By default, cyclists spend most of their time in the sagittal plane, moving back and forth. With our eyes on the road or trail ahead, we forget that humans are also designed to travel rotationally (in the transverse plane) and sideways (in the frontal plane). Prefer only one direction and you can actually reduce your overall athletic performance and set yourself up for muscle imbalances, which can lead to injury-causing motion compensations.
Thankfully, strength training presents an opportunity to complement your movement patterns, which is why Samantha RothbergCSCS, a certified strength coach and triathlete, programmed the entire workout using lateral exercises.
The benefits of lateral exercises for cyclists
While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s critical for endurance athletes to train the frontal plane because it actually supports movement in the sagittal plane, reducing the risk of injury, says Rothberg. When you train in the frontal plane, you strengthen your lateral muscles, which prevents excessive lateral movement as you step forward. This training enforces proper alignment and allows for optimal performance.
Incorporating side-to-side movements into your strength routine can also improve coordination and agility in the frontal plane, which could save you from trips and falls. It can also help with balance, cornering and navigating terrain on your mountain bike.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise in a row in order for the number of reps and sets listed, resting up to 45 seconds between sets.
Each move is demonstrated by Rothberg in the video above so you can learn proper form. You will need a medium weight dumbbell or kettlebell; a stool, box or bench; and an exercise mat.
Why it works: This plyometric exercise helps build speed and power by strengthening your quads and glutes. Allow your back leg to touch the ground so your balance doesn’t become the limiting factor in this exercise, suggests Rothberg. As you get more advanced, you can eliminate backfoot touch and increase the amplitude of your stride to stabilize yourself even more.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms at sides. Hop sideways to the left, stepping off your right foot and landing on your left foot in a quarter squat. The right foot should follow the left leg and the toes of the right foot should lightly touch the ground to aid balance. Immediately repeat, pushing off your left foot and landing on your right foot. Continue alternating for a total of 20 repetitions. Perform 2 sets.
2. Lateral climb
Why it works: This exercise strengthens the lateral gluteal muscles, which can help prevent hip and knee misalignment and help you resist lateral forces as you move forward, Rothberg says. Focus on isolating the top leg without pulling the bottom leg off the floor. That’s just for the ride, he adds.
How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a small bench, box or stool, right side closest to the bench, and place right foot on top of it. Push through your right foot to straighten both legs and allow your left foot to hover above the ground. Bend your right knee to lower your back and place your left foot on the floor. Repeat for 10 reps, then switch sides. Perform 3 sets.
3. Side plank
Why it works: The side plank is a great core exercise because it targets one oblique at a time. The obliques are on the side, so again, we’re working on strengthening the lateral muscles to prevent unwanted lateral movement, Rothberg says. A strong core facilitates efficient energy transfer from the lower to the upper body.
How to do it: Start sideways with left forearm on the ground, forming a straight line from head to toe, feet stacked on top of each other. (Cross your upper leg over your lower leg if you’re having trouble keeping your balance or experiencing back pain.) Make sure your left elbow is directly under your shoulder, and place your right hand behind your head. Lift your hips as high as you can, extend your right arm towards the sky and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform 3 sets.
4. Side lunge
Why it works: Like the lateral step-up, the lateral lunge strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, especially the gluteus medius. The side lunge also provides the inner thigh muscles with a dynamic stretch.
How to do it: Stand with your feet together and use both hands to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest. Take a big step to the left and, keeping your back flat and chest up, push your hips back as you bend your left knee into a side lunge. Push through the left foot to stand up. Repeat for 10 reps, then switch sides. Perform 3 sets.
5. They carry single arm farmers
Why it works: Even if you’re moving forward, holding a heavy weight to one side forces you to stabilize through your core to avoid excessive leaning one way or another, Rothberg says.
How to do it: Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand, stand with shoulders back, chin parallel to the floor, and arms straight out to the sides. Engage your core and relax your traps (that is, don’t shrug your shoulders) as you slowly walk forward, being careful to keep your shoulders even and not leaning to one side. Walk for 30 seconds, then repeat while holding the weight in your left hand. Perform 3 sets.
6. Side binding
Why it works: This exercise encourages you to generate force as you push yourself in the frontal plane, Rothberg says. Bounds, in general, are beneficial plyometric exercises, and performing them in the frontal plane further strengthens the lateral musculature.
How to do it: Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders down and back, arms at sides. Shift your weight onto your left leg and lift your right knee to hip height. Push off your left foot and jump to your right, landing on both feet. Pause, then lift your left knee and jump to your left, landing on both feet. Continue alternating for a total of 10 repetitions. Perform 2 sets.
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