How to strengthen your hamstrings
Boosting hamstring strength will prevent injury and increase your speed in the saddle, explains Simon Miles, director of podiatry at Move Clinics ( www.moveclinics.com )
It’s a common misconception that the hamstrings aren’t used much in cycling. They’re an integral part of the power-creating process and training them away from the saddle can boost your output when pedalling. On the flat, for instance, they fire at different points of the power phase – helping to extend the hip in the downstroke and flex the knee just before the upstroke. Challenging these muscles when off the bike – in isolation and in different planes – will strengthen them and make you a faster rider.
On the ball
Swiss ball hamstring curls isolate the hamstrings using an unstable platform. If I were to do just one hamstring exercise for cycling it would be this one. Lie on your back with your knees on the Swiss ball and arms flat on the floor by your sides. Raise your backside off the floor, forming a straight line from shoulders to feet. Now engage your abs and roll your feet towards you, bending the knees to 90 degrees before returning to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps.
Walk in dead legs
Straight-leg dead lifts are great strengthening drills that keep the knees in an extended position, which places the hamstrings under a stretch and mimics the cycling action at the start of the recovery phase. Hold a 5kg dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at the hips but keep your back and arms straight. Let the weights pull you forward. Stop when you feel a good stretch to the hamstrings, and then return to the upright position. Do six to eight reps.
Be a Hips-Chair
The hamstring hip lift is a versatile move that works the hamstrings and glutes. Lie on the floor with one foot on a chair; the leg should be straight and your bottom should be off the ground. Raise your hips off the ground by contracting your supported leg’s hamstring, then lower back down to the ground. Try keeping the supported leg straight, but if it feels a little uncomfortable behind the knee when lifting the hip, add a slight bend to it. O three sets of eight to 10 reps, both legs.
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