5 Cross-Training Workouts for Cyclists

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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5 Cross-Training Workouts for Cyclists

There will be times this winter when cycling outside isn’t an option, and the thought of another ride on the indoor trainer will seem like pure torture.

When that happens, you’ll need to get creative. Luckily, we’ve got a few ideas that will help you pass the time and stay in shape while you wait for the weather to improve.

These six indoor cross-training workouts will work muscles commonly neglected by cyclists and keep the cardiovascular system ready for when it’s time to get back on the bike.


What it’ll work: Core strength, flexibility and balance.

Why it’ll help: Yoga will strengthen your back and the muscles surrounding the abdomen, which can help you become a more powerful cyclist. It’ll also improve your flexibility and balance — helpful if you’d like to achieve a more aggressive riding position.

Try it: Whether you sign up for classes or prefer to follow a video in the comfort of your home, yoga is an easy way to get in a good workout during winter. If you’ve never tried yoga, it can make you sore even if you’re in good shape. It’s best to start at the beginners’ end of the spectrum at least for the first few workouts and increase the difficulty from there.

Here are a few exercises that will get you started:

  • Bridge Pose: Strengthens glutes, hamstrings and muscles surrounding the spine. Releases tension in the shoulders and neck.
  • Downward Dog: Stretches the hamstrings and calves, relieves tension in the neck and strengthens the lower back and legs.
  • Side Plank Pose: Strengthens the low back, core and hips.


What it’ll work: Cardiovascular fitness, upper-body endurance.

Why it’ll help: Swimming will help you maintain your cardiovascular fitness when you aren’t able to get on the bike.

Try it: While it will require a trip to the gym or your local YMCA, swimming is a perfect winter workout for cyclists looking for a low-impact indoor activity. You’ll also get a full-body strength workout with a focus on the shoulders and midback — common weak spots for cyclists.

For a beginners endurance workout in the pool, give this one a try:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes with easy swimming.
  • Swim 300 yards, followed by 20 seconds recovery.
  • Swim 200 yards, followed by 20 seconds recovery.
  • Swim 100 yards, followed by 20 seconds recovery.
  • Cool down with 10 minutes of easy swimming.

Note: If you are unable to swim these distances, shorten the workout to fit your level of endurance. Try swimming 100 yards, 75 yards or 50 yards instead.


What it’ll work: Leg and core strength, endurance.

Why it’ll help: For cyclists, rowing might be the next best thing. You’ll improve your power by building strength in the legs and core while also taxing the cardiovascular system. If you train on a bike, this should sound familiar.

Try it: Unless you are lucky enough to have a rowing machine at home, you’ll have to head to the gym to give this workout a try. To get started rowing indoors, check out this video by Josh Crosby, an Ironman competitor and world champion rower.

Circuit Training

What it’ll work: Cardiovascular fitness, core stability, strength and balance.

Why it’ll help: Minimizing breaks between sets will build your endurance while each of the strengthening exercises can be tailored to improve your weaknesses. For cyclists, this typically means the core, lower back and shoulders.

Try it: The good thing about circuits is that the exercises can be switched up depending on which muscle groups you’d like to strengthen. They can be done with weights and an exercise ball at the gym or simplified with little to no equipment for a quick workout at home.

Here’s a sample routine:

Repeat the circuit 2–4 times, resting for 5 minutes or less between each circuit with no rest between each exercise.


What it’ll work: Leg strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Why it’ll help: Basketball involves jumping and sprinting, and it is a good way to train your lower body differently. Explosive movements will also help build the power needed for sprinting and climbing on the bike.

Try it: Most gyms or recreational centers have indoor basketball courts. During the winter, pick-up games are common in the late afternoon and evenings. If you don’t have a group of friends to play with, don’t be afraid to join in at your local gym. To work on your explosiveness and keep your competitive spirit fine-tuned, 30 minutes to 1 hour of hoops will do the trick.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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