The X factor — Cross Training in the Gym


In simple terms, cross-training is doing things other than riding a bike to train for cycling. The science, obviously, is far more complex. Without fussing too much with the why, let the Ride editors show you what and how.


Running is great for building aerobic capacity (VO2 max), muscular endurance and for staying lean and light. Body composition is key. Excess weight – be it muscle or fat – is a hindrance to cyclists. Running keeps this down to a minimum.
Improves Endurance and weight control.

Circuit training

Combining aerobic and strength work, circuit training covers all bases for a cyclist. Muscular strength and endurance exercises interspersed with short bursts of high intensity cardiovascular training (running, skipping, rowing, cycling) build everything a cyclist needs. And although circuit classes differ weekly depending on the instructor, this doesn’t matter. The variety means you never get bored and by varying the workouts you avoid bulking up, instead focusing on maintaining an effective power-to-weight ratio.
Improves Aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, lactic threshold.


Cyclists benefit from having good core strength and flexibility to help hold an aerodynamic position on the bike. Pilates is perfect for conditioning your body without piling on muscle mass and weight. Prolonged trunk flexion during cycling means the lower back gets hit hard if you don’t have core strength. Pilates strengthens your core and can offset injuries by helping to support your lower back.
Improves Core strength and injury prevention.


Because it’s not technically ‘cycling’ it can also be classed as cross training. Find out whether the instructor is a cyclist as this will have an impact on the type of class they run. If they ride, you’re likely to get a class that’s more like an indoor trainer session. Aim for an optimum cadence of around 85–95rpm and avoid sessions where slow cadence and high resistance or low resistance and high cadence feature, as this isn’t how you would normally ride. A spin class that is beneficial for cyclists should resemble going out for a ride.
Improves Cycling technique and pedal power.

Indoor rowing
Rowing requires fitness, strength and finesse and many of the muscle groups recruited translate directly to cycling.

“The rowing stroke is about 50% leg and hip drive, 30% trunk extension and only 20% arm and shoulder work. This means around 80% of the power is generated from the co-ordinated work of knees, hips and lower back,” says Jimmy Clark, rowing coach and exercise physiologist with the Institute for Sport Research at the University of Pretoria.

“There’s no doubt that ergometer rowing imposes sufficient stress to stimulate training adaptations if done regularly. Correctly performed it engages a large percentage of total muscle mass, elicits high physiological demands and expends significant energy,” he says.

Clark warns that not everyone masters the basic co-ordination of legs, truck and arms to row the ergometer effectively, which could limit potential benefits and/or increase risk of injury.

“It’s important for beginners to get some basic instruction on rowing form and posture. Also, don’t try to replicate the time for a cycling session on the ergo; the new stresses and strains will probably leave you stiff and sore,” says Clark.

As on the indoor trainer or spinning bike, there are many variables you can use to control your workout – the rowing machines in most gyms have time, intensity, stroke rate and power output options. Start by adding a basic interval session to your next workout: warm up for 5 minutes at low intensity at a stroke rate of 20–22, followed by 5 minutes at a higher intensity and increased stroke rate of 25–30. Cool down for 5 minutes at a low intensity and low stroke rate.
Improves Aerobic capacity, endurance, lactic threshold and core strength.

  • Dr_Zeek

    Kettle bells have proved over and over to assist all types of sport – in particular use to cyclists is that they strengthen those core muscles required for cycling.