Cycling is a great way of keeping fit. It’s low impact and can span everything from long-distance endurance efforts to top-end sprinting power. Still, for general fitness – and peak performance – it’s vitally important to combine this with good nutrition and effective cross training.
As a six-time Olympic Champion and 11-time World Champion, Sir Chris Hoy occupies a firm place in the pantheon of all-time cycling greats. As part of national bike week (6th -12th June 2022), and together with PureGym, Hoy has shared his fitness and nutrition tips for cyclists of all levels.
With gym-work widely accepted as a potent training tool – and Hoy himself being very familiar with it from his time on the track – PureGym is offering £0 joining fees during Bike Week. You can use the code ZEROJF when signing up at your nearest gym to make use of PureGym’s discount.
Now, let’s take a look at the tips Hoy has to share...
Tailor your strength workouts
“A strength and conditioning programme can improve your cycling strength and endurance, while also helping to protect against injuries,” says Hoy. Adding in some weight bearing and loading exercises is also good for bone health.
But to get the most from strength workouts, Hoy says you need to make sure your programme is tailored to your specific needs:
For track sprinters, Hoy recommends focusing on building explosive power and maximum strength by incorporating plyometrics and HIIT exercises.
Whereas road riders and time triallists should focus on strength endurance, says Hoy. “Make sure to lift lower weights, with higher reps.”
Strengthen your core
“Having a strong core provides a solid foundation to produce power from,” Hoy points out. “You could have the leg strength to press 100kg but without a strong core, you do not have the base to put this power to use on the bike.
“A strong core will also improve your balance and stability, both of which can make you a more successful cyclist.”
It will also help you stay injury free and a strong core guards against developing physical imbalances. Yep, there are a lot of reasons not to neglect this area of your fitness.
While compound movements can work the core, Hoy says that it’s important to make sure to also do specific exercises to target all your core muscles, not just the abdominal muscles.
Hoy recommends including a mix of core exercises which create movement (like leg raises and sit ups), and anti-core exercises (like hollow holds and pallof presses) which train the core to resist movement and stabilise the spine.
Here are four core exercises that range from upper body push and pull movements, to hip and knee dominant movements, that’ll pretty much have your whole body covered.
Don’t neglect mobility work
"Both cycling and strength training can lead to tight muscles over time,” Hoy warns.
“Mobility work will help to stretch and lengthen your muscles, which prevents injury and increases your range of movement.
“Doing dynamic stretches before your workouts releases tension and tightness in your muscles and warms them up, so they’re ready to perform, while static stretching after workouts can help with recovery and prevent your muscles from stiffening up," Hoy explains.
“Foam rollers can be a great tool to relieve muscle tightness and improve flexibility too,” he adds. Here’s a 10 minute foam roller routine that you can do daily to keep your muscles happy.
Do maximum intensity training drills
“You can improve your ability to produce torque and power on the bike by doing maximum acceleration efforts from stationary,” Hoy says.
Power starts are a training session sprinters use as they help you develop more fast-twitch muscle fibres by recruiting them in each low-cadence pedal stroke.
Hoy recommends using the gradient of the road or gear size to increase the resistance and make these drills even more effective.
Making sure you’re properly fuelling your body is important for performing on the day of your session in order to get the most out of it and also for recovery. What you do both before, during and after the ride all counts.
“Eating carbohydrates 90 minutes before a ride will help to stock up your glycogen stores, which provides fast release energy while you’re on the move,” Hoy says.
“After a ride, make sure you refuel as quickly as possible and drink plenty of water and electrolytes.
“For longer rides, you should bring food and water to keep yourself going. Energy gels and sports drinks are an easy way to get carbs on the move, or you can keep energy bars in an easily accessible pocket and regularly take bites.
“You should also pay attention to your nutrition on days you’re not cycling. Getting a good mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats will mean your body has the resources to recover from your workouts and in turn - build muscle, endurance, and strength”.
Want to find out more about how to supplement your riding with strength and conditioning training? Here's what you could do for one hour per week to stay injury free.
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