Most cyclists activate (and train) their quad muscles far more than their gluteal muscles.
The full stroke of the pedal consists of two movements – a push and a pull. The forward/push stroke (between the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock position) is where cyclists have most of their power – producing a strong forward momentum. The pull/back side of the stroke (between 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock) is normally considered as the ‘recovery’ half of the stroke but your hamstrings and your glutes will still engage here, especially if you are doing a seated climb. Therefore, one way to become a stronger and, as a result, faster rider is to strengthen your glute and hamstring muscles so that you can start relying on those too!
Strengthening your glutes and hamstrings will optimise your cycling performance and can easily be done:
- Because these muscles are especially engaged in a seated climb, incorporating seated climbs into your training will obviously strengthen these muscles. Slide back on your saddle and engage your glutes and hamstrings. They will grow stronger over time and add to the power output of your entire stroke.
- Lie on your back, knees bent, with your feet directly beneath your knees. With your shoulder blades and head on the floor, raise your bum to align with your thighs. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat four times.
Stronger hamstrings and glutes are less prone to injury, will help to stabilise your spine and protect you from lower back pain too. Keep an eye out on your saddle position too. If your saddle is too far back you will over use these muscles and if it is too high you will overextend them. Read our post, “Is your saddle position correct?” to check.
Not only should you focus on strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, but you should also spend some time stretching these potential problem areas.
- Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bring your foot up above you. If you can reach your foot, grab a hold of it . If you cannot reach your foot use a belt or a band or grab onto your calf muscle in this stretch. Pull your leg down towards your body. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat twice on each leg.
- Place your leg on a low table, ottoman, edge of your couch, chair, bar stool or kitchen counter. The more flexible you are, the higher surface you can choose. We have illustrated the stretch here on a low ottoman because it is also important for beginners to not over stretch those muscles. Stretch the hamstring and the glute – first with your foot pointing forward, then with your toes pointing out to the left and then to the right. This ensures a more complete stretch of the leg.
The importance of stretching your hamstrings and glutes cannot be emphasised enough. But, incurring injuries as a result of weak muscles is prevalent so prioritising exercises that strengthen these muscles will improve your experience, both on and off the bike.