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Take it up a gear! Get the ultimate cycling body
By Mark Wood, Head of Education and Training at British Military Fitness
With the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour De France, taking place this month, there’s no better time to get bike-fit and take to the tarmac. Figures show that over 4.6m people in the UK cycle at least three times a week, a figure that has been constantly on the rise since 2008.
But what makes the perfect cycling body? Many people believe, and rightly so, that ensuring you have strong calves and quad muscles is essential, however it is vital other muscles are not neglected whilst training. During a lengthy cycle, your hips will be affected, as well as your lower back. Your core muscles will be much more likely to wear out before your legs, therefore it is also important to work on these.
With this in mind, I have put together some key exercises to strengthen all these muscles and allow you to take it up a gear with your riding!
1. Bikers Bridge
The bridge is a great move to strengthen your lower back and help to keep it pain free during and after cycling. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Driving thorough your heels, lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Remain in this position for two seconds and then lower yourself back down. To advance this, you can do a single leg bridge, where one leg will remain elevated at all times. Repeat 10 times.
2. Saddle Squat
Squat jumps are a great high intensity exercise that focus on the quad muscles in the legs, as well as the glutes and hamstrings. Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower your bum down to the floor as if performing a normal squat. Engage your core and explosively jump into the air, landing in a squat position. Repeat 20 times.
3. Cyclists Crunch
This exercise will strengthen the core, legs and hips, targeting key muscle groups for cyclists. Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your hands clasped behind your head. Raise your legs an inch from the ground and then bring one knee towards your chest and hold it there. Lift your shoulders up from the floor.
Alternate your legs back and forth into each position, switching between straight and tucked in, as if pedalling on a bike. Once you’re comfortable with this you can start to bring the alternate elbow to alternate knee as each knee is raised, twisting back and forth through the core. Repeat 15 times for each leg.
4. Pedal-strengthening Plank
The plank is one of the most basic bodyweight exercises but also one of the most effective at increasing your core and lower back strength. Lie on your front and then lift your upper body up, balancing on just your elbows and toes, facing forward. Tighten your abs – your body should be in a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.
5. Racers Raise
Leg raises can really benefit your core muscles, as well as your hip flexors, which will come in useful when taking on arduous cycles. Lie on your back with your legs straight out on the floor. For support, place your hands palm down underneath your bottom, with your fingers pointing to your feet. Keeping the abs tight, lift your legs about five inches from the floor and then slowly raise them up until they are at a 90 degree angle and lower them back down, without letting them touch the floor. Repeat 20 times.
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