Pliability & Functional Strength Training for Cyclists
You would think that a lower-body dominated exercise, like cycling, would be great for creating strong glutes. After all, this muscle group is primarily active in hip extension, a major component of pushing down on the pedals. Glutes are also largely responsible for hip abduction, adduction, and rotation. This is where cyclists get in trouble, and where pliability and functional strength training can help.
Over time, the combination of sitting most of the day at work and the forward-leaning cycling position can lead to muscle imbalances that affect the way cyclists pedal. As glute activation decreases, athletes gravitate to a cycling position that is more quad dominated, which then further diminishes glute activation. Because they are responsible for external rotation of the femur, weak glutes can lead a cyclist’s knee to collapse inward toward the midline, which can cause knee pain and overuse injuries. A cyclist’s pedal stroke also never results in full extension or full flexion of the leg or hip, meaning cyclists don’t produce force when muscles are at their longest or shortest.
Cyclists who sit a lot during the day and train only (or almost only) on the bike have less robust neuromuscular connections between the muscles responsible for hip flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, and rotation – as well as stabilization to resist these movements.
Pliability can help cyclists by priming neuromuscular connections prior to sport-specific training. Instead of training to gain more muscle mass, you may just need greater coordination from your nervous system to better use what you have.
Exercises to fire up your Glutes
The good news is that relatively simple exercises can have a very big impact on the effectiveness of your glutes. The important adaptation you’re looking for initially is improved neuromuscular coordination rather than the capacity to produce maximum force. For most of these exercises you won’t need anything but your body weight, but you can add a TB12 resistance band (light to extra heavy resistance) to most of these exercises which will make them a little bit tougher and even more beneficial.
Leg Assisted Side Plank:
Double Leg Glute Bridge:
Lateral band walks:
Pre-Ride Pliability Exercises
To help create pliable muscles that work together to stabilize your lower body and produce a strong pedal stroke, get a TB12 Vibrating Pliability Roller and try these six lower body pliability exercises before you get on the bike.
Chris Carmichael is the founder and CEO of Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS). Since 2000, CTS has been the premier coaching and training resource for cyclists, triathletes, and ultra-runners. CTS Coaches have worked with more than 20,000 endurance athletes, from time-crunched amateurs to Olympians and World Champions. For more information, visit trainright.com.