Around this time of year, a bunch of my clients will be a little more lax in their workout program. But they’ll assure me that they are getting tons of exercise because they are cycling, like, everywhere.
In many ways – I LOVE THIS.
I love this because it’s actually bonkers that our everyday lives are so sedentary that we need to carve out special allocated time to move our bodies. Could you imagine explaining a treadmill to a pioneer?
When we cycle to work or to generally #gsd, we are integrating movement into our daily lives in a way that is natural and useful. It’s good for us and the environment and saves us money and makes so much sense.
Here’s some other good news about cycling:
- It’s easier on the joints than running
- Many people find it much more enjoyable than other forms of exercise
- Like any other form of cardio, you are going to burn calories, get a rush of endorphins, release stress and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
- It’s great training for the lower body – particularly the quadriceps.
So what’s not to love!?!
Now for the not so great news. There’s a lot of reasons why cycling shouldn’t be your only exercise:
1.You are still basically sitting.
And, for most of us -the last thing we need to do is sit more.
Although it’s fantastic that we are getting blood to the legs by pedaling, we need to get up on our feet and get out of that position as much as possible.
2. It doesn’t help with bone health.
Many people choose to start cycling because they are getting to an age where they are starting to feel discomfort in the joints after a lot of impact exercise.
If that’s the case, you are getting to an age where you should be caring about bone health. Bone density is increased by weight bearing exercise so cycling doesn’t really help. Impact and strength training exercises will help with that. (see below!)
3.You probably aren’t burning many calories.
If weight loss is a goal for you, it’s about killing more calories than you consume.
As I’ve mentioned before, that’s really best managed by consuming fewer calories in the first place than trying to burn them off through exercise.
However, if you are looking for the most caloric bang for your buck (or your butt) than you have to consider that cycling for 30 mins will burn about half the calories as much as running for 30 mins as most of your weight is supported by the bike (assuming equal effort).
4. You aren’t getting a balanced workout.
You aren’t even really working the entire lower body. As you can see in this gif, the primary muscles used are the quadriceps and hamstrings.
And not even really hamstrings. The hamstrings help you pull the pedal back up to the top but unless you have clips, it will mostly be the quadriceps on the other side doing the work.
You’ll get the glutes a little bit when you push the pedal forward at the top of the clock but most of the resistance comes when you push down, which is all quadriceps.
Psst…If you want more glutes, that’s all about hip extension, so get your butt out of the seat and think of pushing right from the hip.
So do I want you to stop cycling?
There is no better way to get around. I just want you to supplement all your cycling with the following workout routine for maximum fitness and foxiness:
Save the Cyclist’s Workout to your phone or computer
Not only will it balance out the work you are doing on the bike, it will also make you a better and stronger cyclist so you can #gsd like a boss …. and be the only cyclist you know with a 6 pack.
Do 2-3 rounds of this circuit after cycling. Should take 10-15 mins.
The quintessential compound upper body movement will strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps. That way you can show off your sweet tricep while you are riding.
Rows work the opposing muscles to the pushups – your back and biceps. They are especially important for cyclists as we tend to hunch over the bars and this will balance out those muscles patterns so you aren’t a grotesque hunch back later on in life.
This is an impact exercise that will increase bone density, burn calories and isn’t especially quad dominant. If you don’t have a rope just mime one (but don’t forget about the little arm turns – you’ll eventually feel them in your biceps and triceps)
Notice how this movement is the opposite of all the hunched over sitting we do. Take these slow and focus on squeezing every muscle in the back body as you exhale into the movement.
This is to make up for the relative lack of glute work in our cycling. When the quads get too strong, they tend to take over all our lower body work, which will mean you will eventually end up with a flat bum, massive quads and creaky knees. No thanks.
This will train your transverse abdominus, which will keep your belly tight and help you avoid lower back pain – both on and off the bike.
Also make sure you stretch the following muscles as well.
Don’t forget to download a copy of the Cyclist’s Workout to your phone so you can get the most out of all your cycling activity.
Save the Cyclist’s Workout to your phone or computer
But remember – sometimes it not really about the workout at all:
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Awesome – I had no idea!
Thanks Oonagh! Loved this article 🙂 How would you say cycling outdoors differs from the benefits of spinning?
Glad you liked it, Ella! I actually think spinning is a great workout. It obviously won’t hit your upper body and core as much but it’s much better than road biking (for a workout) because:
– You will shift into different positions to target different parts of the lower body. You will do more standing work and ‘pull backs’ that will really target the glutes and because everyone is clipped in or in cages, you’ll hit the hamstrings as well.
– It’s a total calorie torcher because of the intensity due to the speed and resistance levels that you would never hit on a road bike.
I would still recommend everyone diversifies their movement but spin is a great part of a complete workout program for sure.