With gyms about to reopen in the UK, it will soon be time to start looking more in-depth about gym-based strength and conditioning for endurance sports. But what should we do until then...
While gyms are great, you can still train in a way that can drastically improve your riding experience on or off road, all from the comfort of your home.
Covered in this blog
- Top three strength and conditioning tools that every home should have
- Why train at home?
- You can't lift heavy
- It forces creativity
- Making it work for you
- Resistance bands
- Swiss ball
- Bosu ball
Top three strength and conditioning tools that every home should have
Home training requires little to no kit. However, just to keep things interesting (as cyclists love spending money), here are a few bits of kit that I recommend, and that you can pick up cheap (cyclists also love a bargain):
- Resistance bands: These come in a variety of sizes, weights and shapes but I would personally recommend the ones with the clips on each end, and handles. You can pick up a set for as little as £30
- Swiss ball: A big inflatable ball. Great for training your core, and legs. You can pick one up for between £10-£30
- Bosu ball: The most expensive thing here, great for stability training and core work. These might cost you between £50-£100
With the kit above, plus your own bodyweight, you can come up with some amazing exercise sessions. This blog will go into the benefits of training at home and give you an example of an exercise that can be done with each of these pieces of kit, as well as your own bodyweight.
Why train at home?
You can't lift heavy
Training at home has one huge benefit; you cannot lift heavy. While these small knocks are not detrimental to our performance, they might make us uncomfortable at times. For example, image over working your shoulder in the gym, on the road bike a frozen shoulder might get sore and need flexing around regularly past a certain duration. During sleep, you struggle in comfortable positions due to this too. Neither of these scream aiding your performance!
Now, the suggestion here isn't to never go heavy. It is a necessary component of any athletes training routine. But some time away from big weights might really benefit you. Focus on a lot of mobilisation and functional work at home (and even in the gym, once they reopen) instead of heavy weightlifting sessions. You might notice some positive changes!
It forces creativity
Training at home also forces you to be more imaginative. How many times have you walked into a gym and thought “hmmm” and then ended up doing the same thing you did last time, and probably even the time before that. Before you know it, you are ging through the motions and are pretty bored with your training, struggling to see why you do it and what it’s actually doing for you as a cyclist.
Training at home makes you think more, using your imagination (and possibly a little help from Google or YouTube!) to find out what kind of exercises work best for you.
Making it work for you
Home workouts can also be tailored to your riding, just like gym workouts can. So, let’s stick on the theme of exercises and go over some of my favourite home workout movements that are beneficial to our sport.
Bodyweight exercises can be so much more than push ups, squats and lunges. One of the best cycling based exercises that needs only your own body (and a chair) is the single leg squat. Commonly known as the pistol squat.
This movement is an excellent exercise for developing stability in the hip, knee, and ankle joint while also strengthening up your legs. I would start squatting onto a chair, to give you confidence and then advance it, removing the chair and going full depth as you can see pictured above. This is my go-to strength and conditioning home exercise for runners and cyclists alike.
Resistance bands have always been used (in my experience) as rehabilitation and mobilisation tools. They provide a progressive amount of weight; usually coloured and numbered for your ease of use. Varying resistance offers the chance to do more intense things with them. Athletes can do a full workout with resistance bands and, still, their legs will feel it the day after. But, often, athletes will find the best way to use them is to mobilise and limber up the upper body.
At time of writing this, the UK hasn’t quite warmed up yet and often riding injuries seem to worsen during the winter, the cold makes the body seize up easier and you might not be as supple during these months. You could use resistance bands to keep mobile and to limber up. The face pull is my exercise of choice. Not only is it great for the reasons I have mentioned above, but it is also a brilliant exercise for improving posture; especially bringing the shoulders back. Something that cyclists potentially suffer from is kyphosis (a rounding of the shoulder joint forwards). This exercise can help prevent that happening. Resulting in better posture, and more comfort on the bike.
The swiss ball is a great training tool for the core. It provides a platform for the athlete to work on their stability. You will also see people doing squats on these, and I just want to say "NO"!
That is unnecessarily dangerous. They are great pieces of kit for training the legs, but only in the right way.
My core exercise of choice for this piece of kit however is the plank roll.
Essentially place your hands on the ball and hold a plank position, keeping your back straight and your head forwards. Once you have mastered this begin to roll the ball forwards, backwards, left, and right. Even better when you have mastered this, get someone to slap the ball about while you plank on it. This allows you to react in ways that rely on instinct as you do not know what the other person is planning. Exactly like when you must make sudden moves on the bike.
The bosu ball; which is essentially half a swiss ball. These are great stabilisation tools as you can do a variety of exercises on them, all of which will work the core and the upper/lower body based on what you are doing.
Squatting on a bosu ball, using your own bodyweight is an incredible way to work on your hip, knee and ankle stability while also working on your leg strength under unstable surfaces. You can even add weight (not too much) to this as you progress. One of my favourite things to do with my conditioned athletes is to use a kettle-bell in one hand, to uneven the weight a little bit.
However, if you are just starting out this is a great way to develop stability and strength with your home training.