Cycling is one of the most effective forms of exercise for building lean muscle mass and endurance. It is also one of the best ways to burn extra calories, improve fitness, and beat stress. However, it also requires a lot of leg strength and leg work. This article is a guide to helping you build strong leg muscles that can help you take your workout regime to the next level.
You can do several different exercises to build up your foot and leg muscles for better control on the bike. So here are some practices to follow if you want stronger legs for cycling that you must try out if you're serious about the sport.
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Leg exercises for cyclists
Your calves are some of the most active muscles while you peddle your bike. They are made to contract and expand and are constantly in use throughout your cycling journey. This is why it's essential to build strength in these muscles in order to prevent cramping and overuse injuries such as muscle strains[i] as you push your cycling limits during the workout. Calf raises are some of the most straightforward exercises to build up calf muscles that you can try at home.
There are multiple ways to do calf raises. One of which would be to place your feet on the edge of a step with your heels off the surface. Keep your feet apart at shoulder width as you slowly raise yourself to stand on your tiptoes. Hold yourself in this position for a few seconds before dropping back down, and repeat the process 12 times for one set. Complete four sets total within a training session. You may even add some back weights if you feel up for the challenge!
Lunges are powerful leg strengthening exercises for cyclists that allow you to engage your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It is a well-rounded workout that can help improve your balance and leg strength[ii], which are both vital components for cyclists.
Stand up straight with your legs apart at shoulder width and step forward with your right leg as you bend your knee to a 90-degree angle. Ensure your weight is distributed through your right heel as your left knee comes closer to the floor. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and return to the standing position using the strength of the right leg. Repeat the process on your left and continue with ten lunges on each leg to complete one set and four sets in total. You can start training with bodyweight lunges, and as it gets easier, you may try it while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Bulgarian split squats
These are excellent calf strengthening exercises that you can try at home. To do this, stand with your back to a short stool or a bench that's about a foot in height. Hold dumbbells in each hand as you reach back on your right foot and leave your toes propped up against the stool. Bend your left leg to 90 degrees and let the right knee lower itself towards the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds and push back through the strength of your left foot. Return to a standing position and repeat these ankle and calf strengthening exercises on your opposite leg until you complete ten reps on each leg.
Deadlifts are the ideal mode of putting every muscle on your lower body to work. To start, stand with your feet apart at shoulder width and grasp the bar reaching just beyond the placement of your legs. Drive your hips forward as your lift the bar ensuring that you keep your back straight. Lower the bar gently as you place it back on the floor.
You may try out more challenging variations such as single-leg deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts as you improve your strength level.
The good old stretches are not to be taken lightly as they're an essential aspect of any workout. As you train and your muscles become fatigued, it leads to your primary muscles becoming tighter. Tight calf muscles from cycling are prone to injuries if they're strained. To stretch out your calf muscles, sit on the floor with legs straight forward in front of you and use a towel to pull your toes towards you. Simple stretches like touching your toes while standing and keeping your legs straight can help stretch out your hamstrings. Pull the heel of one leg to your buttocks while standing straight to give a good stretch to your hip flexors and quads.
Methods for leg recovery after cycling
The day after your leg day can be extremely tough, especially if you've been pushing your limits. It is vital to allow your muscles to recover fully after a strenuous leg training session. Here are a few tips that can help your legs recover from exercise.
- Use foam rollers - These are great tools to help massage your sore muscles after a workout. It helps break down scar tissue and aid in faster recovery.
- Keep moving - Even though it may seem like the most challenging task after leg day, it's good to do some light walking at least for a half-hour which will help with circulation and advance the leg and calf muscle recovery process
- Use a compression device - The use of compression wraps like Spryng is the ideal calf muscle rehab therapy to try at home. Spryng can are used to improve blood circulation within your sore calf muscles aiding their recovery process. Using it for a mere 15 minutes post-workout can drastically enhance the recovery from leg pain and sore muscles that you may experience after cycling or leg training.
- Ice it up - If you have any swelling in your legs, using an ice pack can help ease the pain and reduce the soreness.
Try out these techniques if you're interested in improving your cycling performance. Taking on a daily workout routine can help you achieve better health and increase your stamina that can in turn help improve your biking performance. If you are a cyclist who suffers from leg pain or injuries, then an excellent multi-functional fitness routine can help avoid future problems.