Spending countless hours in the saddle is no longer enough for pro cyclists to win stages or, better yet, get invited to represent their team at prestigious events, like the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. Fact is, what these elite athletes do indoors is just as important as what they do outdoors. And the same holds true for you.
To get in the best biking shape for spring, do these five exercises from the top riders on the new men's team, Cannondale Pro Cycling.
Cyclist Says: “Sprinters generally have more muscles—just put sprinter Andre Greipel next to Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador and you'll immediately see the difference,” says Peter Sagan, nicknamed the “Tourminator” for his killer performance at the Tour de France last year. The all-around rider, who also excels at sprinting (making him a perfect mix of Contador and Greipel), took home the green jersey at the 2012 Tour and will return this summer to defend his title.
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Sagan's crunches: Forget modern-day abs machines. Sagan prefers good old crunches right on the floor. Lie on your back and clasp your arms behind your head. Slowly curl your torso toward your knees, bringing your shoulders four to six inches off the ground (don't sit up). Hold for a few seconds, pressing your lower back into the mat. Return to start. Do 200 to 300 crunches every other day.
Cyclist Says: “Preparing your legs in the gym is so important—it makes the biggest difference on the bike,” says Ivan Basso, the two-time winner of the Giro d' Italia who is best known for his long distance climbing. “I'm a big fan of TRX for total body training, but when I'm just focusing on my legs, I do leg curls to strengthen the back.”
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Basso's leg curls: Lie face down on an angled leg curl machine after you've adjusted it to your height and preferred weight resistance (Basso works at 60 to 70% of his maximum). Place your legs (a few inches below the calves) beneath the padded lever. Grab the side handles of the machine, and as you exhale, curl your legs up as far as possible without losing contact with the lever. Hold for one second, then lower down as you inhale. Repeat for three sets of 20.
Cyclist Says: “My weakest point is my back because I broke it two years ago when I crashed in a human-powered plane from 50 feet up,” says climber Nariyuki Masuda, who just joined his first European team from UCI's Asia Tour.
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Masuda's deadlift: Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar (Masuda uses a 20 kg, or 44-pounder) using an overhand grip. Slightly arch your lower back while keeping your arms straight. Without allowing your lower back to round, stand up very slowly with the bar. Hold for a second, then lower the bar, again slowly (using a controlled motion), to the floor. Do three sets of 20.
Cyclist Says: “Strength training, especially in the early season, helps rebuild muscle without bulking up too much,” says long-distance rider Ted King, the only American on a largely Italian team. “Rather than move statically or linearly using gym machines, I prefer a dynamic workout with free weights,” he adds.
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King's reverse lunge: Grab a set of dumbbells that are about 10 to 15% of your body weight. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, step backward with your left leg into a reverse lunge (creates less stress on the knee than the standard forward lunge). Be sure to keep your back straight and shoulders level the whole time. Come back up and repeat. Perform three sets of 20 with each leg.
Cyclist Says: “The agility ladder is a great combo of cardio and strength training,” says sprinter Guillaume Boivin, who likely picked up this speed and coordination drill while training on the ice for his first love, hockey, growing up in Canada.
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Boivin's ladder moves: Using resistance bands wrapped around your ankles, shuffle from side-to-side through the ladder for 20 minutes. Or if you have access to a Jacobs Ladder—an angled, self-paced, ladder-like piece of equipment—at your gym, climb up and down (that's one rep) for 100 reps.