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The Best Upper Body Strength Exercises for Cyclists

Cyclists have a reputation for not being very strong in the upper body, and it is probably a well earned reputation. However, strength training involving your upper body can have a really positive effect on your positioning on the bike, your control and of course your ability to generate power from your legs.

There seems to be concern about gaining weight / muscle from engaging in strength training for cycling which is predominantly an endurance based sport. But while you may indeed gain weight (lucky you), the likelihood is actually much smaller in an athlete that is engaged in endurance training. In fact, it is possible to gain very useful levels of functional strength without gaining any weight at all. Not all changes in strength are associated with muscle growth (hypertrophy), there are many other neural and physiological changes that can allow for increased strength performance without hypertrophy.

The key point with why you should train your upper body is that this is how we connect the rest of our body to the bike and thus harness and control the power of our engine (our legs turning around at 60-90rpm). There's no point in pushing out massive power in your legs if you are unable to control the bike at the same time. As an analogy think about putting a massively powerful V8 engine inside a mini, it's not going to be able to work to it's full potential.

Time is also a valid concern as this is another training session to add on top of your weekly schedule. In most cases the best thing to do is to 'piggy-back' it onto an existing session. So for example, I currently do my upper body strength work directly after my Monday night turbo session - i'm already warmed up and ready to go and it only adds on 10-15 mins. I dare say I'd recommend doing this over 15 mins of stretching!!

To give you some ideas, here is a video I recorded with former professional cyclists Conor Dunne for the Global Cycling Network Training channel.

So now you can follow along with this simple training routine to build some upper body strength to complement your cycling.

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