Hello, cycling enthusiasts! The quest for pedal power often leads us to overlook the secret weapon in our fitness arsenal – strength training. However, it’s time to tune into the exciting science behind this. Studies indicate that incorporating dumbbell exercises into your regimen can boost bone mineral density by a whopping 1-3%! A tad skeptical about how strength-building might mesh with your cycling routine? Stay with us, as we’re about to explore six game-changing dumbbell exercises designed to amplify your cycling prowess without compromising your pedal performance. Let’s dive in!
Why Strength Training Matters
With age, we inevitably lose muscle strength and mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. After 30, muscle mass decreases by 3-8% every decade, with fast-twitch (Type II) fibers declining even more. For athletes, particularly masters and pre-menopausal women, strength training is crucial to combat these declines and maintain top performance. But it’s not just about performance – strength training boosts injury prevention, bone density, and body composition, making it a wise investment for anyone.
The Unseen Benefits of Strength Training
Traditional strength training (using weights) has been scientifically proven to enhance cycling performance in several ways. It increases peak power, anaerobic threshold power, time trial performance, and muscle strength. More importantly, it enhances the efficiency of your VO2 max utilization and cycling economy, allowing you to maintain higher power at a certain VO2 value.
Cyclists who are stronger are less prone to injuries. It is reported that resistance training reduces the risk of overuse injuries, which are quite common in cycling, by 50%.
Boosting Bone Density and Body Composition
Cycling, a non-weight bearing activity, does not stimulate bone growth due to the lack of skeletal system impact. This is why cyclists often have lower bone density. Furthermore, the large amount of energy spent on cycling can lead to under-fuelling if the energy intake isn’t sufficient. This creates a potential decline in bone mass, increasing the risk for fractures in a sport with a high falling/crashing risk. Strength training can help reverse this process as the force exerted on bones during muscle contraction stimulates bone cells to remodel and strengthen.
Additionally, strength training improves body composition by increasing muscle mass, decreasing body fat, and boosting resting metabolic rate.
Tailored Strength Training for Cyclists
For cyclists, strength training should mirror the movements and positions of cycling. The regimen should not only target the major lower body power producers, but also the upper body to stave off fatigue in the arms and core.
Cycling is essentially a single-leg sport, and single-leg exercises are crucial for a cyclist’s training program. These exercises improve coordination, core and pelvic stability, and quickly expose any discrepancies in leg strength.
The weight lifted should be moderately heavy, inducing fatigue within 4-12 repetitions. The repetitions and sets can vary from 4-10 reps and 2-5 sets, based on the load. Depending on the time of year and phase of training, the number of sessions per week can also vary.
Six Essential Dumbbell Exercises for Cyclists
Dumbbell exercises provide an easily accessible form of strength training that can be done at home without gym equipment. All you need are a set of dumbbells and an exercise mat. For beginners or those with limited strength training experience, dumbbell exercises can effectively stimulate strength changes.
The following exercises provide a solid foundation for a cycling-specific strength training routine:
Squats: These exercises are a staple for building lower limb strength. They target the knees and quadriceps, and can also be done as single-leg exercises for added foot and hip/pelvis stability.
Dead Lifts: Dead lifts primarily target the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, back extensors) and can be done with single-leg modifications for advanced training.
Bulgarian Split Squat: This exercise offers an excellent way to load one leg while requiring less stability than other single-leg exercises.
Bent Over Row: An upper-body pulling exercise performed in the cycling lean-forward position, it builds both upper limb and isometric back extensor strength.
Push Up + Renegade Row: An all-in-one upper body and core exercise, it combines a push-up with a dumbbell row.
Side Plank Rotations: This exercise targets your lateral trunk and hip stabilizer strength, obliques, and shoulder stabilizers.
Remember, if you’re new to strength training or have a history of injury, seek professional guidance to ensure proper form before adding weights. Here’s to a stronger, more efficient cycling experience!