Upper Body and Core

January 1, 2011

If you're still looking for a good New Year's resolution, how about working on your upper body and core fitness? As far as cycling goes, this kind of strength isn't something that is super intuitive, but if you don't pay a little attention to it, you will feel it once you start putting in longer rides as the weather warms up.

With bike touring especially, there is a lot of balance and stability that is handled by your back, shoulders, and core. Keeping this area in decent shape can allow you to relax a little more while in the saddle, giving you the chance to put more energy into pedaling, and enjoying your surroundings.

If you're unsure about which areas to focus on, try and think back to last season when you were getting back into the swing of things. Did your upper arms get tired while climbing? Did your shoulders get sore after a few hours of riding? These could be signs that some upper body conditioning this winter might be helpful. Although I should note that other factors, such as bike fit, could also be in play.

So where do you go from here? What exercises are ideal? I'm no fitness expert, so I would recommend asking some quick advice from a physical trainer, or fitness guru, that you trust. Like last year, and the year before that, I will certainly be making this a resolution of my own, perhaps to lose interest in about a week...? At least there is always next year!


TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.


Steve Bradley September 30, 2011, 1:19 AM

I realize this is a topic that's been covered a long time ago, but I thought I might make a couple suggestions:

1. Light or medium weight dumbells or kettlebells. These can be purchased for a fairly reasonable price, and can be used to perform many different exercises. Many people are not strong enough to perform multiple pullups, as suggested, but a series of dumbell exercises can be done in 10 minutes or so, and are very helpful.

2. Pushups. While pullups are great, pushups actually provide better shoulder exercise, and also help exercise the core.

3. If you want a machine for your exercises, get something like a "Total Gym." This uses your own weight, is very smooth, adjustable, and you can do many different exercises with it. It does require more space than dumbells, though.

Almost all these items can be purchased used, and sell for much less that way.

Steve Bradley

RC January 3, 2011, 2:35 PM

If it doesn't kill you first....

Joseph January 1, 2011, 6:42 PM

An excellent upper body exercise is pull ups. They'll give you a really nice overall upper body toning for biking as well as many other sports.

10 reps at 5 sets twice a week will do the job.

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