How to get stronger legs for cycling

We previously talked about the importance of Doubling up your training indoors and out and 5 indoor cycling alternatives in Klang Valley, particularly when you can't get outdoors for whatever reason, or when you want that little bit of extra work to kick your cycling prowess up a notch. however, every now and then it is good to hang up the bike for a bit and do something else.

It may seem counter intuitive, but having a break from cycling is actually an essential part of your  training process. You can’t keep pushing all the time and expect to get the same results, and sometimes taking this step back to freshen up pays dividends in terms of form and commitment.

The off-season is not an excuse to sit on your butt though – it’s actually a great time to do some alternative or cross training. Here's some pretty good Off-season training advice for cyclists who are facing a bit of time off, like us folks in Malaysia who are currently facing uncertain weather conditions like the haze or heavy thunderstorms. 

But while cardiovascular fitness is a must for high-level cycling, improved leg strength can undoubtedly help with a more balanced physique. Try these four exercises to build thighs, quads and calves of steel that German track cyclist Robert Förstemann would approve of, and come back even stronger after your break!

1. Squat jumps

Doing squats is beneficial for cyclists because it helps to keep the hamstrings balanced by working them in a different way to the pedalling action.

As a cyclist you should aim to squat down fairly low, so that your thighs are roughly parallel with the ground — an angle your legs will be used to through pedalling.

From the squat position, jump up as high as you can, as hard as you can, but keeping your hands as close to your hips as you can so you don’t create artificial momentum.

Repeat this 15 times in sets of four, doing them quickly and powerfully to build up strength.

2. Lunges

Lunging engages your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles so they are an excellent all-round exercise for improving leg strength. They also help iron out any minor imbalances in thigh strength.

Start by standing with one leg slightly in front of the other, then step forward with your right leg so the bend at the knee is 90 degrees.

Keep the weight towards your heels and then bring your body back to a standing position, pushing off the front leg, before repeating on the opposite leg. Repeat this 16 times.

3. One-legged pedalling

Start pedalling and then unclip your left foot, holding it clear of the rotation. Pedal for two minutes before switching legs and repeat for three sets.

To start with you will probably find your movements a bit jerky on the upstroke due to weak hip flexors, but the more you do this exercise, the stronger your hip flexors will become and you will soon find yourself pulling on the upstroke as well as pushing on the downstroke.

4. Calf raises

Your calves are constantly being flexed and abducted while cycling, so carrying out toe raises on rest days mimics the action this muscle makes on a bike, building its strength further.

Stand on a flat surface with your feet shoulder width apart and raise yourself up onto your toes in a slow, easy motion, then lower yourself back down equally as slowly. Repeat 20 times and do this for three sets.

If you’re feeling keen, you can increase the intensity of this exercise by combining it with a squat, which will work both your thighs and your quads simultaneously.