Today I’d like to share how to use strength training for cyclists in order to improve performance and reduce the potential for injury.
Adding a series of strength training exercises for cycling will help improve your strength for climbing hills, power for sprinting and core for reducing injury potential.
You will also feel more stable on the bike with better control and alleviate any back and neck fatigue that you may experience.
Below I have listed 8 kettlebell strength exercises for cycling along with a Cycling Workout Program for you to use:
Why weight training for cyclists is important
Strength and conditioning for cyclists is very beneficial, you will:
- Develop strong core muscles for improved handling of the bike and a reduction in back issues
- Increase overall body resilience and reduce the potential for injury
- Increase power production for sprinting and strength for climbing hills
- Create a strong stabilisation system to support the body’s main prime movers
- Remedy muscle imbalances that are caused by the cycling position
Ultimately there are no real downsides to adding a cycling strength training element to your program you just need to ensure you don’t overdo things before races, but more on that later.
Kettlebell strength training for cyclists
Below I’ve listed the 8 kettlebell exercises that will deliver the best results for the least amount of time invested.
Many cyclists worry about adding a strength training element to their cycling workout program due to fears of bulking up and adding weight.
These fears should not be a concern, with a balanced diet and a sensible distribution of kettlebell training and longer cardio sessions on the bike, weight gain should not be a problem.
Here are 8 kettlebell strength training exercises for cyclists:
1 Kettlebell Slingshot
The kettlebell slingshot exercise is the perfect introduction to kettlebell training and makes a great warm up and core exercise for cyclists.
The slingshot will develop core stability as the hips work to maintain position as the kettlebell is passed around the body. An increase in core stability will help you better control the bike.
Keep the arms straight and hips as still as possible as you pass the kettlebell around the body.
The chest should stay lifted and the chin up throughout the entire exercise.
Get started: practice 10 passes in one direction and then 10 the other way. Work up to 100 total repetitions.
Want more? How to use kettlebell warm up exercises
Watch the Kettlebell slingshot exercise below:
2 Kettlebell Farmers Carry
One of the great core exercises for cycling is the kettlebell farmers carry, perfect for developing core stability resulting in an increase in power production stabilisation on the bike.
Well conditioned core muscles will provide a resilient framework for the powerful prime mover muscles to function off.
Strong core muscles will also reduce the potential for back issues by helping to better support the spine.
The technique for the farmers carry is simple, hold one kettlebell in one hand and then walk forwards ensuring your shoulders and hips stay parallel.
Don’t hunch your shoulders up by your ears keep them down and back.
Get started: there is no specific distance that you need to walk but you need to be consistent with your progress. Try starting with 30 seconds of walking and then progress to 45 seconds and so on.
You can also challenge your legs and cardio further by farmers walking up a hill.
3 Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Kettlebell goblet squats are great for improving your climbing and sprinting on the bike.
These cyclists squats will develop strength in the legs, hips, core and buttocks.
With the feet a little wider than shoulder width apart squat down as if sitting back into a chair.
Keep your weight on your heels and mid-foot and drive the knees outwards not allowing them to cave inwards.
You thighs need to reach at least parallel with the floor in order to properly active the buttock muscles.
Pause at the bottom of the goblet squat for a second or two before pushing back up to the standing position.
Get started: work up to a total of 20 repetitions.
Want more? 7 kettlebell squats you need to know
Watch the Kettlebell goblet squat exercise below:
4 Kettlebell Bulgarian Lunge
Cycling is based on single leg repetition and the kettlebell Bulgarian lunge is one of the great leg exercises for cyclists.
The kettlebell Bulgarian lunge is similar to a regular static lunge except the rear foot is elevated increasing the intensity on the front leg.
You can hold a kettlebell in one hand or two when performing this exercise to increase the demands.
Slowly lower down so the front leg bends at least to parallel with the floor and then drive back up as quickly as possible to develop more power.
Be sure to position yourself with a good distance between your feet so the front knee does not ride too far forwards over the front toes.
Those with tight hip flexors may feel a stretch with this exercise and should be careful not to over-arch the lower back.
Get started: practice the exercise without a kettlebell before adding load. 3 sets of 8 – 15 reps per side is a good cyclist leg workout.
Want more? 16 kettlebell lunge variations
5 Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The kettlebell single leg deadlift will strengthen the hips and core improving your balance on the bike as well as strengthening weak hamstrings for injury prevention.
The hamstring muscles are a prime location for injury due to the overwhelming use of the quadriceps when cycling.
The hamstrings should be conditioned to try and reduce the imbalances between the front and back of the legs.
Perform this kettlebell exercise by hinging at the hips and keeping the back flat and core braced tight.
Prevent the hips from rolling outwards by pointing the rear foot towards the ground throughout the exercise.
The strengthening of your core muscles as you pivot at the hips during this exercise will also help to prevent back problems while riding.
Get started: practice without a kettlebell first just to get used to the movement before adding load. Perform 3 sets of 5 reps on each leg slowly and with control.
Watch the Kettlebell single leg deadlift below:
6 Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing will produce powerful and explosive hips as well as increasing endurance using a power based movement.
The overuse of the hamstrings and buttocks during the kettlebell swing will also help to balance out the overuse of the quads on the bike.
The kettlebell swing is a hip hinging exercise that is performed with a flat back and a slight bend in the knees.
The hips should be powerfully snapped forwards and backwards to drive the kettlebell up to chest height.
Do not overextend or lean backwards at the top of the kettlebell swing instead squeeze your core and buttocks tight.
Get started: begin with sets of 10 reps taking as long as needed in between sets. Your target is 10 x 10 with 20 second rests.
Want more? Ultimate guide to the kettlebell swing
Watch the Kettlebell two handed swing exercise below:
7 Kettlebell Regular Row
The kettlebell regular row will develop strength and stability in the scapula and help with neck fatigue and other issues caused from the hunching cycling posture.
You will also achieve excellent core activation for preventing lower back injuries as well as strengthening the hamstrings with this exercise.
As with the kettlebell swing the lower back needs to remain flat in a neutral position and weight back on the heels to load the hamstrings.
Row the kettlebell up and back avoiding a hunching at the neck and shoulders. The shoulders should stay away from the ears and down towards the hips at all times.
Pull from the elbow slowly and pause at the top of the movement, then lower the kettlebell back down under control.
Get started: 8 – 12 repetitions is a good target. Repeat for up to 3 sets.
Watch the Kettlebell regular row exercise below:
8 Kettlebell Renegade Row
The kettlebell renegade row is excellent choice for cyclists because it will develop a strong core as well as improving shoulder and scapula stability.
This is an advanced exercise so you should feel comfortable performing the front plank as well as push ups before attempting this exercise.
The challenge is to keep your body rigid from shoulders to heels, any sinking or dropping of the hips will be counter-productive for your back.
As with the regular row, pull from the elbow and avoid hunching up your shoulders towards your neck.
You can perform this exercise on the handles of two kettlebells but I prefer using a box, bench or chair for safely reasons.
Get started: can you hold this static position for 30 seconds? When you can, add a light kettlebell and progress to 5 – 8 reps per side.
Watch the Kettlebell renegade row exercise below:
Cycling workout program
In order to achieve the most from the above 8 kettlebell exercises for cycling I’ve put together a cyclists workout plan that you can use.
Each workout ticks off the major movement patterns that need to be worked in order to achieve the best results in the least amount of time.
Men should be using a 12kg (25lbs), 16kg (35lbs) or more, and Women an 8kg or 12kg. Ultimately though listen to your body and start off light until you get used to the exercise.
Rest and recovery is very important and so I’d use the below program like this:
- Winter or Off Season – 2 – 3 kettlebell workouts per week
- Cycling or On Season – 1 session per week possibly 0 if you are cycling a lot or racing
You can mix and match the 3 cycling workouts below but I’d recommend that you only complete the workout that fits with your capabilities. If this means completing Workout 1 3 times per week for 4 – 6 weeks then that is OK.
- Slingshot x 40 reps changing direction every 10
- Single Leg Deadlift x 5 reps each side
- Regular Row x 8 – 12 reps each side
- Goblet Squat x 8 – 20 reps
- Rest and repeat 2 – 3 sets
- Slingshot x 60 reps changing direction every 10
- Kettlebell Two Handed Swing x 20 reps
- Regular Row x 8 – 12 reps each side
- Bulgarian Lunge x 8 – 12 reps each side
- Farmers Carry x 30 seconds each side
- Rest and repeat 2 – 3 sets
- Slingshot x 80 reps changing direction every 10
- Kettlebell One Handed Swing x 20 reps each side
- Renegade Row x 5 – 8 reps each side
- Bulgarian Lunge x 8 – 15 reps each side
- Farmers Carry x 45 seconds each side
- Rest and repeat 2 – 3 sets
When using these kettlebell workouts 3 times per week I’d be a little more creative with the loads and alternate workouts between – light, medium and heavy, this can be as simple as performing less reps on one day and more on another.
A quick note on cycling sprint training
For many people it doesn’t matter how hard you train and lift weights you may never be a great cycling sprinter, sorry.
Fast twitch muscle distribution used for generating explosive power is genetic and although it can be improved it can never be totally overhauled.
If your goals are to improve your sprinting then nothing will replace time on the bike practicing sprinting. Becoming better at cycling sprinting is a skill that can be mastered like anything else with dedicated practice.
Using strength training for cyclists can help increase your power for sprinting, strength for hill climbing and reduce your potential for injury and back problems.
Above I have listed 8 kettlebell strength exercises for you to add to your cycling training along with videos.
I’ve also included a cyclist workout plan that includes 3 kettlebell workouts progressing from beginner to advanced.
I hope you embrace the above kettlebell exercises and experience the great benefits that just a few workouts per week can achieve.
Best of luck.
To see more posts about sports performance workouts and advice, go here.
Have you tried any of these kettlebell exercises for cyclists? Let me know below….