7 Exercises for Better Cycling (with Amazing Legs)

Improving your weight to power ratio makes all the difference on a bike. So we have two options—it’s either we drop the weight, build additional muscles or both. However, the trick is to not do one at the expense of the other.

What makes cycling unique is it matters where you are building your power. For cycling, most of our focus will be on the legs (one for the back). The upper body does have an impact (a negative one)—bigger is not better here. 

If you’ve ever seen a barrel-chested powerlifter climb hills, you’ll know what I mean.

So our training is going to narrow in on how to create incredibly lean yet powerful legs.

In terms of training, there’s going to be a focus on heavyweight, lower but varying reps, and progressive overload from one training event to the next. So be ready to meticulously record every rep and every weight that you complete, and let’s get started!

What is the Ideal Height and Weight for Cyclist?

In looking through a study published by the Pro Cycling Stats group the average professional racer was 1.8m in height and weighed 68.5kg.  The general rule of thumb that gets passed by trainers is that a cyclist “should be” 106 lbs up to the first 5 feet, and 6lbs for every inch thereafter.  For example, a rider who is 6’ should be less than (106 + 12 * 6) = 178 lbs. Assuming good muscle density, this is an effective height/weight range to shoot for.  

How Do You Measure Power on a Bike?

Power is measured in Watts.  Which is a measure of energy expenditure (Joule per second) that move the bike.  This article isn’t meant to get overly complex but Watt/hr will be our success measure.  If you successfully complete this training method (and starting at an intermediate level), I’d expect your Watts/hr to increase 25-35% after the first two months. 

Most Effective Training for Bike Power (Watts)   

Each of the exercises should be performed with 72 hour spacing at the beginning and then reduced to a Monday and Friday split.  All exercises should be performed in each workout and should follow the exact sequences that I laid out below. For the exercises where the specific execution/technique is most important I linked to great videos that will carefully explain the full range of motions.

All muscles react to stress.  And biking will stress your legs more than any other sport.  If you doubt that please take a look at Monsieur Poljanski legs after the 16th day on the Tour de France.  

I don’t expect to get you tour-ready, but I do expect to get you a better workout than you would on a longboard, and at least get you on a path to building an better power to weight ratio.  I’ve personally experienced a 37% increase in wattage over a 3 month period following this exact workout.

  1. Heavy Deadlifts: strengthens lower back and hamstrings

Sets/Reps: 5 sets, 5 reps

Goal: lift 2x your body weight for 5 reps

2. Squats: great for thicker bones, and quadricep formation 

Sets/Reps: 3 sets, 7 reps

Goal: lift 1.5x your body weight for 7 reps

3. Box Jumps: used for explosiveness

  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets, 10 reps
  • Goal: complete 10 reps in 20 seconds

4. Lunge: correct imbalances

  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets, 10 reps, all 4 directions each set (front, back, left, right)
  • Goal: complete all sets

5. Weighted Step Ups

  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets, 10 reps.  Use dumbells that equal 15% of body weight 
  • Goal: complete all sets

6. Leg Presses

  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets (to feel: first set good burn, second to failure, 3rd reduce weight go to failure)
  • Goal: complete the above

7. Pull Ups (or pull downs)

  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets (to feel: first set good burn, second to failure, 3rd reduce weight go to failure)
  • Goal: complete the above

The Science Behind Leg Training for Bikes

In the photos below you will see great definition in quad, hamstring, and calf.  The reason to start with the deadlift is that it is the most complex, taxing exercise of the 7. The lower back and the hinge flex will tax your neurological system.  

We’ll quickly move over to the squat so that it will counterbalance the demands just put on the hamstrings, and load the quads.  

The next progression of the workout is designed to hit explosive movements (box jumps) both for the stretch and strengthening of tendons.  Lunges, at a quick tempo, will also help with tendon flexibility and strength but also take us into the portion of the routine that focuses on the smaller balance muscles.

It is critical that the power movements of deadlift and squat get coupled with tendon strengthening and balance muscles.  It’s not until each of these 3 areas have the same relative strength that you will see consistent gains in the shape and strength of your core muscles.

The purpose of the leg press towards the end is to exhaust your complete leg but still have the safety that the press offers. 

If you were to fail during a partial rep, it is much easier to get out from under the weight than if you were doing a complex movement.  Make sure you are hitting a 9 or 10 on the intensity scale on these sets.  

The back work will help you pull back on the handlebars to create the torque required to climb quickly. 

You will want to focus on your lats and take the movement very slow both up and down. Make sure you are squeezing your elbows into your side and pausing at the bottom of the movement. 

On the final set, go to complete failure, and try to get one more rep. 


This workout routine will tax your full body.  Make sure that you are dynamically stretching prior to the first set. 

Keep moving quickly through the movements but don’t go so fast that you are compromising your form or max weights.  In order for this routine to be successful, you must add weight at least 1x per week.  

In the beginning, you should be adding each workout. If you are also logging more than 50 miles/week on the bike, you will want to alternate weight days with bike days. 

I would also recommend that your bike routine focus on the lower intensity, longer duration training patterns. Leave the intensity for the weightroom, this routine will take everything that you have!

At week 3, you will see a difference in your leg shape.  You will become addicted to pushing the routine, but stay consistent and don’t overdo it. 

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