BOOM! Explosive Bike Strength!

(Adapted from the January 2011 issue of Triathlete Magazine)

So, you say you want to get faster and stronger on the bike? “But it’s too cold/hot outside for a hill workout!” you protest. Well, fret no longer, because this is the workout for you!

The basic idea of this workout is a series of increasingly intense spinning sets separated by sets of four exercises designed to build explosive power in the legs. The four exercises are as follows:

  1. Walking lunges — the key here is keeping a straight back and a stable core, as well as making sure your front knee makes a right angle at the bottom of each lunge; can be performed while holding dumbbells to make it a bit more challenging
  2. Hamstring curls — lying on your back with your heels resting on the top of an exercise ball, lift your butt off the floor in an “inverted supine plank” position (feet up, head on the floor, facing the ceiling); perform each hamstring curl by pulling your feet towards you to roll the ball closer
  3. (OPTIONAL) Exercise ball leg raises — simply move your feet from the top of the ball to the sides and raise the ball over your head with your legs as straight as you can make them
  4. Jumping squats — again, keep your back and core straight and land with your knees at right angles (don’t go past 90 degrees); explode upwards and try to land softly
  5. Eccentric calf extension — the “eccentric” part means to focus on the downward part; perform a quick up-stroke and let yourself down much more slowly

This workout calls for three “main sets,” each totaling 10 minutes. For each of these main sets, start by performing each of the four exercises, 25-30 reps each, with a timer. Take as little rest in between exercises as you can. When you finish, complete the 10 minute block on the bike at the prescribed heart rate level (if you have a monitor; if not, just guess) — ex: if you finish the weight exercises in 6 minutes, spend 4 minutes on the bike.

When you first try to do this sequence, you might think to yourself, “Self, I’m noticing that I either have to spend time switching out my super-unstable biking shoes for running kicks between sets or suffer the consequences of instability. How much does that suck??” Well, let me tell you, that’s the best part! Focusing on remaining vertical and solid will improve your balance, your ankle strength, and your core strength. WARNING: Try not to break an ankle, and if you have hardwood floors, DON’T jump up and down with your bike cleats on. It will definitely ensure that you have a bad day when you get the quote from the flooring company.

TIP: Some biking shoes have cleats that are recessed into the shoe, which makes walking (and lunging…and jumping) much easier. These are great for beginners (or people with weak ankles), but if you want more of a challenge, try doing it with the cleats that stick out from the shoe, especially on carpet! Yes, I realize most people don’t have the funds for two sets of cleats/pedals, but just thought I’d throw it out there…

What you’ll need:

  • Bike on an indoor trainer
  • Heart-rate monitor (optional)
  • Exercise/stability ball
  • Two dumbbells (optional)

The Workout (60 minutes total):

Warm-up (20 minutes total)

  • 5 minutes of easy spinning, low heart rate
  • 5 minutes of slightly harder spinning
  • 10 minutes of drills (short bursts of high cadence, low resistance; etc.)

Main set 1 (10 minutes total)

  • Heart rate = low zone 2
  • Cadence = 85-95

Main set 2 (10 minutes total)

  • Heart rate = high zone 2
  • Cadence = 75-80

Main set 3 (10 minutes total)

  • Heart rate = zone 3
  • Cadence = 80-85

Cool-down (10 minutes total)


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