Dirty Kanza Training – Don’t Skip Arm Day!

If you’re planning (or already started) training for the Dirty Kanza, you have probably mapped out every mile that you will ride between now and May 30. A training plan that ramps miles is critical for building power at LT and get your body ready for the big day. As part of your training plan, have you also thought about your upper body?

Rabobank Racer Rasmussen during the 2010 Tour de France.

Rabobank Racer Rasmussen during the 2010 Tour de France.

It might seem counter-intuitive to train your upper body–most cyclists seem concerned that any upper body training will result in extra weight, albeit muscle, to lug up hills. Just look at any Tour racer and you’ll see the outcome of that mindset: their emaciated chest and arm muscles don’t look exactly athletic.

But, there’s an important distinction that might get lost in all the training talk: strength does not necessarily mean bulk. Likewise, there are numerous benefits that come with a strong upper body. A good analogy is to compare a bicyclist to a car. If the legs are the engine, the arms and core are the suspension. The suspension helps the car hug the road, carve smoothly through corners, and handle all the bumps along the way. There is a reason the suspension gets better and more finely tuned with cars built to go fast…to go fast, you have to float along the road surface.

When the DK turns on to gravel at mile 2, you will need the same finesse to efficiently move the bike along the course. Here are a few specific reasons a cyclist needs a strong upper body and core:

  • Holding your body in the drops during sections into the headwind (spend as much training time as possible in the drops)
  • Shifting your weight to maneuvering the bike across the rugged terrain
  • Pulling on the handlebars as you climb hills (yes, there are a LOT of hills on the DK!) and move over rocks and ruts
  • Absorbing vibrations and bumps
  • Steering the bike through loose gravel or mud

Considering the DK is an all-day event, your upper body and core must be ready to repeatedly perform these tasks. Yes, riding will build muscular endurance and some strength. But, adding strength workouts during the week will do much more to prepare your body and help you to ride strong all day long.

Building upper body and core strength does not have to mean hours in the gym. Just a few targeted exercises can have huge rewards. And, building core doesn’t necessarily mean crunches! In fact, as a cyclist, you should probably forget those all together! Marlonn Familton with Peak’s Coaching Group explains why.

Kent Woerman, with MoveUp Endurance Coaching, demonstrates the Dead Bug, a great entry-level exercise. He also shows how to perform several Plank variations. Once you’ve mastered those exercises, consider moving on to more complex movements, like Roll-out Pikes, which according to research, are the single most beneficial core exercises.

For upper body, simple exercises like the push-up can work wonders. Performed correctly, the push up works arms, shoulders, chest, and back. Check out this slideshow from Bicycling Magazine to ensure you’re doing them correctly.

In addition to push-ups, a body weight routine can target each area needed to get you ready. LeanItUp.com has a great do-anywhere body weight routine that does just that. And, as an added bonus, the descriptions include videos showing how to perform each exercise.

It doesn’t take a lot of extra time to add these exercises into your training plan. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to comfortably ride the endless gravel.

Good luck!


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