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22/06/2011 // INFO Leave a comment

Build leg power – with PT Instructor Craig


PT Instructor Craig Bothwell

Hi again readers. Welcome to (late) June’s exercise instalment!

Following on from the last month’s tips on training with Spin classes in mind and how to get that extra ‘oomph’ from your performance, I want to show you further how you can create more power from your body and get that next level speed, or distance covered target.

With more and more events coming in to play now the summer is here, there will be more and more of you who wish to take part in long cycle events or races. Going across large land masses such as this, require a multitude of incline adjustments and being able to sustain that increase in need for extra output. We’ll look at how to train indoors for such occasions by building our leg strength with weight training and body weight techniques.

How can I build more power in my legs?

From the principle that you will need to be able to perform explosively and then follow that with more endurance focused output, it would be best to look at performing exercises with high sets and high reps mixed with more ‘Plyometric’ elements which we touched on last month.

Hack Squats

Start with 10 sets of ‘Hack Squats’, doing 12 reps.

A Hack Squat is like a normal squat but where you would normally carry a barbell on the back of the shoulders below the neck, here you take the weight on the front of the shoulders. This de-stabilises you slightly and forces you to work harder at driving your thrust through the heel in the correct manner.

The benefit here is that the work is focused more on the Quads which will encourage them to grow stronger. Make sure you don’t choose a bar weight that is too advanced as the massive amount of sets will be a huge challenge in their own right. Depending on gender and build, you may want to start with as little as 10kg and work up to a more taxing 60kg plus.

Box Jump

Super set these with a ‘Plyometric’ movement such as a ‘Box Jump’. Much like the ‘Squat Jumps’ mentioned last month; these will develop explosive power from the thighs, but the difference with these is that you jump once, balance and then return to re-perform as opposed to the more ‘spring loaded’ constant that is Squat Jumps.

For these you will need a platform about 16-18 inches off the floor. Your gym may have a ‘Box’ anyway but you can create one with a ‘Step’ and 4-6 ‘Risers’ either side.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in front of the box and using your arms to propel you, simply jump on to the platform you have created. You’ll land with your legs bent and it’s here that your balance and strength will come in to play. Don’t straighten up, but ‘hop’ back down and re-create that move.

It doesn’t sound particularly difficult, but after 10 or 12 you will find that your legs will tire. Bear in mind also that you will be doing these for a set of 10 with the Hack Squats.

Limited recovery time

Last thing to aim for here is a limited ‘recovery’ time. This is the rest you take between each set. After the Hack Squat you should move straight in to the Box Jumps and following that you should limit yourself to a strict 1 minute’s rest.

To advance your progress here, reduce the recovery time by 5 seconds every couple of weeks or so.

Walking lunges

Not forgetting the Hamstrings, I would recommend doing some walking lunges to build leg strength as well. As they are a functional movement which works in a similar range as cycling – they are a practical option for training, targeting both balance and co-ordination.

To begin, find a stretch of flat, even ground to work on that will be between 3 and 5 meters in length. For advance athletes, consider a longer stretch or break the length down in to smaller ones for each ‘set’, that you will have to return on possibly several times.

Face forward with your feet parted by 6 inches or so. You will need to maintain this space throughout the exercise generally to keep your balance. Begin with your ‘leading’ foot (usually the one on the side of the body that your hand writes with).

Take a bold stride forward so that your legs form a nice ‘A’ shape. Follow through the stride by bending your front knee and lowering your back knee to the floor. Your hips should act like a fishing float in the water, only bobbing up and down, letting the legs do the work.

Place your body weight on your front foot and spring off your back so that you then stride forward with your back foot, repeating what you have done on the other side.

Make sure that your back knee gets close to the floor without touching it and that your front knee does not cross the threshold of your front foot to guide you through your form.

A good tip is to keep your head high and look straight forward. Watching your feet can de-stabilise you quickly. Have confidence in the fact you are essentially striding with exaggeration.

Do 4 lengths of 10 strides to begin.

When you are more confident and stronger, you can increase this or carry dumbbell weights in your hands to increase your ‘load’. Those with powerful legs will most likely wish to progress to this early, where as those who don’t want to build too much muscle may opt for more distance/reps without weights.

Leg curl machine

To completely isolate out the Hamstrings, work with a leg curl machine in the gym. Failing the existence of one of those, you can attach ankle straps to a cable pulley and leg curl from here. You may need an instructor to guide you through this method and to ensure that you have the right equipment etc. Ask your gym for advice here.

Do 6 sets of 15 reps with a medium weight.

Lateral Box Springs

Super set these with more explosive movements (Plyometrics) such as ‘Lateral Box Springs. Keeping the platform you have acquired from before, place your hands on the edge of the frame and start by jumping from left to right and back for 30 seconds. Keep moving without resting between reps so that you’re thoroughly tired by the time 30 seconds is up. Increase to 45 seconds and then a minute when you become more proficient.

Apart from getting your heart rate nice and high, you’ll have stimulated your ‘Fast Twitch’ muscle fibres (mentioned in the last article) which will help give you that extra quick response when you want to really give it some Welly.

When engaging the lower body in increased exertion in this way, you will find that the supporting muscles will want to play their part as well, such as the lower abdomen. Back up your leg workouts with some core exercises. Try doing ‘Bicycles’ (no irony here) as well as some ‘Leg Raises’ and ‘Jack Knifes’.


Bicycles are performed by bringing one leg up towards your chest and meeting the knee with the elbow of the opposing arm. So in fact you are doing a crunch with one side and reverse crunch with the other.

Start by lying on your back. Put both hands either side of your head, nearest your temples. With both legs straight out in front of you, raise them two inches off the floor. To move in to position, crunch and then turn your right side towards your left so that your right elbow points across your body and your left elbow is directed far left away from your body.

At the same time as this bring your left knee up to your chest. Your right elbow and left knee may not quite meet, but get them to ‘greet’ one another as best you can. Then return your left leg to its straightened position (not resting on the ground, but still levitated) and bring your left elbow forward returning your right elbow to its original wide position.

Continue moving your left elbow forward whilst bringing your right knee up to meet it. Keep this exchange going for 20-40 reps, 4-6 times.

That’s all for this month guys. I wish you the best for the month ahead and hope that you all stay safe off road and on.

Please do feel free to contact me for any further information regarding your training at

Best wishes,


See also

Wearing a short skirt whilst cycling deemed a distraction

Great Hill Climbs of London: Highgate West Hill

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

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