Boost Your Max Power on the Bike With These Leg Exercises
These leg workouts for cyclists offer strength, stability, and a smooth pedal stroke.
When it comes to pushing those pedals with power, you need strong legs. And to get ’em, you need these best cycling leg workouts that show you how to effectively build up your lower half. These resistance leg exercises help you maintain essential lean muscle and improve both your leg strength and pedal efficiency, so you can do more work with less effort, improve your endurance, and ride with both power and speed.
The following are the best leg exercises and workouts for cyclists to start doing STAT. Each move targets at least one of your major lower-body muscles from every angle. Make sure to choose a few single-leg moves for your mix to build balanced strength.
How to use this list of leg exercises
Select 5 to 6 exercises below to create a circuit. Complete the reps as prescribed below, then repeat the circuit for a total of 3 to 4 rounds. Rotate through these leg exercises to keep your muscles guessing and prevent boredom or burnout. Do these workouts 2 or 3 days per week. Each move is demonstrated by Meghan Hayden, a certified personal trainer and master trainer for Technogym, so you can master the proper form.
Tips for maximizing the benefits of cycling leg workouts
- Lift to momentary fatigue—the point at which you can’t perform another rep with proper form.
- Start exercises shown with dumbbells with just your body weight first to perfect your form. Then add weights and slowly progress.
- Some days, go heavy enough that you can only eke out 6 to 8 reps. Other days, lighten up and perform higher reps (12 to 15) to fatigue. For jumps, go by feel.
- Plan your strength sessions on the same days as interval workouts or hard rides. Yes, that makes those hard days even harder—but it allows for proper rest and recovery on easy days.
- Lift seasonally. Carve out a 12- to 16-week period during which to build strength, and transition into an easy maintenance phase after that with workouts once or twice a week. Skip the weights during taper weeks if you’re training to race.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulders, with core tight. Send hips down and back and bend knees to lower into a squat. Go until thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Push through feet to stand back up. Repeat.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with a kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, keeping back flat. Grab kettlebell with both hands, and set shoulders down and back. Keeping back flat drag the kettlebell back between legs. Then, drive feet into ground, engage glutes, and extend hips to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Allow the ‘bell to swing back down between legs, returning to a hinge position. Make sure to hinge like a deadlift (it’s not a squat). Repeat.
Hold a kettlebell by the handle in left hand. Stand on right leg. Keeping that knee slightly bent, hinge at the hip, extending left leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering the kettlebell until you are parallel to the ground. Drive through right foot to stand back up. Repeat for a full set. Then switch sides.
Stand facing a 12- to 18-inch box or step. Squat down, then explosively jump up, swinging arms forward for momentum. Land firmly on the box with knees soft to absorb the impact. Step back down and repeat.
Step-Up With Kick Back
Hold a dumbbell in each hand down by sides and stand facing a foot-tall bench or high step. Step onto the bench with left foot. At the top of the move, contract glutes and extend right leg behind you, keeping knee straight. Keeping left foot on the bench, bring right leg back down, then lower back to the floor. Repeat, completing a full set with one leg. Then switch sides.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward. Take a giant step diagonally backward with right leg, crossing behind the left. Keeping back straight, bend knees and lower toward the floor until right leg is bent 90 degrees. Push through feet to stand back up. Repeat on the other leg. Continue alternating.
Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat. Cross right ankle over left knee. Push into left foot and lift hips into the air so body forms a straight line from shoulders to bent knee. Lower hips back down. Repeat for a full set, then switch sides.
Stand with right leg forward and left leg behind you. Bend right knee and lower left knee toward the floor, so you’re in a lunge position. Quickly and powerfully jump up and switch legs in the air, landing with the opposite leg forward and back down in a lunge. When the back knee grazes the ground, jump again. Continue alternating.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell or dumbbells in front of thighs, arms extended and palms facing you. Bend knees slightly. Keeping back flat, slowly hinge at hips by sending butt straight back to lower the weight as far as comfortably possible. Pause and engage glutes to stand back up. Repeat.
Note: This is an advanced move, so start with lighter weight to get the form down first. Be sure not to use your back to lift, but rather your legs.
Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand down by sides. Take a step back with right leg, bending the left knee so that the left thigh is parallel to the floor, and the right knee just hovering off the floor. Press into the left foot and bring right leg back up and forward, immediately swinging it in front of you and into a forward lunge. Bend right knee, so right thigh is parallel to the floor, and allow the left knee to just hover off the floor. Continue alternating front and back for a full set. Then switch legs.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Lie faceup with legs extended and heels on a stability ball. Engage abs, back, and glutes and press into heels, lifting hips off the floor so body forms a straight line from heels to shoulders. Bend knees and pull the ball toward butt, so feet are flat on the ball. Pause, then straighten legs again. Repeat.
Step-Up With Leg Lift
Hold dumbbells at sides (or put hands on hips if doing it without weight). Stand to the right of a box or step with right leg bent and foot planted on the box. Straighten the bent leg, driving foot into box to stand up. At the top, lift the left leg out to the side as high as comfortably possible. Lower left leg back down, then step back off the box. Complete a set. Then switch sides.
Start standing. Squat down and place both hands on the floor. Shift weight to hands and jump both feet back behind you so that you are in a high plank position. Lower belly and chest to floor. Place hands on floor next to chest and jump legs back in and under you to return to a deep squat. Jump up reaching for the ceiling. Repeat.
Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Beginners should do this next to a wall in case it’s necessary to reach out for balance. Pull shoulders back and keep back straight. Extend right leg and arms out in front of you or hold a weight at chest for a counter balance. Slowly send hips down and back and bend left knee to squat toward the floor, keeping foot grounded. Get as low into the squat as possible without losing balance. Drive back up slowly. Exhale as you rise. Repeat on other side.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand down by sides, with back facing a standard bench or box. Reach right foot back and place the top of the foot on the box. Bend left leg to lower right knee down toward the floor. When the left thigh is parallel to the floor, push through left foot to stand back up. Repeat for a full set. Then switch sides.
Single-Leg Hip Abduction
Place a resistance band around ankles. Lower into a squat with feet about hip-width apart. This is your starting position. Keeping torso steady, step one foot out to the side. Return to starting position. Step other foot out to the side. Continue alternating.
Try This Partner Workout With Your Gym Buddy
Free At-Home Workouts for Better Rides
Upper-Body Dumbbell Workout
How to Build Glutes as a Cyclist