Cyclists are known for having monster thighs to fuel summiting big climbs or sprinting to the finish line. Strong quads build your resistance to fatigue and improve the punch in your pedal stroke.
Add these on- and off-the-bike exercises to your workouts to sculpt the quad muscles you’ve always dreamed of.
LOW RPM INTERVALS
Similar to doing a leg press in the gym, low-cadence intervals sculpt your quads and are a functional way to develop more power in your pedal stroke.
After a 10–15-minute warmup (on the road or indoor trainer), pedal for 5 minutes at 60–65 revolutions per minute (rpm). The effort should be difficult but easy enough to maintain for 3–4 sets. Cool down with another 10–15 minutes of easy spinning following your main set. Do 3 sets of 5 minutes at 60 rpm.
These standing efforts force you to produce short bouts of max power, and your quads take on a majority of the workload.
On the trainer or a low-traffic section of road, slow as much as you can without coming to a stop. Shift to one of your larger gears and sprint out of the saddle as hard as you can for 30 seconds. At the end of 30 seconds, recover with 2–3 minutes of easy spinning before repeating. Do 8–10 repetitions of 30 seconds.
This exercise takes your quadriceps through the full range of motion while also challenging this muscle group to stabilize and balance your bodyweight in a narrow stance.
The move: Hold a set of dumbbells at your side or a single kettlebell above your head (the latter is more difficult). Take a big step forward with your left leg, lowering until your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Concentrate on keeping your knee in line with your foot. Press up with your left leg and bring your right leg up behind you as you return to a standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 3–5 sets of 20 lunges.
While this exercise emphasizes explosiveness and power, it’s ideal for cyclists because you’ll build strength in both the quads and the hamstrings.
The move: Stand facing a box (that’s at least 12-inches high) with your arms by your side. Squat down, and with an explosive motion, swing your arms up as you jump onto the box. Focus on your landing spot and land with your knees bent to absorb your impact. Step down and repeat. A jump squat can be done instead. Do 3 sets of 15–20 repetitions.
This exercise forces you to shift your bodyweight to one leg, but it isn’t as hard to balance as other single-leg squat exercises. In addition to giving your quads a killer burn, you’ll also target abductor and adductor muscles that are important for stabilization and are often neglected during the pedaling motion.
The move: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to your left leg, push your hips back, and step laterally to the right as you bend your left knee. Your right leg should be extended. Keep your hands in front of your body for balance. Lower your body as low as you comfortably can before returning to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do 3 sets of 15–20 repetitions on each side.
Perfect for those days when you don’t have time for the gym or bike, these squats force you to balance as you lower into your squat. They’re also great for improving muscular imbalances and single-leg power.
The move: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you have trouble balancing, stand next to a wall or table. In the standing position, extend your left leg and both arms out in front of you. Bend your right knee and lower your body into a squat as low as possible, shifting your hips back and keeping your heel on the ground. Drive up slowly maintaining your balance. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.
SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT
Whether you’re on the bike or in the gym, it’s common to use one leg for power more than the other. The single-leg box squat helps correct imbalances to ensure your pedal stroke is just as powerful on both sides.
The move: Stand in front of a box or bench, line your feet up with your shoulders a few inches in front. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees to tap the bench and push up to standing. Complete 10 repetitions before switching to the opposite leg. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions with each leg.