3 strength exercises to help improve your cycling

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      Now that the weather is getting warmer and drier, you’re ready for more frequent rides on your road bike. You’ve got the gear (do not overlook the importance of padded shorts for long cruises), and the gears are good to go, too.

      If you want to up your cycling game this year, consider adding these exercises to your workout routine.

      Alternating lunges with hammer curls

      This simple multitasking exercise will strengthen your quadriceps, gluteal muscles, hamstrings, abdominal muscles, and biceps.

      Holding a dumbbell in each hand, take a giant step forward with your left foot. Keeping your torso straight (rather than leaning forward) with your front knee directly above your ankle, drop down toward the floor. Hold the lunge at the bottom while you do your hammer curls, bringing your hands—with your thumbs up, not your palms up as with a regular bicep curl—toward your shoulders. Slowly lift back up and repeat on the other side.

      Be sure to keep your shoulders down and retracted (never hunching) and avoid jutting your chin forward throughout.

      For the hammer curls, keep your elbows tucked in by your sides and be sure not to bend your wrists. Avoid any swinging motion or momentum in the arms and shoulders; your body shouldn’t be swaying or rocking.

      Begin with eight lunges on each side every other day. Build up to 10 or 12.

      Hamstring curls  

      A group of three muscles on the back of your leg that run from the thigh to the knee, the hamstrings work in unison with the quadriceps on the front of the leg to help you move. It’s natural for people’s quadriceps to be stronger than their hamstrings; the hamstrings should be about 50 to 80 percent the strength of the quadriceps, ideally at about 70 percent, according to the Journal of Athletic Training. If the hamstrings are too weak (or too tight), injury can occur.

      One of the best ways to target these muscles is to do hamstring curls using a large exercise ball (a.k.a. a Swiss ball). Lying on your back with your arms by your sides, rest your calves atop the ball. (You could have the back of your ankles on the ball if you’re comfortable with this exercise.) Lift your hips up off the ground and, keeping them elevated, draw your knees toward your chest, then back out. Repeat up to 20 times every other day, being sure not to let your hips sink to the ground. Gradually build up the number of curls over time.

      If you don’t have an exercise ball, you can do another version of this exercise on a noncarpeted floor. Wearing socks or booties over your runners, lie on the ground, lift your hips off the floor. Draw your heels in toward your torso and out again, keeping your hips elevated throughout. As with any exercises, you should never feel pain or discomfort in the lower back.


      Also known as the boat pose, this exercise will work some of your abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis).

      Start by sitting on the ground. Lean back, keeping your torso straight and your shoulders back (rather than rounding through the upper body). Extend your legs out in front of you. If comfortable, keep the legs straight; again, any discomfort in the lower back is a red flag. Options are to bend the legs or to keep the feet on the floor while leaning back. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat anywhere from three to 10 times and build up to longer durations. You can do this daily, but remember to work other parts of your core, too (abdominal, pelvic-floor, and back muscles).

      Always check with your health-care provider before starting any new fitness routine. Gail Johnson is a certified group fitness instructor. Follow her on Instagram @gailjohnsonvancouver and Twitter @GailJohnsonVan.