with proper form, try adding weight. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell—10kg is a good place to start, says Bryan—with the hand that’s opposite your extended leg. Lower the weight to the floor and use your free hand to balance, extending it out to the side.
Repeat with the opposite leg. Complete five sets, and rest to full recovery—about 90 seconds to two minutes—in between each.
This advanced move strengthens the quads, ankles, and core; boosts mobility in the ankles and knees; and works overall balance.
1. Stand (on the floor, not a ball) with feet shoulder-width apart. Beginners should do this next to a wall in case it’s necessary to reach out for balance. Pull your shoulders back and keep your back flat. Keep your eyes looking forward throughout the exercise.
2. Extend your right leg in front of you and grab your big toe with your right hand. Balance with your left hand, and slowly squat toward the floor, keeping your heel grounded. Get as low into the squat as possible without losing your balance. Inhale as you go down.
3. Drive back up slowly. Exhale as you rise.
Work at 80 per cent of your maximum potential—if you can do five reps before significantly compromising your form, do four (Eight to 12 would be “advanced,” says Bryan). Repeat with the left leg. That’s one set. Complete five sets, and rest to full recovery—about 90 seconds to two minutes—in between.