Pedal Stronger with This Targeted Workout Plan

Learning to pedal stronger starts off the bike - here is a range of simple exercises you can do anywhere, any time.

By Selene Yeager |

You are the engine that powers your bike. Get stronger, and pump the single most important factor in speed and endurance –  your ability to transfer power into your pedals.

As you ride, you produce most of your power from the 12 to 5 o’clock positions of the pedal stroke as you extend your hip and knee to push the pedal down. The glutes and quadriceps kick off the motion and are joined by the hamstrings and calves as you bring the pedal down and around. You want that whole chorus of lower-body muscles to be strong. You also want the core muscles in your torso stronger, to provide a stable platform for those mighty legs to push off from.

READ MORE Measure your Pedal Power!

These two pedalling exercise modules train strength and mobility to produce more power and utilise your muscles’ full range of motion. Incorporate the moves in each module a few times a week on alternating days (more often during the off-season when you’re not riding as much, less frequently when you’re riding a lot). If a weight is indicated, choose one that lets you complete 8 to 10 reps.

line break

arrow down iconPOWER MODULE

These moves work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, as well as your core. “With all your muscles working together and your legs pushing off a stiff, solid platform, you’ll be able to put more power in your pedals and climb faster and sprint stronger,” says Menachem Brodie, CSCS, head coach at Human Vortex Training and author of Strength Training for Cycling Performance.

Goblet Squat

Strengthens glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core without stressing the lower back, which can be weak and fatigued from hours in the saddle.

Grab a kettlebell and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and toes pointed slightly out. Place your elbows at your rib cage and hold the weight right under your chin, gripping it by the horn. Keeping your abs braced and shoulder blades back, bend your hips and knees to slowly lower your body as far as you can without rounding your back. Your elbows should be inside your knees at the bottom of the movement. Press back up to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 12 times. That’s 1 set; do 2 to 3.

Side Lunge Cross Connect

Strengthens and improves mobility in the inner and outer hip and leg muscles that help keep you stable in the saddle.

Stand tall with your palms together in front of your chest. Take a giant step to your right and, keeping your back flat, bend your right knee and send your hips back while keeping your left foot planted on the ground. Pause in that position and rotate your torso toward the bent knee so you feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Return to start. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side. That’s 1 set; do 2 to 3.

Dumbbell Deadlift

Develops your core and spine stabilising muscles to work with the glutes and hamstrings to help unleash power from the hips.

Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your eyes forward, chest lifted, and back flat, hinge at the hips and lower the weights toward the floor as you rotate palms to face you. Allow your knees to bend slightly. Lower until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Contract your glutes and drive your feet into ground to stand back up. Repeat 3 times. That’s 1 set; do 3 to 4.

Staggered-Leg Side Plank

The staggered position strengthens the inner thigh and gluteus medius, which help stabilise the knees and hips as you pedal.

staggered leg side plankGet into a side plank with your feet staggered so the top foot is in front of the bottom foot. Place your upper hand on your hip, keeping hips stacked and facing forward. Hold 15 to 20 seconds. Switch sides. That’s 1 set; do 2 to 3.

line breakarrow down icon


Cyclists, especially those with desk jobs, sit a lot and can develop tight, shortened hip flexors (the muscles you use to bring your knee toward your torso) and adductors (your inner thigh muscles). That can prevent your glutes from working in their full range of motion and impede your pedal stroke. The following stronger pedalling exercises are recommended by Erin Carson, co-owner and operator of RallySport in Boulder, Colorado, to address these and other cycling mobility issues.

Half Kneeling Hip Hinge

From a kneeling position, extend your left leg to the side, foot flat on the floor. In one move, push your hips back and extend your arms forward. Return to the starting position. Then repeat the move, but rotate your torso and extend your right hand toward your left foot, palm facing up, while reaching your left arm toward the ceiling. Return to start. Repeat to the other side. That’s 1 set; do 3 to 4.

Split Stance Bow & Rotate

Stand with your left leg forward and right leg back, heel raised. Bend your left knee and keep the right knee soft. Place your hands behind your head to lengthen your spine, and bow forward until your torso is parallel to the floor, then lift your torso back up. Repeat the bowing motion, only this time rotate your torso toward your bent leg at the bottom of the move. Come back to centre and return to start. Repeat the sequence 3 times, then switch sides. That’s 1 set; do 3 to 4.

Decompression Anchored Back Extension

Lie facedown, heels apart, knees and toes together, feet propped on toes. Extend your arms overhead, slightly wider than your shoulders, and prop your hands on your fingertips. Rest forehead on the floor and inhale deeply, pulling navel to spine, then exhale. Next, lift your head and hands off the floor, drawing elbows back until your thumbs reach your shoulders. Bend your knees, lift your feet, and squeeze your shoulder blades and knees together. Inhale deeply, then exhale. Repeat the breaths, then return to start. Do 3 to 4.

READ MORE ON: fitness power strength workouts

Copyright © 2024 Hearst