Whether you’re new to cycling or looking to boost your performance and speed, getting stronger legs is a great way for an overall better experience out on your bike. Strength workouts focused on your legs is the perfect way to build up those leg muscles.
In addition to normal strength training, you’ll also want to add in some single leg exercises to see the best results. You’ll also discover that these single leg exercises are essential for eliminating muscle imbalances and improving your coordination and balance.
7 Awesome Leg Exercises for Cyclists
Below are some proven workouts to strengthen your thighs, quads and calves. But before you do any of these exercises, remember to check in with your doctor or other medical professional to make sure that you’re fit for these workouts.
1. Forward Lunge
Lunging is a great way to boost your overall leg strength without needing any fitness equipment. You can even do these while in an elevator, waiting for your flight, or riding the train. And they are great for building thigh strength.
If you’re just starting out, then we suggest that you perform your lunges without any dumbbells or other weights. However, as you start building up resistance then it’s a good idea to add in weights when you do your lunges for an even better workout.
To do a lunge, step forward with your right leg and bend so that your knee is at 90 degrees. Keep the weight on your heels as you push off with the front leg to go back to a standing position. Switch and repeat with the other leg.
Do this 12 times when you start, and increase repetition over time.
Muscles engaged: quads, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles.
Squats are another great bodyweight exercise that you do anywhere and gain strength in your lower body. And like the forward lunge, you can add weights or a medicine ball to this exercise to get an even more intense workout.
To do a squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your abs tight. Bend your knees as you go down into the squat position. Your hips will go back so that your thighs are parallel with the floor, making a 90-degree angle with your knees. Push back up through the heels to the starting standing position.
Repeat 12 times when you start, and increase repetition over time.
Muscles engaged: quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, and calf muscles.
3. Single Leg Deadlift
For this one, you do need a weight. You can use dumbbells or a kettlebell. And the instructional video below shows you how to do this with just a single weight, but as you build up resistance and strength you can add in a second weight.
To do this one, you’ll start off with the kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand while standing with your weight on your right leg. Have your right knee slightly bent so that it’s not stiff, bend over at the hip an extend your left leg behind you to balance. You should continue bending until you’re parallel with the floor and the weight is as close to the floor as you can get without losing your balance. Slowly return to the starting position.
Do a full set of six of these, then switch sides for a full set on that site. Increase your set over time.
Muscles engaged: hips, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.
4. Resistance-Band Side Steps
The great thing about this exercise is that it targets some muscles that the other workouts miss. However, there are several different ways to do this one, with a lot of wrong ways to do it. That’s why we’re showing you the instructional video from NRSM below instead of walking you through it on our own.
Once you get the resistance band in place you should take 10 steps left, go back to the starting point, repeat six times, and replicate for the right. Increase repetition over time.
Muscles engaged: hip flexors, adductors, and abductors.
5. Calf Raise
When you do calf raises, you’re targeting muscles and joints from your ankles to your knees. And the great thing about this exercise is that you can do it pretty much anywhere. Personally, I do calf raises on my stairs at home as well as on curbs when I’m out in the city.
To do a calf raise, stand on a ledge with your feet hip-width apart. Your heels should be off the ledge with the arch of your foot resting on the edge of the ledge. Raise up on the tips of your toes as high as you can stretch, then lower your heel back down as low as you can before lifting back up.
You can also do a variation of this exercise by making it a single leg calf raise.
Do 5 repetitions for each calf when you start, and increase repetition over time.
Muscles engaged: quads, glutes, and ankles.
6. Leg Press
If you have access to a leg press machine, then you can use it to get a solid workout for your lower body.
On this machine, you’ll want to have your feet hip-width apart as you push the sled away from your body. You’ll straighten out those legs, then bend at the hips and knees as you lower the sled back until your legs are bent at 90 degrees. Then, push back to start and repeat.
Do a full set of 12 of these, and increase your set over time.
Muscles engaged: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.
7. Leg Extensions
If you have access to a bench or machine where you can do some leg extensions, then you’ll find that it’s a good workout for isolating those quads that you use so much when cycling.
When you start out, load up the machine with weights that equal around 20% of your bodyweight and adjust the weight as necessary.
To do these, you’ll be seated on the bench with your feet and ankles pressed against the padded bar. Push your feet out and forward to lift the bar and it’s weight into the air. Slowly lower your legs back down and repeat.
Do a three sets of 10 reps of these, and increase your sets over time.
Muscles engaged: quads
Try these exercises to improve your lower body strength and you should start to see some improvements in your cycling performance.