The Almighty Push Up
Behold the almighty push up! Push ups are a convenient way to work important, yet often neglected muscles that are used while cycling. “So, what makes push ups so special?” I hear you ask. Well, they are the all-in-one exercise that can be done anywhere without any equipment. Many cyclists focus on gym work in the off season, but as the season heats up- this supplemental work often gets put on the back burner. Between traveling to races, recovering, tapering, and intervals, many struggle to find the time and energy to fit in gym work. However, it is still important that you do some sort of supplemental work off the bike. Simply fitting in a 30 minute “home workout” once or twice a week during the season can help to maintain the strength gains made in the off season and prevent injury. Upper body strengthening is just as important as lower body strengthening for cyclists. It might not give you any extra watts, but it helps you to handle your bike, and prevent injury in case of a crash. Pushups are the ideal upper body workout to do at home because they work so many muscles all at once, and yet can be done at home.
Push ups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps, all of which stabilize you while riding. If you hit a pothole or you are railing corners on a technical descent, it’s these muscles that will aid in keeping you upright and handling the bike. Push ups also work your core muscles, which help you to generate power and maintain good posture. They also place load on the joints and bones that make up your shoulder girdle, which will help to prevent injury in the event of a fall.
Another great thing about push ups are the many variations that you can add to make them more challenging. Here a two of my favorite push up variations:
Push up + Renegade Row: Start in push up position with two dumbbells in your hands. Then do a push up, upon returning to the start position, pull your right arm back to lift the dumbbell to your chest. Then repeat with the other arm. That’s one rep. Try to keep your hips from rotating as this will force you to engage your core muscles.
This is a great exercise because it also will work your back muscles giving you a truly all-in-one upper body workout. Start with lighter weight and gradually increase to make more challenging.
Medicine Ball Push up: Start in push up position with a medicine ball under one hand. Then do a push up. Then, move the medicine ball over to the other arm and do another push up. Repeat. Try to keep your trunk as still as possible.
This exercise is also a very challenging core workout. The unstable surface of the medicine ball also forces your upper body muscles to work harder. Keeping the trunk still and parallel to the ground is key here. Start with a light weight (8-10 lbs) and gradually progress as you improve.