Is calisthenics good strength training for cyclists?
Discover how calisthenics can help you be a stronger, faster cyclist.
If you’re a cyclist, you don’t need us to tell you how important time on the bike is. Whether you ride a roadie or a MTB, your favourite activity is cycling. Your spare time is spend debating hardtail or full sus, and whether carbon forks are really worth it.
How much time do you think about strength training? Even though you know deep down that a bit of smart, cycling-focused strength work would make you stronger, faster and more powerful (and maybe sort out your bad back), you always push it to the bottom of the list.
What if we told you there was a way to do some pretty easy strength training, that wouldn’t leave you sore or take anything away from your time in the saddle? Let’s talk about the benefits of calisthenics style strength training for cyclists.
Should cyclists do strength training?
Well, yes. Cyclists should do some form of strength training, partly because it will undoubtably benefit their cycling and also because it’s an important part of a well-rounded fitness routine.
Strength raining doesn’t have to mean heavy barbell and bulging muscles. Strength training is anything that puts your body under a bit of extra resistance. Even bodyweight exercises like press ups and lunges are considered strength training.
5 benefits of strength training for cyclists
Power – a bit more muscle in all the right places means improved leg strength, muscular endurance, and powerful race finishes
Posture – strength training can help you correct poor posture (from cycling or desk work) and maintain a more powerful and pain free set up
Core strength – strategic strength work will build a strong core, giving you more strength in your lower back for hours in the saddle
Metabolism – keen to drop a bit of weight to get up those hills faster? Strength training boosts your metabolic rate
Correct imbalances – good strength training will iron out imbalances from left to right and back to front of your body
Is calisthenics good for cyclists?
Calisthenics is a type of strength training using your bodyweight against gravity so you build natural, movement-focused functional strength. Calisthenics uses very little equipment, so it’s easy to do at home or in the gym. It doesn’t build big, bodybuilder-style muscle mass. Instead, calisthenics develops a functional, athletic physique.
Because calisthenics uses your own bodyweight as resistance, it helps you learn to balance and co-ordinate your own body whilst moving in different directions. Compared to the static movements of weights machines or many barbell movements, calisthenics trains different planes of movement in one go.
Should cyclists do calisthenics exercises?
You already know deep down that you should be doing some kind of strength training to support your cycling. You just don’t want to add heavy, bulky muscles – or spend ages doing strength work when you could be out on the bike.
Calisthenics is quick, convenient, and won’t leave you hobbling in agony on sore muscles. It’s the perfect addition to your cycling programme.
Calisthenics vs weights for cyclists
Weight training using barbells, dumbbells, machines and functional equipment like kettlebells is a fantastic way to train – but we can see why it might not be your first choice. For one thing, you don’t necessarily want to get a gym membership (bikes cost enough already, right?) And you don’t want to be suffering from legs DOMS after a heavy squat session when you’ve got a 100m route to do tomorrow.
There’s nothing wrong with traditional weight training, but calisthenics is the more sensible choice for cyclists. It’s functional, it builds strength across movement patterns, and it can be done at home in short bursts.
5 best calisthenics exercises for cyclists
Your calisthenics programme needs to be short, effective, and specific so you target imbalances and build strength in the relevant muscles. Try these calisthenics exercises to give your cycling a boost.
Hindu push up
This moving push up works your triceps and shoulders (to build muscular endurance), strengthens your core, and gives the back of your body a good stretch at the same time.
Start in a downward dog yoga pose (upside down triangle).
Push your chest forward and lower down into a plank.
Lower your chest to the floor and keep moving your chest through and forward until you are in a small backbend.
Reverse the movement until you end up back in a downward dog.
Strengthening your triceps using calisthenics will turn this isolation movement into a full-body exercises that will teach your triceps to work with your shoulders, back and core.
Set up two parallettes about hip height (or use gymnastics rings if you have the technique).
With your hands on the bars or rings, body between and legs straight in front with feet on the floor, lower your body straight down.
Bend at the elbows and keep your arms close to your body rather than letting them wing out.
Dip your body as far as you can then press up through your arms to get back up.
Pull up or ring rows
Strengthening your back will improve your posture, reduce back ache, and help you build muscular endurance for longer rides.
Take hold of a pull up bar or rig with palms facing away from you.
Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your lats before you pull with your arms.
Once your back is engaged, bend at the elbows to pull your chest towards the bar.
If you can’t do pull ups, don’t stress. Do ring rows instead. Set up the gymnastics rings about hip height and get underneath them with your legs in front of you (feet on the floor). Pull the rings to row them into your ribs.
Crawls are a great way to get all four limbs working together with your core and spine, under a little bit of load from your own body.
Start in a tabletop position, hands under shoulders, knees under hips.
Lift your knees off the ground very slightly.
In this position, walk forward with left arm/right leg, then right arm/left leg for about 10-12 paces.
Repeat going backwards.
Forget crunches, the windmill is a great full-core exercise to build strength and stability across the entire core using a natural twisting movement.
Stand with feet wider than hip width, right foot slightly in front.
Hinge at your hips and push your left hip up and back as you aim to get your right hand towards your right foot.
Focus on keeping your chest turned towards the front rather than looking straight down.
If you can, hold your opposite arm out so it ends up pointing to the ceiling.
Repeat on the other side with left foot slightly in front and left hand travelling towards the left ankle.
We realise it can be tricky to know where to start with calisthenics when your heart is in a different support. Gravity Fitness is the leading source of quality, durable calisthenics equipment for home or gym. Check out our store for pull up bars, racks, gymnastics rings and parallettes – plus anything else you might need to help your cycling. Shop the store here.