Welcome to our summer, outdoor fitness series. This month we’re featuring weekly exercises from THE BIG BOOK OF CYCLING FOR WOMEN by certified personal trainer, triathlete, and bestselling professional health and fitness author, Selene Yeager. No matter where you fall on the cycling spectrum, you know that great things happen when you toss your leg over a bike: freedom, empowerment, increased energy, stress release, better sleep, and let’s not forget a killer, fit body. This week’s focus is on strengthening the lower half of the body.
Whether you’re cycling to commute, or simply to exercise, keeping your lower-half strong is key to making sure you’re able to power through a ride, pain-free and injury-free.
Moreover, keeping your legs trained ensures you’ll have a successful cycling session, says Selene Yeager, professional mountain bike racer, Ironman triathlete, and author of The Big Book of Cycling for Women.
“In my experience, especially if you’re a woman, strength training — done right — will nearly always make you stronger both on and off the bike,” says Yeager. “Plus it’s good for your bones and can help prevent injury.”
Second, only to the core moves that help to protect your joints from injury, strength moves for legs are what will help bring you to the next level of a cycling career (or a spin class streak).
“[Women] naturally have less lean muscle and we start losing it over time once we hit our 30s,” she adds. “You don’t have to lift all year long if it makes your legs too tired and sore to ride and race as you like.”
Even if you can’t commit to a full-time, year-round lower-half training schedule, you can always focus on it during the months when you’re not able to get out and ride.
“At the very least, carve out a 12- to 16-week period where you aren’t riding or training on the bike as much — try winter if you live where it’s cold, dark, and/or snowy — and dedicate some time to building strength,” Yeager adds. “Even if you lay off the weights the rest of the year, you’ll manage a lot of those gains until you return to resistance training.”
To get started, check out these six leg moves you can do, right at home:
How to do it: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your behind to the floor, stopping when your thighs are parallel to the ground, making sure to keep your back straight. Return to standing position and repeat. Complete 15 reps.
How to do it: With a dumbbell in each hand (shoot for two to five pounds), stand facing a low bench or a step that’s approximately 12-inches high. Step onto the bench with your left foot, bringing your right leg behind you while squeezing your glutes together. Return back to the ground, and complete 15 reps. Then switch sides and repeat.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, with a slider (or even a paper plate) under your right foot. While bending your left leg and bringing your weight onto your left side, slide your right leg out into a lunge, making sure to keep it in a straight line. Note to keep your knee hovering above your toes as you bend down, not pushing your knee too far forward. Return back to starting position. Complete 15 sets, then switch sides and repeat.
How to do it: If you have a kettlebell handy, bring it over to do some work. Stand with your feet wide apart, gripping the kettlebell with both hands at your waist. With a straight back, squat down, bringing the kettlebell down between your legs. With control, stand up straight, bringing your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up toward your chest. Complete 15 reps.
Single-Leg Step Down
How to do it: Bring back your low bench or step. With a dumbbell in each hand, standing with your right foot on the step and your left leg hovering. While keeping your core tight, step your left foot to the ground, tapping your heel on the floor. Return to the starting position and complete 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
How to do it: Channel your inner royal with this move. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Step your right leg behind your left hip (at about the 8 o’clock position, Yeager says), and let your knee hover a few inches off the ground. Return to standing and complete 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
Fitness routines courtesy of Rodale, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2015 from The Big Book of Cycling for Women by Selene Yeager.
Photo Credit: iStock