May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, February 1999

Nice quads. Now get some real muscles.

And While
You're At It ...
  • Concentrate on forcing your breath out, instead of drawing it in, when you're in a lung-crunching tuck. It creates a vacuum in your lungs that automatically pulls in ample oxygen.
  • No hills to train on? Often the flatlands have lots of wind, so find yourself a nice breezy stretch, click into a huge gear, and muscle your way straight into the gale.
  • Upgrade your wheels before anything else on your bike: If you can shave a half-pound of "rotating weight," you'll save yourself a bit of juice on long rides.
  • Relax your upper body on climbs: Energy used to clench handlebars and teeth is energy lost.

Most cyclists are all too aware of the significance of their quadriceps, those rippling muscles that drive the downstroke. Especially as they shed tights for shorts. But it's unwise to neglect some other, less noticeable muscle groups. "When you're working the quads, you really have to develop the opposite muscles on the back part of the leg," says Stephane Girard, a U.S. national cycling coach. "You'll pull a hamstring if it's too weak to support the stress being placed on it by the quads."

So as you gear up to actually get out and ride on a regular basis, pay heed to the calves, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and abdominals, of which the latter two help the quads on the downstroke. And though you may not suspect it, the muscles of the torso and arms provide an important counterforce to the pedaling stroke as you rock the handlebars when standing out of the saddle to drop your pals.

In the Gym

Rather than doing just one lower-body station, you'll be doing four: one each for the hamstrings and calves, and two that work both the glutes and quads. As for the upper body, along with Newton's single pushing exercise, you'll also do two pulling drills.

For the legs, you'll want to do hamstring curls and calf raises every weight session. To target the quads and glutes, do squats and lunges on one of your days and dead lifts and leg presses on the other.

For the upper body, one of the best pulling exercises is the seated cable row (shown). Combine it with lat pull-downs on one day, and match pull-ups and dumbbell rows on the other. Do three sets of 15 repetitions for everything except pull-ups (just do as many of those as you can each set).

On the Bike

To keep things interesting, Dave Scott suggests working hills into the days when you're performing lactate threshold blocks. Find a steady climb that will take at least two minutes to scale, one with a modest grade of maybe five percent. As you progress through the maintenance stage, work up to a 10-minute climb of the same grade.

A stationary bike will do if you're stuck indoors, but it's not ideal. Because the clunker at the gym has different geometry than the steed you ride, it forces you into a position that calls on the wrong set of muscles. It's better to shell out the $150 you'll need for a good stationary trainer — basically a stand for your back wheel. You can simulate hills by putting phone books under the front wheel. But for any indoor riding you do, cut your long day by a third, because your body tends to build up too much heat without the wind rushing by, causing your heart rate to skyrocket.

T H E   C R U X   M O V E

Seated Cable Row
Sit at a rowing station with your feet against the platform and knees slightly bent. Keeping your back straight and your head up, lean forward and grab the handle. Starting with straight arms, pull your torso upright and then draw the handle to your lower chest. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

Photograph by Doug Merriam

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