Knowledge Level: Intermediate
Strength and conditioning work is a key component of the training plans of all top cyclists. This routine from Phil Burt, lead physiotherapist for the Great Britain Cycling Team and Consultant Physiotherapist to Team Sky, and Martin Evans, head of Strength and Conditioning with the Great Britain Cycling Team, is the perfect compliment to your riding.
Rather than prescribing a complicated gym routine or a long list of exercises that you might only occasionally manage to complete, a simple short routine consisting of key movements that can be performed anywhere is far more likely to be adhered to consistently. This consistency is essential for developing functional trunk strength. The routine should be performed at least three times per week, allowing 48 hours of recovery between sessions.
This routine is derived from the functional movement assessment that all riders take before entering the British Cycling Programme. It’s typical of the sort of routine that top endurance riders at all levels of the programme, including Team Sky, are given.
Initially complete the routine when fresh as, if you’re unused to these type of exercises, maintaining good form when fatigued will be difficult. As you progress, consider warming up for the routine with 10-20 minutes of riding on rollers. Riding rollers is probably the ultimate cycling specific stability exercise.
Rule of 24
For all the exercises in the routine apart from the Side Plank. Determine set and reps number by following the 'Rule of 24'. Aim to perform 24 reps for each exercise using a maximum of 12 reps per set. If you’re feeling strong this might be two sets of twelve but, on a day when you’re more fatigued, it might be three sets of eight. Once you’re consistently managing two sets of twelve for an exercise, consider moving on to one of the progression options.
Strict form is essential for the exercises to be effective and safe. End the set when you’re unable to maintain perfect form.
Take a good stride forward and find a stable balance point. Lower yourself by dropping your rear knee towards the floor and bending your front leg to ninety degrees. If you’re new to the exercise, become comfortable with this position by resting with your knee on the floor. During a normal set however you will not come completely to the floor, stopping an inch or two short.
Focus on not allowing your front knee beyond your toes of your front foot, keeping your trunk upright and minimising any sideways movement. Return to the start position by straightening your legs and repeat. Work through a set, rest for 30 seconds, work the other leg, rest for 60 seconds and then move onto the second set.
Below: Split squat start position.
Below: Split squat end position.
Start lying face down on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and slightly wider than shoulder width. Have your elbows at 45 degrees to your body. Push up by straightening, but not locking, your arms and ensure you maintain a straight and strong line from your shoulders to your heels. There should be no arching of the back or sagging.
Lower your chest back towards the floor so that your arms bend to ninety degrees. Rest for 60 seconds between sets. If you’re unable to hold a straight and strong position, work on statically holding the start position using the same time guidelines as the Side Plank. From there you can perform and easier movement by elevating your hands onto a bench. Conversely, if necessary, you can make it harder by elevating your feet. Here is the Click advanced press up exercise.
Above: Press-up start position.
Above: Press-up end position.
If you cannot perform the press up above effectively you may want to consider the introductory press up.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and out at thirty degrees. With your arms out to the front to aid balance, lower by bending your knees so that your thighs are at least parallel to the floor but ensure you maintain a natural arch in your lower back.
Pause at the bottom and then return to the start position by straightening your legs but not locking your knees and then repeat. Rest for 60 seconds between sets. Increase difficulty by pausing at the bottom of the movement or by holding a dumbbell in the goblet position in front of your chest, shown in this advanced exercise.
Below: Squat start position.
Below: Squat end position.
Lying on your side, place one foot in front of the other and support your weight on the forearm and elbow of one arm. Make sure you elbow is directly under the shoulder to avoid unnecessary strain. As with the regular plank you’re aiming for a straight line from shoulder to feet.
Avoid rotating forwards towards the ground or backwards. If you’re struggling to get the position right, try it with your back against a wall. Hold for 20-60 seconds and try to accumulate 2 minutes on each side eg. 2X2 mins, 4X30 secs or 6X20 secs. Rest for 30 seconds between each attempt.
Above: Side plank.
This is an advanced exercise and should only be attempted once you’re confident with the rest of the routine and have been working through it consistently for four to six weeks.
Lying on your back, elevate your legs with bent knees and stretch your arms out to the sides. Making sure you keep both shoulders in contact with the ground, lower your knees under control towards the floor. Pause just short, smoothly return to the start position and then drop the knees the other way.
One rep is a movement one way and the other. Rest for 60 seconds between sets. Advance the exercise by using straight legs, shown in these advanced exercises. Full muscle engagement can be encouraged by holding a rolled up towel between your knees and ankles.
Above: Windscreen wipers start position.
Above: Windscreen wipers end position.
Before you undertake any form of physical activity or make significant changes to your routine it is a good idea to check with your GP that you are able to undertake the intended programme.