Best Gym Leg Exercises to Boost your Cycling Stamina

As we know all too well, stamina is key to cycling. It’s not just that you need to have a solid core and do plenty of cardiovascular training, but your legs also need to be both strong and durable. It seems an obvious statement to say that working on leg stamina is integral to success, but some just seek leg power, which simply won’t provide what’s needed for the long rides.

So, here we’ll look at some great leg exercises that you can do at the gym, or even at home, as well as having a peek into how the professionals train.

Tips from the pros

Source: Fabrizio, via Twitter

In the UCI men’s road cycling world rankings, as of the middle of December 2017, Greg van Avermaet stood firm as the top-ranked cyclist, well clear of Chris Froome in second. With victories on many grand tours, stage races, one-day races, Classics, and at the Olympics, the Belgian has proven himself to be a versatile and skilled cyclist.

While in his youth, Van Avermaet was a budding goalkeeper for Belgian football club SK Beveren; his refined training regime has allowed him to get to the top and stay there. But he also has another aspect to his training, which he claims many cyclists utilise and clearly gives him an edge in races. In fact, you’ll often find Greg van Avermaet among the favourites in major races that he’s participating in at, be it before the race starts or in live betting. He has the stamina and endurance throughout his finely tuned body to keep pushing and then unlock that extra bit of power when needed to push on.

Van Avermaet claims that, like him, a lot of professional cyclists play football when not in extensive training. As it helps to trim body fat, enhance endurance fitness, and maintain a lofty power-to-weight ratio, it is a great way to stay in shape for future events. While indoor training, particularly cycling specific training, is important, it’s also good to vary exercise to bring the required strength and stamina needs through more entertaining means.

While he was an indoor sprinter and not a long distance road cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy is notorious for his training regime and simple mind-boggling legs. In an interview in 2016, Hoy’s focus was on the mindset required when doing training in the gym, which can be extrapolated to those focussing their training on stamina over power. The former Olympian says that it’s important that you know the mechanics behind exercises to enable you to commit to them fully, and that you often get better results from doing less at a time – being able to do less with more regularity will help to build quicker.

Some set leg exercises to get a good base

Before moving into the lengths of stamina training, it’s good to build strength in your legs through some basic exercises, and then to build them into a training regime as you turn the focus to stamina. An important factor to consider throughout is your rest and recovery or easy days as that’s where the progress is made. A great way to allow for full rest, which is also a rather punishing method, is to do these strength days on the same days as the harder bike rides. It makes those hard rides tougher, but allows for more recovery time.

All of these workouts involve weights, so be sure that they’re not too heavy (collectively weighing around seven to ten percent of your body weight) otherwise they could injure you in the process.

  • The simple squat can be your best friend, really adding strength to your thighs, calves, hamstrings, and gluts.
  • With dumbbells in hand, side lunges working alternately between legs are a different but useful way to go.
  • Single-leg deadlifts are a fun way to go, giving you some added skill in balance as well, and, of course, regular deadlifts will add strength.
  • Finally, kettlebell swings – holding out the kettlebell and swinging them from out in front of you to between your legs – also to build strength in your legs and back.

All about technique

Source: Fitness Magazine, via Twitter

When it comes to building stamina in the gym, it’s important that your exercises replicate the activity that you wish to build stamina for – in this case, cycling. It’s suggested that you do two days of cardiovascular training per week, so spinning or the upright bike is a great way to go. With the ability to change the resistance or engage in programs of varying resistances, you can get a good work out in for your legs. It’s also important to do sustained stints at low to moderate intensity and build the length of the stints when aiming to improve stamina, so make sure that each session of exercise is for at least 15 minutes at a sustained rate.

Then, also twice per week, get on the weights – the aforementioned exercises for leg strength can be strong options here. Even if it means reducing the weight, go for higher rep counts as opposed to fewer, more powerful reps, as doing more reps is better for improving stamina. Think about exercises like deadlifts and squats here, using barbells instead of dumbbells, to really push in the weight training section of your week.

So, with some key tips for building strength and stamina in training, you can go out and improve your cycling through work at the gym and home


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