Go on and picture a clock. Got it? That’s your full pedal stroke. Now split that clock in half. The right half—from 12 to 6—is your power phase, when you’re pushing down on your pedal. The left—from 6 to 12—is your recovery phase, when you’re returning to the top of that clock.

It’s common for us to hone in on the power phase, incorporating exercises into our routines that make it easier to push, push, push our way to greater speed and faster rides. But that recovery phase is just as important if you want to truly tap into your full potential.

“Taking advantage of the full pedal stroke builds an efficient spin so you’re getting greater power through the whole cycle,” says Frank Baptiste, certified strength and conditioning specialist and creator of FranklyFitness. “If you’re not working that recovery phase, you’re missing out on the potential power of your hamstrings and hip flexors, and also risking injury.”

To harness your total power, you first need to think about all the muscles called into action throughout a pedal stroke: The glutes kick things off, initiating the movement alongside the quadriceps, Baptiste says. As you move toward—and through—the bottom of the stroke, your calves, hip, and ankle flexors light up.

On the way back up, the front of your shin (your tibialis anterior) kicks into gear while your hamstrings help lift your heel up toward your hips. As you come up and over to return to start, those hip flexors turn on once more.

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With that quickie anatomy lesson out of the way, it’s time to build strength in each of those muscle groups. Baptiste designed this workout to target each phase of the pedal cycle, mimicking the angles and ranges of motion you move through while in the saddle. There’s also a sprinkling of core and upper body work, because we all know we could use a little extra help there when encountering climbs and obstacles en route.

How to do this workout: Perform each move according to the reps listed below. Recover for 60 seconds, then repeat the circuit for a total of 3 sets. Each exercise is demonstrated by Baptiste above and outlined below, so you can learn the proper form. You will need a chair, a mat, a set of dumbbells, and a mini band.

Whether you work it as a standalone routine or incorporate movements into other circuits you love, Baptiste recommends performing each exercise at least twice a week to really see results on your ride.

Join Bicycling All Access for more training tips and cycling-specific workouts!

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)

Great for: Building single-leg quad and glute strength for your power phase

How to do it: Start in a split stance with your rear foot elevated on a bench, chair, or your living room ottoman. (To add an extra challenge, hold a pair of dumbbells at your side.) Engage your core by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Lower your rear knee to just above the floor; return to start. Keep a slight forward lean throughout, grounding down through your standing foot and pushing the floor away as you stand. Repeat for 8 reps.

Renegade Row

Great for: Building upper body and core strength for climbing (mimicking the push-and-pull on handlebars while challenging rotary stability)

How to do it: Holding a pair of dumbbells, start in a strong high plank (draw the belly button in, squeeze glutes, pull shoulders down, lock arms and legs straight). Keeping your hips square to the ground, pull one dumbbell up toward your hip. Return to start. Repeat on the other side to complete 1 rep. Repeat for 6 reps total.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Great for: Building single-leg hamstring and glute strength for balance and power through all phases

How to do it: Start standing with feet hip-width apart; a dumbbell in each hand. With a slight bend in your left knee, lift the right foot off the floor. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips to bring your torso near-parallel to the floor while reaching the right leg back behind you. Lift the chest and use the hamstrings and glutes in your left leg to pull you back to standing. (Pro tip: point the toes of your rear foot down to help keep your hips square to the floor.) Repeat for 8 reps, then switch legs and complete another 8 reps.


Great for: Building core strength for all phases; improving endurance; protecting the back

How to do it: Start lying on your back in tabletop position (feet lifted with knees above hips and hands above shoulders). Draw the belly button in to flatten the back into the floor; bring the rib cage down toward the hips to engage your core. Keeping your core tight, extend your right leg and left arm until they hover just above the floor. Return to start and alternate sides to complete 1 rep. Perform 12 reps.

Single-Leg Hamstring Curl

Great for: Building single-leg hamstring and calf strength for the recovery phase

How to do it: Start lying on your back, arms at your sides and calves on top of a stability ball. Tuck your hips to flatten your back into the floor. Squeezing your glutes, lift your hips to create a straight line between your shoulders, hips, and feet. Balance on your right leg, then use the right heel to pull the ball toward your butt while keeping the hips lifted. Extend the right leg back to start. Repeat for 8 reps, then switch legs to complete another 8 reps.

Hip Flexion Drill

Great for: Strengthening hip flexors that lift the knee; ankle flexors; muscles on the front of our shin that help pull up on the pedals during the recovery phase

How to do it: Start lying on your back with a mini band looped around the tops of your feet; legs locked stiff. Drive the left heel into the ground and pull the toes of the right foot up toward your knee. Lift the right foot and bring your knee toward your hip as if you’re marching. Keep the toes pulled up and return to start. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps, then switch legs for another 15 to 20 reps.

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Samantha Lefave
Freelance Writer

Samantha Lefave is an experienced writer and editor covering fitness, health, and travel. She regularly interviews pro athletes, elite trainers, and nutrition experts at the top of their field; her work has appeared in Runner's World, Bicycling, Outside, Men's Health and Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and more.