Top personal trainer: How to be faster, fitter and stronger
You can improve your performance and protect yourself from injury with the right strength training, says top personal trainer Paul Byrne
After making the transition from being a champion bodybuilder to competing in Olympic distance triathlons, and having competed in three Ironman 70.3s, I have learned the importance of strength training to improve your bike ride.
The repetitive motion of sports such as cycling can mean imbalances in the body, leaving you open to injuries. You can minimise this with a balanced and structured programme geared towards correcting imbalances and weaker muscles.
The main muscles used in cycling are the calves, the quads, the hamstrings and the core muscles. People often make the mistake of training these muscles in preparation for cycling, but one should actually work the entire body, and particularly the muscles that support the 'cycling muscles', to prevent injury and improve performance.
The rear shoulders should be strengthened to stop the body collapsing. The glutes also need to be strong as weak glutes make a bad cyclist. We also need to work on the abductors and adductors. As I said, for cyclists, the quads, calves and hamstrings are in play, so by focusing on the other muscles ensures the entire leg is working effectively and efficiently.
When you are in the gym, look at a strength training programme twice per week for optimal performance, working on a programme with upper and lower body. Use compound movements like squats, chest press and deadlift and incorporate extra isolation exercises.
Look at heavy lifts, within reason and depending on ability, and focus on a smaller rep range between 6-8 max with a reasonable rest period. Remember that the gym is for strength and the bike is for endurance. Lifting heavy will help give you speed and strength within your cycling that will completely enhance your performance.
You need to know what you are doing with strength training so get a good instructor to help you with form and correct weights. You can do a lot of damage if you don't know what you are doing. You can see video of the below exercises on independent.ie.
The king of all compound movements, ideal for working the core, glutes, hamstring, quads and calves. Start with your feet shoulder width apart with your arms bent by your sides. Bend at the hips and knees into a squat position, leaning your torso slightly forward, then simply push off your feet and jump to start position.
Wide Grip Chins
These really focus on the back, hits the biceps as well and fries the core by using a shoulder extension movement. Start with an overhand grip with palms facing away from you, wider than shoulder width apart, and arms fully extended. Then pull your bodyweight up and over the bar so your head is over the bar. Return to start position and repeat. Make sure your torso is kept straight throughout the movement.
A great exercises for correcting imbalances in the legs and great for strengthening the glutes. Use a weighted lunge to really push the legs hard and ensure correct form.
Start by standing in an upright position, holding the dumb-bells by your side with your arms straight or barbell on your back, then take a step forward into a lunge, dropping your back knee towards the floor, keeping the dumb-bells by your side or the bar on your back. Push off the front foot to return to start position and then alternate the legs.
Dumb-bell Bench Press
Start by lying flat on a bench with feet flat on the floor, arms out to the side holding the dumb-bell. Raise them up over the chest and return to start position.
Dumb-bell rear delt row
The rear deltoid is an often neglected body part which can effect symmetry and balance to the shoulders if not worked.
Start by sitting on the side of the bench, leaning over with your back straight and you arms down by the side of your feet with dumb-bells in hands. Raise the dumb-bells up to shoulder height then return to start position and repeat.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
A great exercise to really work the hamstrings. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell held at your hips. Lean forward, pushing the glutes out, allowing the barbell to roll down the legs. Push through the heels to return to start position. Keep the back straight at all times, pushing the hips back rather than bending at the waist.
Incline Dumb-Bell flyes
Starting by lying on an incline bench with feet flat on the floor, arms straight up over the chest while holding the dumb-bell. Raise them out to the side and return to start position.
Fit to the core
It is also worth incorporating two good core exercises into your routine, like:
Mountain climbers on swiss ball
Start with feet on floor and two hands placed firmly on the Swiss ball pushing down, not out.
Make sure your back is flat with your core engaged. Slowly bring one knee up to the ball then return back to start position and repeat with opposite leg. This is one rep.
Support your body by leaning on your side on your elbow and on the side of your foot with the other foot sitting on top.
Keep your body straight and hold the position. Try to hold the position for at least 15-20 seconds but keeping your form perfect.
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