Time to Read

5 minutes

Points of Interest

  1. Cycling specific rep ranges
  2. Single leg exercises
  3. Train the front and back
  4. Sample leg strength for cycling workout


For decades it was wrongly assumed that cyclists needed no additional leg strength training because cycling alone was sufficient enough to ensure appropriate leg strength was both built and maintained.

Early season training looked similar to how it does today – lots of miles in the legs in the off-season, before tapering down and specialising as the season approaches. Brutal days in the hills and following sprint routes were the norm. Training started and ended on the bike - the idea of additional gym work was ludicrous.

Enter, sports science.

Since the birth of dedicated science around human performance and improvement, accepted training wisdom has been scientifically tested. In many cases, long-held views have proven to be true. In other cases, traditional methods have been scrapped in favour of more effective training approaches.

This sweeping change in training and performance that has seen records broken and a new bar set in terms of human achievement.

Cycling is a sport that has seen dramatic change in training approaches over the years, with a key one being the inclusion of strength training into the cyclist’s workload. The evidence supporting strength training for cycling is clear and as such every major cycling team in the world will put their riders through strength training programmes to improve performance.

In this article we’re going to look at the basics of building leg strength for cyclists, ending with a sample workout for you to follow yourselves.

Cycling specific rep ranges

As cyclists, what we don’t need is extreme strength in the sense that a power lifter or weightlifter needs. Instead, we should be looking to build strength endurance, which is the ability to produce a significant force repeatedly.

Think hill climbs and sprint finishes – they’ll last longer than a few seconds, so we need to train power output beyond one rep maximums. Think sets that last up to 60 seconds, then base your weights and rep ranges around those.

For most cyclists, look to pick a weight you can manage 12-20 good reps with before your level of fatigue prevents you from lifting with good form. If you manage to go beyond these numbers, increase the weight you are lifting.

Single leg exercises

In cycling, both legs have to contribute propulsion, so it’s really important that we force each leg to work independently in the gym. If we rely solely on dual leg exercises such as leg presses etc, we can allow our dominant leg to take over more of the work, leading to one weaker leg.

We’re only as strong as our weakest link, so ensuring we pick exercises that strengthen both legs independently is important furthering our progression and performance as cyclists.

Adapting common exercises to make them single leg varieties is both practical from a training point of view, but also useful for helping to identify weakness and instability in a particular side. Pay attention to how exercises feel on both sides and spend extra time and effort bringing the weaker side up to standard.

Train the front and back

If we take a broad strokes approach to categorising lower body exercises, we can put them into ‘hip dominant’ and ‘knee dominant’. These exercises have varied mechanics so develop different parts of the leg.

Hip dominant exercises typically stress more of the glutes and hamstrings whereas knee dominant exercises activate the quads more. We need to ensure we have a nice blend of these exercises to give us all round leg strength.

Here are examples of both exercises….

Hip Dominant Exercises

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Deadlifts
  • Hamstring Curls
  • Glute Bridges

Knee Dominant Exercises

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg Extensions
  • Jumping Variations

A good leg strength programme will mix these exercises to best effect, so see our sample workout below for more of an idea.

Sample leg strength for cycling workout

In this workout we’re going to bring in the principles outlined in the text above, showing you how to put together an effective workout that should improve your cycling performance and reduce your injury risk.

Warm Up

  • 5 minutes of stationary bike riding
  • 1 x 20 Lateral Band Walks
  • 1 x 12 Goblet Squats

Strength Training

  • 2 x 25 Double Arm Kettlebell Swings
  • 1 x 20 Single Arm Kettlebell Swings (per side)
  • 2 x 20 Bulgarian Split Squats (per side)
  • 2 x 30 Walking Lunges
  • 3 x 12 Stiff Legged Deadlifts

Do this workout twice per week, ideally the day before a rest, so your body has time to rest and recover ahead of your next ride. You can even do them after a ride, but I’d urge you to make sure you have time to recover afterwards, otherwise your next day’s riding may suffer somewhat.

You can speed up your recovery by wearing the KYMIRA IR50 recovery range, which has a scientifically proven recovery mechanism, using infra-red technology to improve blood flow to tissues. This speeds recovery and gets you back to your best faster.

You can buy the KYMIRA Sport IR50 recovery leggings here.

Read Next:

10 Tips to Accelerate Recovery After a 50 Mile Ride

The 3 Key Interval Workouts for Cyclists

What to Eat to Increase Your Cycling Distance

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September 30, 2019 — Aston Lincoln

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