The Best Strength Exercises for Cyclists

As cyclists, we all long for that extra strength to break from the pack or catch up with our opponents in a race. And while cycling is the best workout for improving our cycling fitness and helping us improve our skills, hitting the gym is the only way we can improve our strength. But deciding which are the best strength exercises for cyclists can be quite challenging. After all, there are numerous exercises and workouts that can help cyclists improve their strength.

Therefore, when picking the right strength workouts, you should start by examining which parts of the body need strengthening. When cycling, you use one leg at a time; therefore, you need repeated force production to pedal. You also need a strong core to handle the bike, especially when tackling tough terrains. Therefore, your workouts must address these needs. So here are some of the best strength workouts you can do at home or in the gym.

Top 5 Best Strength Exercises for Cyclists

1. Planks With Variation

Plank is a unique exercise that works your willpower, upper body, and core. The plank is a great workout for cyclists as it focuses on both sides of your body separately. Plus, it’s ideal for your hips as you have to keep both sides level, making sure that no side dips. And just like press-ups, the plank has numerous variations that you can try to make the workout as hard or as easy as possible. Therefore, Cycling Hacker recommends that you start with the basic one on the floor, and once you have mastered the technique, you can try other variations.

The exercise: start by lying down facing the floor with your palms facing downwards under the shoulders. Push your body up as if you are doing a push-up, and then hold the position while engaging the core, leg, back, and shoulder muscles. Try and hold that position for as long as possible and then repeat a few times. If a full plank is challenging to you, you can try resting on your elbows instead of extending your arms or putting your knees on the floor.

You can make it more challenging by introducing a gym ball. All you have to do is start with the plank position with the feet on the gym ball and then start pulling the ball towards you using the core muscles. Hold the ball in that position for a while before rolling it back to the starting position. 

2. Push-ups

Being able to easily handle your weight is crucial when it comes to cycling, as it will help you absorb the impacts while cycling downhill. And one of the best exercises that can help you handle your weight is push-ups. If you have trouble with push-ups, then you can start by putting your hands on a chair or steps. And then work your way to full push-ups, and the more consistent you are, the quicker you’ll perfect it. With time you can start incorporating balance or weights into your routine.

The exercise: move in the plank position and then engage your core and lower your body by bending your arms. Hold the position without allowing your body to touch the ground and then return to the starting point. But it’s crucial that you keep your core tight, your back in line with your head, and your entire body straight.

3. Squats

Squats are very important for cyclists. They works on every muscle in your legs, knees, and hips, helps with athletic movements, and increases flexibility. And if done correctly, this workout will help your muscles grow while giving you the needed strength.

The exercise: you can start with three sets of ten reps with about a 90-seconds rest between each set. To do the squats correctly, you should stand by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and lower the body to a sitting position by simply pushing your hips backward and bending the knees. Lower your body as far as you can, hold the position and then rise.

4. Lunges

Lunges are ideal for cyclists who want to increase their on-bicycle strength. This workout exercises each muscle on your lower body, particularly the hamstrings, quads, and hips. In fact, lunges are ideal for individuals who plan on working out at home. In the gym, you can mix it up with things like walking lunges and weighted lunges. But make sure you keep the core straight with the head straight and lead with your chest while ensuring that the knees never go beyond your toes.

The exercise: you can start with three sets of ten reps with about 45 seconds of rest between the sets. Start by stepping forward from a standing position with your right leg. And then bend your left one until its knee is almost touching the ground. Finally, you can push yourself up using the right foot and repeat this procedure with your left foot.

5. Deadlifts

The deadlift is a unique exercise that activates your core, back, and leg muscles. Deadlift is a simple routine that will help increase your power and overall muscle strength while supporting the critical movements necessary to make you a fast and efficient cyclist. The deadlift is an ultimate compound movement that is considered one of the best strength exercises for cyclists.

The exercise: you can start with 4 sets of 8 reps with about a minute rest. Stand in front of the barbell and then squat and grip the barbell. Make sure your forearms can easily brush the outer part of your thighs. And then push your shoulders back and lift the weights until the barbell levels with your thighs. Hold the position for a while and lower the weight before repeating the same procedure.

Final Thoughts for Cyclist

Cycling is a fun activity with numerous health and mental benefits. And when done correctly, cycling can do more than help you stay fit. Cycling can help you lower your stress level. And the only way you can tackle long and tough terrains is by improving your strength with the above simple workouts. But make sure you don’t hit the gym immediately after you have finished cycling. You should allow yourself at least 6 hours between cycling and strength workouts.  

Use Jefit to Track Your Strength Workouts for Cycling

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. In addition, the app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and has a feature to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your fitness lifestyle.

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5 Most Often Selected Leg Exercises on the Jefit App

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Following a review of the Jefit app exercise database, the most often selected leg exercises, have been determined. With more than 1350 different exercises at their disposal, Jefit members picked the following leg exercises most often. The number at the end of each each exercise name is where each of the exercises ranked on our top 25 list, which can be seen below.

Most Often Selected Leg Exercises

  1. Barbell Deadlift (5)
  2. Barbell Squat (6)
  3. Lying Leg Curl (11)
  4. Barbell Lunge (20)
  5. Leg Extensions (25)

Let’s take a look at each of these five exercises. Three of the five are compound exercises, the deadlift, squat, and lunge. When you are short on time, compound exercises are ideal. This type of movement is obviously great under any training circumstance. Compound exercises incorporate a great deal of muscle mass while performing movement utilizing multiple joints. The other two, leg extension and leg curl, are not the most functional as we all know, but will always have a place in certain strength programs.

Top 5 Leg Exercises According to Jefit App Users

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Most Often Selected of All Leg Exercises is Barbell Deadlift

The deadlift is a great exercise for strengthening not only the legs but the hips and back muscles as well. A classic compound exercise, this multi-joint exercise made the top 5 most often selected exercises determined by users of the Jefit app. It also takes top honors for the most often selected leg exercise.

Barbell Squat

The barbell squat is another great, classic, compound movement that seems to always find its way into most strength training programs. Considered a truly functional strength exercise that will pack on muscle size in the lower body. Also ideal for developing overall strength and power. Anytime you can hold or carry a load on the back and shoulders, a by-product will be an improvement in core strength.

Lying Leg Curl

A single-joint exercise that will help develop posterior chain strength, specifically in the hamstring group. Not a very functional exercise. Most likely better off performing single-leg Romanian deadlifts instead, still, came in just outside of our top 10.

Barbell Lunge

Another great multi-joint exercise that many gym goers love. It is a perfect compliment exercise to any leg routine because of the demand the movement places on the hips and legs. The exercise is the twentieth most selected exercise in the entire Jefit exercise database and fourth best rated leg exercise.

Leg Extension

This is the final leg exercise and second single-joint exercise, with the leg curl, to make the Jefit list. Not one of the most functional exercises but a great exercise to superset legs with or to place in a machine circuit. Ideal for the bodybuilding community to utilize for their training programs. Also, like leg curl, it’s a safe exercise to perform for many people such as older gym goers or someone coming back from an injury.

Let us know if your favorite exercise made or didn’t make our top most often selected leg exercise list. Below is the complete list of top 25 exercises that are most often selected by Jefit members.

Jefit App Top 25 Most Often Selected Exercises

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Try The Jefit App

The award-winning Jefit app, was named best app for 2021 by PC Magazine and Men’s Health. It comes equipped with a customizable workout planner, training log, the ability to track data and share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s huge exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong and recover well using Jefit.

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Here Are The Most Often Selected Exercises For Jefit

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The award-winning Jefit app, was recently named best app for 2021 by Men’s Health, PC Magazine and others. The workout planning & tracking app includes a database of more than 1350 exercises. Of all the exercises featured on the app, Jefit members (more than 9 million), continue to choose three exercises more often than any others.

The most often selected Jefit exercises are:

1. Barbell Bench Press

2. Barbell Bicep Curl

3. Wide Grip Lat Pull-Down

Let’s take a look at each one of these. Two of the three are multi-joint exercises (bench press and lat pull-down) and none surprisingly work the lower body. Only two leg exercises actually made our top ten list. The most often used exercises, if you were interested, are barbell deadlift followed by barbell squat.

Most Often Used Jefit Exercise – Barbell Bench Press

No surprise here that bench press is the most often used Jefit exercise. It has always been a long time staple in bodybuilding, traditional and sport-specific workout programs. Considered an ideal exercise because it develops upper body strength and power. It also helps pack on upper body muscle mass while targeting multiple muscle groups. As a result, it’s probably one of the best multi-joint exercises you can do. Not to mention, it’s a fun exercise to perform and you can easily track your progress in the Jefit app via 1-RM. Finally, don’t you always feels like you get an efficient upper body workout after completing a handful of sets of bench press?

Muscle Groups Worked: Chest, Shoulders, Back & Arms

EMG Activity: See the following study published in the Journal Human Kinetics (2017).

Barbell Bicep Curl

A fan favorite of just about everyone. Dumbbell curls have there place but a barbell bicep curl is terrific for adding size to the biceps. An old favorite of mine is barbell bicep curl 21’s. Even though barbell biceps curl is a favorite of gym-goers who use Jefit, check out the research paper (below. The study looked at the differences in EMG activity when using a barbell and an EZ curl bar.

Muscle Group Worked: Arms

EMG Activity: Read this study on differences between tradition barbel curl and EZ bar

Wide Grip Lat Pull-Down

This wide grip lat pull-down is a great exercise to add to any program for overall back development. This is one of those exercises that can stress different aspects of the back and arms depending on hand placement. A wide grip recruits more of your back muscles and a close grip pulldown emphasizes the forearm muscles. Considered a great compound or multi-joint, upper-body strength movement, because it targets the back, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Depending on who you read, an over hand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width works best. Lean back slightly, pulling the bar down towards the chest, does a good job activating the biggest back muscle, the latissimus dorsi.

Muscle Groups Worked: Back & Arms

EMG Activity: See this paper that looked at muscle activity of three variations of lat pull-down. Here is a second paper published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2014) on various hand positions during lat pull-down.

Try adding one or all three of these exercises into your next strength training program that you build using the Jefit app and let us know how it goes.

Try Jefit App

The award-winning Jefit app, was named best app for 2021 by PC Magazine and Men’s Health. It comes equipped with a customizable workout planner, training log, the ability to track data and share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s huge exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong and recover well using Jefit.

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Exercise Review: Deadlift

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One of the best and most often used exercises is the deadlift. However, it’s also an exercise that many people perform incorrectly for a multitude of reasons. A good rule of thumb prior to lifting, is to address posterior chain mobility. This can be done by assessing back, hip and hamstring mobility. Try the following test, see if you can touch your fingertips to the bar prior to performing the deadlift. Attempt this by keeping the legs straight and not rounding your back. If you can, you’re in good shape.

Exercise Execution

Starting Position

  • Begin with the feet flat, positioning them somewhere between hip and shoulder-width apart. Feet should be pointed straight or angled out slight (10-15 degrees), depending on your choice and experience. Note: some movement expert like Dr. Kelly Starrett suggest positioning feet straight ahead while others say turn the feet out slightly. Moreover, doing this engages more of the glute muscles like the glute medius. The question arises, however, can you brace your body and create the torque needed by “screwing” the feet into the floor when the feet are turned out?
  • Next, squat down until the hips are lower than the shoulders grasping the bar with a closed, alternated grip (one overhand the other underhand). Other grip choices include double overhand and hook grips. Please note, if you have trouble getting into this position – you’re probably not ready to perform the movement due to hip or back mobility issues.
  • Position the Olympic bar about 1-inch away from the front of your shins.
  • Make sure you check off the following items regarding your body position. Your back is “flat”, relaxed neck & trapezius area, retract your shoulder blades, and position shoulders over the bar.

Upward Movement

  • Pull the bar from the floor by extending the knees and hips.
  • This is key – do not let the hips rise before the shoulders.
  • Keep the elbows extended and shoulders over the bar during the execution of the lift.
  • As the bar passes the knees push the hips forward.

Downward Movement Phase

  • To return the bar to the floor, think about sitting back first. Allow the hips and knees to flex as the bar returns to the floor.
  • Maintain a flat back keeping elbows extending, looking straight ahead.
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Deadlift Upward Movement: Pull Phase

Exercise Options

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift

Muscle Groups Involved During the “Compound Movement”

PRIME MOVERS (Hip Extensors)

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings

STABILIZERS

  • Quadriceps
  • Lower leg
  • Back
  • Core

REFERENCES

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2nd Edition, NSCA, Baechle T. R., Earle R.W. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL., 2000.

Becoming a Supple Leopard, Starrett K. and Cordoza G., Victory Belt Publishing: Las Vegas, NV., 2013.

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Six of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

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Look at any exercise book, website or app and you can find hundreds of different exercises. Those exercises can be performed hundreds of ways and those hundred can turn into thousands of different variations. The Jefit app, as an example, features more than 1300 different exercises. What are the best exercises to build strength though? Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The Deadlift is One of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

Overall strength is needed for activities of daily living and it’s obviously very important for any athletic activity or workout. The deadlift is a great exercise because its whats known as a compound exercise. Meaning, multiple muscle groups work concurrently. As a result, an increase in strength will occur in the core, legs, back, hips and grip – basically head to toe! The glutes and hamstrings are the prime movers during this exercise. An additional nine other muscles also get worked. The deadlift is great for improving hip extension strength.

TRAINER TIP: Use a Hex Bar, if possible, it’s a lot easier to use than a barbell when initially performing a deadlift.

Squat

The squat is always a main exercise feature in any strength program and for good reason. Squats are also great for a beginner level person compared to say a deadlift. Knee-dominant exercise, like the squat, target the quadriceps muscles. The glutes also come into play during the execution of the movement. In addition, like the deadlift, nine other muscle groups also get hit.

TRAINER TIP: Many strength coaches actually teach the front squat before back squat. It’s not about the amount of weight a person uses but rather using good technique and moving through a full range-of-motion. As a former assistant strength coach at UConn, we use to have all our athletes start fresh because so many coming in had bad habits. We gave each student-athlete a chronological training age of zero. Once they had proper technique down they then progressed to bigger and better things with the squat and other movements.

Pull-Up

This exercise can be very challenging for a novice but it’s a great way to build upper body strength. The pull-up uses an overhand grip compared to a chin-up, which has the palms facing towards the person. This is a great exercise to test your upper body “pulling” strength. They can tell someone a great deal about where they’re at training wise. Seven muscle groups get stronger doing this compound movement, including the latissimus dorsi, and biceps.

TRAINER TIP: If pull-ups are too difficult initially, try chin-ups first or do negative pull-ups. Try jumping up and let yourself return to the starting position in a slow controlled manner. Also, try either an inverted row or connect a giant band to try assisted pull-up using less of your body weight, as additional options.

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Overhead Military Press

Overhead Press

An efficient way to build shoulder, core and overall strength is by lifting weight overhead. Lifting a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell overhead builds strength in the shoulders, back, arms and core. Any vertical pressing movement also works different muscle that act as stabilizers from the foot up through the shoulder complex.

TRAINER TIP: Remember to move the head forward as you press the weight overhead. Also, keep areas of your body, like glutes and core braced (or tight) when performing the exercise.

Bent-Over Row

The Bent-over Row, using a barbell or dumbbells, is one of the best pulling exercises someone can do. It ranks near the top for exercises in terms of muscle recruitment. See this previously published article on the Jefit blog that discusses this topic more in depth. The exercise is perfect for any push/pull routine and is a nice compliment to a barbell or dumbbell chest press.

TRAINER TIP: Work first on performing scapular retraction before any pulling or rowing motion is attempted.

Bench Press

Saving the best for last, the bench press is a versatile exercise that can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells and kettlebells. It’s a great exercise to build upper body strength, especially in the chest, shoulder and arms. As a result, it’s a great compound or multi-joint exercise and a must in a strength training routine.

TRAINER TIP: Change it up every 4-6 weeks. Meaning, make your grip wider, more narrow, switch barbell to dumbbells, change the speed of the movement, adjust the incline on the bench, try a decline position, etc.

Adding any of these six exercises into your routines at any given time will help build strength in both the prime movers and smaller stabilizing muscle as well. These particular exercises are some of the best exercises to build strength. Good Luck and Stay Strong!

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The Science Behind the Best Back Exercises

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There are literally hundreds of different exercises to choose from when developing a Jefit strength training program. That number can easily increase to over a thousand when considering all the different exercise variations. The Jefit database, as an example, has more than 1,300 different exercises. Have you ever thought about what the best exercises are or what’s the perfect exercise to choose for a program? One way to choose the best exercise is from an EMG standpoint. In this particular case, we’re going to talk about the best back exercises. Some back exercises are much better than others in terms of muscle recruitment or activation.

Electromyography (EMG) Measurements

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. Usually performed in a research or rehabilitation setting, EMG records the movement of muscle. EMG is based on the premise when a muscle contracts, a burst of electric activity is generated. The higher the load, the higher the firing rate. Muscle contraction strength is related to the number of motor units in the muscle. Finally, here is a definition of EMG from John Hopkins Medicine. EMG “measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle.”

How do Muscles Move?

Movement actually begins in the brain, specifically with the motor cortex, where neural activity signals the spinal cord, and information about the movement is conveyed to the relevant muscle by way of motor neurons. We can fast forward a bit, a muscle then contracts and produces movement. As muscle fibers contract, they shorten, performing a concentric contraction. Conversely, when muscle fibers lengthen, an eccentric contraction is performed.

A question for you. Can you manage more weight doing a bicep curl when lifting the weight up (concentric contraction) or when lowering the weight (eccentric contraction)? The answer is, you’re stronger during the eccentric phase, where you can actually handle 1.75 times more weight! In addition, 3% more muscle hypertrophy is produced over time during the eccentric phase.

Best Back Exercises Based on this Criteria?

The largest muscle groups that make up the back include the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. There are other smaller muscle groups as well like the rhomboids. Exercise selection typically depends on what a persons goals are, experience level, and equipment availability. All things being equal, the following exercise list includes some of the best back exercises you can do based on EMG.

One study looked at the EMG activation of various muscle groups while doing Pull-ups and Chin-ups. EMG data showed the highest muscle involvement coming from the latissimus dorsi (117-130% range), and biceps brachii (78-96% range).

Other back exercises with a high EMG output were: Dumbbell Bent-Over Two-Arm Row (93%), One-Arm Dumbbell Row (91%), T-Bar Row (89%), Lat Pull-down (86%) and Seated Pulley Row (83%) rounded out the highest EMG activity. Other research on performing a lat pull-down to the sternum with a light lean back also worked well (101%).

There are other exercises, like the Squat and Deadlift that focus on hips and legs but also recruit many other muscle groups, like the back. Both are considered great total-body exercises but the back is used more as a stabilizer than a prime mover compared to a Bent-over Row or Pull-up.

You now have a few back exercises, ranked by science, that you can hopefully start to use more often in your Jefit workouts. Stay Strong!

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