Cycling is a balancing act, and not just a metaphorical one between weekly mileage, training plans, nutrition, rest, and everyday life. The physical act of riding is literally about balance, says Raj Hathiramani, certified running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City.
To avoid falling over, riders must keep their balance while in the saddle as they push the pedals. Improving your ability to maintain your balance as you ride will not only allow you to ride faster and longer, but it may also lower your chances of getting hurt.
That’s precisely why you need these stability exercises, which were chosen because they help those new to cycling and those fresh to strength training to build their balance with approachable, bodyweight moves.
Why Beginners Will Benefit from These Stability Exercises
A lack of stability as you ride will cause your body to work harder and naturally compensate by shifting weight to one side, often leading to injury as a result, Hathiramani explains. By working on your balance, you will be able to stay centered more easily and not overwork any particular side or muscle group, he adds.
Designed by Hathiramani, the following workout contains six stability exercises for beginners that will test your balance and bolster that joint stability you need for stronger rides. The series also serves as a full-body strength circuit that will light up your core, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and upper body.
Keep in mind that these moves will feel challenging and it’s okay to wobble—that’s the point. You want to challenge your stability so it continues to improve.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps indicated, resting 30 seconds between exercises. Complete 3 rounds, resting 1 minute between sets.
Each move is demonstrated by Hathiramani in the video above so you can learn the proper form. You will need an exercise mat.
1. 3-Way Toe Tap
Why it works: “The 3-way toe tap improves single-leg stability by strengthening your hips,” Hathiramani says. You’ll feel this balance drill all throughout your standing leg, from your glutes down to your calf.
How to do it: Stand with feet together and shift weight to left leg. This is your starting position. Maintaining an upright position, bend left knee and reach right foot forward to tap ground. Return to starting position and immediately bend left knee as you reach right foot to the side to tap the ground. Again, return to starting position, then, without pitching forward at the waist, reach right foot directly behind you and tap ground with toes. Return to starting position. Repeat sequence. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
2. Single-Leg Squat
Why it works: Hathiramani included the single-leg squat because “it develops strength, balance, and coordination while building knee health.” If you struggle to maintain balance, try holding onto the back of a chair or placing your hand on a wall. You can also tap your glutes to a chair or bench.
How to do it: Stand with feet together and shift weight to left leg. Bend right knee and lift right foot so that it’s hovering a few inches above ground. Keep back straight and chest up as you send hips down and back, bending left knee to lower into a squat. Go only as far as you can without breaking form or losing balance. Push through left foot to return to a single-leg balance. Repeat. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
Why it works: Thanks to a plyometric component, skater jumps develop explosive power while strengthening the glutes and quads. (Higher impact moves can be especially helpful to bolster cyclists’s bones.) The side-to-side motion also helps build stability in quick lateral movements, which comes in handy when you have to suddenly dodge an obstacle on the road. And it gets you moving in a new plane of motion.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, soft bend in knees, arms at sides. Jump laterally to the left, driving off right foot and landing on left foot in a quarter squat position. Right foot should follow behind left leg, and right toes should hover above ground or make light contact with ground to aid balance. Immediately repeat, pushing off left foot and landing on right foot. Continue alternating. Do 10 reps on each side.
4. Plank Shoulder Tap
How to do it: Start in high plank position with shoulders over wrists and core engaged. Body should form a straight line from head to heels. Keeping hips steady (widening the feet can help), tap right hand to left shoulder, then return to plank. Tap left hand to right shoulder, then return to plank. Continue alternating. Do 10 reps per side.
5. Side Plank With Leg Lift
Why it works: This side plank variation challenges your balance while engaging the obliques, hip abductors, and the gluteus medius, a tough-to-target stabilizing muscle located on the upper side of your butt.
How to do it: Place left forearm on the ground perpendicular to body, with legs extended and hips, knees, and feet stacked. Press forearm and bottom foot into ground, and raise hips so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Hold here. With obliques and glutes engaged, raise right foot slightly higher than top hip, then lower leg. Repeat leg lift, completing 10 reps. Switch sides and do 10 reps with left leg.
6. Dead Bug
How to do it: Lie faceup, both legs lifted, knees bent 90 degrees and held over hips. Lift arms so wrists are over shoulders and fingertips are pointing toward ceiling. This is the starting position. Straighten left leg and lower heel toward ground, while extending right arm overhead and toward ground. Keep core engaged and lower back pressed into ground. Return right arm and left leg to starting position, then repeat with right arm and left leg. Continue alternating, moving opposing arms and legs. Do 10 reps per side.
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