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    What exercises will help me?  
    OK, we all know the weather hasn't been too great this year and I have been doing lots of walking and stationary bike riding trying to build strength and endurance in my legs. Now, I have been reading and find that upper body strength is going to be just as important to riding Cycleoregon or any distance rides for that matter. In particular I need good triceps. I've got whimpy female arms. Does anyone have any good exercises to help develop those muscles ?

Ellie G

There are tons of great ways to work out the upper body without spending your life in the gym, or spending tons of money on expensive equipment. You can even use gallon milk jugs filled to various capacities, for the basic triceps extension. Take the milk jugs in each hand, and lean forward with a flat back, with your elbows next to the body, push backward until arms are fully parallel to the ground. Do these slowly with control, and try to do 2 sets of 12,

Hammer curls will work both the tri's and bi's, take the same milk jug, holding the same way, with the palm toward midline, and start with your hands by your side, lift upwards, until hands are right about shoulder level, and lower slowly, again with control. This will work both sets of upper arm muscles.

You will also need to increase the strength in the deltoids, and a great way to do this is with military presses, starting with your arms raised up shoulder width apart, elbows bent in a 90 degree angle (like football uprights) lift upwards until arms are fully extended. Do not let the weights hit together. Lower your arms until you have returned to the original position.

Forward and lateral deltoid presses:

Start with your arms at your side, and lift with arms straight, to shoulder height, hold for 1-2 seconds, and lower slowly. Just vary lifting to the front and to side. I usually do 2 sets of each type. Eventually you will increase the sets by 1 every 10 or so days, work more repetitions, and increase the weights slightly, so that there is strength, and definition, instead of bulky arms.

Don't forget to work the back muscles as well, these will be very important in maintaining proper position on the bike for all of those long grueling hours on the road. Build all areas equally for balance.

Christine Rolfe

Good advice! I would suggest that in the first exercise you do only one arm at a time and support your back by placing the other hand on the seat of a dining room chair. Keep your abdominals held in. This will help prevent lower back strain. Also, while you are out there riding, check out the garage sales. You can very often pick up dumbbells extremely cheaply. I bought a pair of 10 pounders last summer for $1. Then you can recycle the milk jugs!

Janice Nelson

Glad to be of assistance, Yes as with Janice's suggestion, a pair of dumbbells do work the best. I have several sets with which to work with at home. The key to this is to remember to work towards building endurance in the upper body as well. This means to use lighter weight, and concentrate on doing more reps per set, and eventually building up to 30 + or - per set, and doing 6 - 10 sets. The longer leaner muscle you build, the more endurance and stamina you will have. I would suggest starting with no more than 5 to 6 pounds at a time, and work to a maximum of 15 pounds.

The more weight you use, the shorter your muscle will become, this is great if you are going for power, but the shorter you make the muscle, the less endurance you will have. Look at sprinters, they have absolutely incredible power, but very little staying power. This will help you hold yourself up, and be able to get out of the saddle on those endless hills.

The major reason I suggested the milk jugs, is that generally speaking, if the equipment is not readily available, we tend to procrastinate, you can use anything that is on hand. Don't think that just because you don't have free weights available to you, that you can't do the exercises.

I would also do both sides at one time. Yes for first timer's, it is much easier to concentrate on one side at a time, but this will not be the case on the ride. I generally do my upper body workout while I am on the stationary bike, I get 20 minutes into it, and the muscles are warmed, and I pick up my weights, and start. This will also help to build both cardiac, and respiratory endurance. Try it!

Christine Rolfe

Sounds like Ellie is an exercise physiologist. Holy Cow!

Just one minor addition:

Don't forget the abdominal muscles. Lower back pain encountered from riding long rides is often the result of tired abs. This lets the back sway (as in sway-back horse), putting an unnatural and weak curvature in the spine.

An easy solution for prevention and cure of lower back pain was written up in an article in Bicyling Magazine around 1992. The author's recommendation was to do crunches:

Lay on the floor with knees up (feet pulled toward the butt) like you were going to do sit-ups. Concentrate on pushing the small of your back against the floor while reaching forward past your knees. This wasn't a series of crunches, just one isometric crunch to the count of 50, 75, 100, whatever you're slightly uncomfortable with, and increasing it a little each day.

Sounds simple, but I had suffered lower back pain for 15 years and tried this. After about 2 weeks, I no longer had pain and haven't had any since (7 years).

J & P from MN

FYI, here's the name of a book devoted to stretching muscles individually. It's slow, but is working for me so far. It's working better for my low back and hip flexors than other stuff I've done.

Active Isolated Stretching, by Aaron Mattes

Yoga is good, too, anything is better than nothing, if you do it right.

Amy Ream

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > Training > Exercises  

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