Essential strength-training exercises for cyclists

strength training for cyclists

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To prepare adequately for cycling, you need a strong core for stability, climbing, and endurance. You also need strong legs, and aerobic fitness.

Here are some essential strength-training exercises for cyclists. These exercises focus on calisthenics, both with and without resistance bands.

Why calisthenics? Because you can build your strength safely without compromising your joints. You can even do these exercises if you’re recovering from an injury (consult with your physiotherapist or doctor first).

For best results, do these exercises 4-5 times a week, especially if you’re not cycling often. If, however, you’re on your bike daily, two or three times a week can make a real difference, both on and off the bike.

Warm up first

It’s always best to do at least 10 minutes of cardio warm-up before other forms of exercise. Running, jogging, or jumping jacks will get your heart rate up, and your body warmed up for training. 

Warming up will lessen the risk of injury. You don’t want to find yourself unable to cycle because you were exercising in order to cycle!

Calisthenics exercises

Calisthenics exercises are excellent because you can give yourself a great work-out just by using your body weight.

Here are some essential calisthenics exercises:


Planks are excellent for building core strength. Not only do plank exercises work your stomach muscles, but they give your shoulders and back a work-out too.

Most people hold the position for 30-60 seconds. If plank is easy for you, challenge yourself by lifting one leg at a time. Work up to holding plank for 90 seconds.

Leg lunges

Leg lunges are great for cyclists because you are targeting the entire leg each time. Make sure your upper body is straight. Start with 15 reps on each side, working up to 3 sets of 15-30 reps.

Scissor kicks

Scissor kicks help strengthen the lower abdominals. Keep your back on the floor. Support your lower back if you wish by putting your hands underneath your buttocks. Scissor your legs while gradually lowering them towards the floor, making sure your back stays on the floor or your mat. Start with 30 seconds, working up to 1 minute or 90 seconds.


Burpees are very intense but very useful for giving your whole body a work-out. Do burpees as quickly as possible. Start with reps of 10-20 each time, working up to completing 3 sets. 

If burpees are easy for you, add in a pushup while clapping your hands together.


Squats are excellent for working on your hips and thighs. Squats also help with endurance while cycling. Start with 20-30 reps. If squats are easy for you, you can hold a dumbbell or other weight.

Exercises with resistance bands for cyclists

Resistance band exercises are very beneficial for essential strength training for cyclists, even if you’re recovering from an injury. With resistance bands, you get more of a work-out for the same amount of exercise time. Resistance makes your muscles work harder.

Raised leg plank and plank jacks

Wrap the resistance band around your ankles. Raise each leg in turn while in a straight arm plank position. Squeeze your core muscles and your glutes for maximum benefit.

Move on to plank jacks: still in a straight arm plank position, jump your feet further out to the sides (further than hip-distance apart). Make sure your weight is on the balls of your feet. Keep your arms and upper body straight. Start with 10 reps, building up to 20.

Side plank with leg lifts

How about working on your core and your legs at the same time? Put yourself in a side plank position, with the resistance band around your ankles. Lift and lower the top leg, keeping your legs straight. You can rest your hand on your hip. Switch legs for the other side. You should feel the burn! Aim for 20 reps on each side.

Lateral band walk

Loop your resistance band around the middle of your feet and stand with your feet roughly hip-distance apart. 

Lean slightly forward, hinging at your hips so that you’re in a quarter squat. Your legs should be bent.

With your back straight and your core muscles tight, step sideways, crab-style. Go 10 steps in one direction, then 10 steps in the other. Remember to keep your feet hip-distance apart so that the resistance band is always taut. Aim for 2 reps at least.

Lateral toe taps

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, leaning slightly forward as in the lateral band walk. Loop the resistance band just above your knees.

Keeping both hands on your hips and your legs and back straight, tip-toe from one side to the other. Keep the resistance band taut. Aim for 16 reps on each side.

Leg extensions 

Lie on one side, with the resistance band looped around your ankles. Keeping your legs and back straight, lift the top leg as high as you can. Pause at the top. Lower gently, without touching the bottom leg. Repeat for 10 reps, then change sides.

Cycle crunches

Lie on your back on a mat or the carpet. Place your hands behind your head (but not grabbing the back of your neck). Alternate touching opposite elbows to opposite knees, with the resistance band looped around both feet. Aim for 40 reps.

I hope you enjoy these essential strength training exercises. Happy cycling!

Leave a Reply 1 comment

Linda Hamilton - July 29, 2020 Reply

This is a great post. I’m not a cyclist but I use the resistance bands now. Always used circuit training before. Now because of injuries I used resistance bands and they do the trick. Even physical therapists use them for low impact on recovering and injured muscles and tendons. Many of these exercises are also good for people following hip replacement, although use caution with some, and for diabetics. Stretching and resistance training get the muscles working to maintain healthy blood glucose, strengthen those weakened muscles and invigorate the soul. Highly recommend many of these for anyone, especially using resistance bands since lockdowns have impacted gyms.

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