Toolbox: With the Tour de France giving us its yearly dowsing of inspiration and awe, many of us head out on our rides thinking “How is it that they’re putting out such massive power? And How can I improve my power?” It’s fairly safe to say that we all know that we can “buy speed” via a stiffer, more aerodynamic frame, or a set of wheels with better bearings and flex properties. But we’re missing out on the one thing that makes the biggest difference: YOU!
Sprinters need a lot of power and need to climb sometimes
While we tend to love swinging our leg over the top tube and burying ourselves in our on-bike training programs, or our sadistic weekly “group rides” (it’s a cafe ride, right?…LOL), if you truly want to improve your on-bike abilities, we need to learn how to lock our rib cage and pelvis together and learn how to produce force from short impulses from our nervous system, while keeping a stiff spinal column.
With the positioning we need to hold on the bike, for many of us this is an incredibly hard challenge, as we are rounding our upper torso to get down to the bars, and when the time comes to stand up and either sprint or put the power down, we look like one of the dragons dancing in the streets on Chinese New Year. A great example of what we DON’T want to look like (yet most of us do) is how I look at 5:55 in my video “Ride your bike faster: Sitting properly for cycling”.
Instead, what we want, is what Brian Maldonado calls “The Trunk-Pelvic Roll” in his book Preferred Movement Patterns in Cycling. But in order to get to the point where we can even think about maintaining a good, solid trunk-pelvic roll, we need to first prime the system by opening up the thoracic spine (upper back), learn great breathing patterns, and teach you how to produce stiffness.
Sounds daunting, but it’s actually easy, straight forward, and shouldnt take you more than 15-20 minutes, 3-4 days a week.
1-Arm Deep Squat Breathing
This is by far my FAVORITE exercise to do before and after long rides in the saddle. I even enjoy it DURING the ride at rest stops, especially if we’ve been hammering on the flats for long periods of time.
This is a fantastic stretch- when done correctly. Take your time to get it right. As you can see the first time can be a little challenging to get into a good position. 2 sets of 5 DEEP breaths into your mid-back, letting your chest fall forward, and hips fall back, with each breath out.
Wall Spinal Stabilization
3 sets of 15 seconds in this position. Aim for the back to be flat against the wall, rounding the pelvis forward by drawing in the stomach a bit, so you can push the entire spine against the wall. If having your feet 4-6 inches away from the wall is too hard, take the feet a little further away. This is deceptively difficult!
This is one of my favorite things to teach, as once a rider “gets it”, we see huge leaps in their abilities on the bike, and in the weightroom! If you have prolapse, diastasis, hemorrhoids, or high blood pressure, this may not be a good exercise for you, and you should talk with your physical therapist or family doctor before starting this exercise.
2 sets of 30 quick, short jumps, 2 sets of 15 High jumps.
Jumping rope is one of the simplest, yet most overlooked exercises that can help anyone learn how to produce more power. But beware! Posture and having the ability to produce intraabdominal pressure properly are a must here!
For the quick jumps, we want to keep your chin up, ribs down, and have a very slight bend in your knees.
For the high jumps, we want to use only as little knees as needed, while getting those toes up, and extending your hips all the way through!
If you have knee, hips, or back pain, skip the jumps, and move on to our next exercise.
2-1-1-1 Tempo KB Deadlift
3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can fill up a Trader Joe’s reusable grocery bag with some heavy books (or if you want to focus on your nutrition, a fresh watermelon, Canteloup, and some 2 lb bags of rice!) and perform the movement holding the bag.
The TEMPO is what makes this move so beneficial, so be sure to do it properly. Be sure to keep your midsection braced using that shielded breath, and use your GLUTES and hamstrings to come up, as your feet push the floor away.
If you have back or hip pain, talk with your physical therapist before doing this exercise.
While there are far more exercises that we can and should do, these 6 are simple, easy to do with minimal to no equipment, but will help you move quickly towards better posture & breathing patterns, as well as help you light up your nervous system, to put more power to the pedals!
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