​A Cyclist’s Guide to Better Quads

3 steps to mad-strong pedal pushers.

Selene Yeager |

3 steps to mad-strong pedal pushers. – By Selene Yeager


In a crowd of people sporting shorts and skirts, you can always spy the cyclists by the cut of their quads. The dead giveaway is the distinctive “second knee” (actually your vastus medialis) that sits just above your actual knee on the inner thigh side and the vastus lateralis that forms a ridge on the outer side. These two muscles, along with their teammates, the massive rectus femoris (which runs down the front of the thigh) and the vastus intermedius (which runs beneath it) produce about 40 per cent of the power in your pedal stroke, working hardest just after you come over the top and hitting the throttle through the bottom, as you extend your knee.

Riding a bike develops these wattage cottages, but you can put even more power in your pedals and ride stronger longer through targeted training. Add these moves to your training repertoire twice a week. Perform them one after another with about a minute’s rest between. Perform 2 to 3 sets.


Walking Lunges

Walking lunges engage your quads through a full range of motion and also work your stabilising muscles and hone your balance.

Do it: Stand holding dumbbells down at your sides. Take a giant step forward with your right leg, bending the right knee and dipping the left knee toward ground. Pull up with the right, bringing your left leg along as you stand. Repeat with left. Continue for 16 to 24 paces.


Side Step Up & Kick

Your quads put in the lion’s share of effort to lift your body against gravity as you climb stairs and do step ups. The higher the step, the harder they work. This side step up move also helps build strength in your outer glutes, which stabilise you in the saddle, so there’s no wasted movement in your pedal stroke.

Do it: Stand with your right side next to a step and hold a dumbbell in your right hand, elbow bent, weight up at your shoulder, palm facing in. Plant your right foot on top of the step and raise the left arm straight to the side at shoulder height, palm facing the floor. Straighten the right leg as you raise your left leg straight out in front of you to hip height, toes pointed. Return to start. Complete a set of 8 to 12. Switch side.


On Bike Bonus Drill: Over Gear Intervals

Track racers are the undisputed winners of the monster quad contest. You can emulate their efforts to grow your own gams with big gear efforts, which demand that your legs produce great force to turn over the cranks to get it up to speed. It’s like a gym session on wheels.

Do it: On a flat stretch of road, after a thorough warm up, shift into a big gear that slows you down to about walking pace. Stay in the saddle and forcefully, but smoothly, push the pedals around increasing your pace until you’re at top speed. Hold there for a few seconds and then shift back down, spin easy and recovery. Each interval should take about 30 seconds. Recover a minute or so. Repeat 5 to 8 times. (Note: skip over gear intervals if you have a history of knee problems.) Do once or twice a week.

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