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.
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 typically 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.
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 thoracic exercises, as shown in the video.
Because cycling is typically a sagittal plane activity, meaning occurring in a linear direction, a cyclist’s 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.
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.