Boost Your Power Output on the Bike With This Calisthenics Workout

It’s the perfect do-anywhere option for cross-training days.

calisthenics workout
David Monk

Hearing the word “calisthenics” may take you back to workouts of the ’90s, when military-style and gymnastics-oriented routines ran supreme.

But the reality is calisthenics workouts are pretty similar to the ever-popular bodyweight workouts we do today. The difference? There may or may not be equipment.

“In calisthenics, you can incorporate different types of equipment, whereas bodyweight exercises are strictly bodyweight,” says Kurt Ellis, C.P.T., C.S.C.S., P.E.S., owner of Beyond Numbers Performance in New York City.

In other words, it’s another great option for those in need of a good butt-kicking when working out at home, outside, or really anywhere that’s not a gym.

Ellis also designed this particular calisthenics workout to really ramp up your riding power. Not only is there a solid warmup, but you’ll find plyometric exercises to improve power output, strength movements to increase or maintain tissue health, and even a conditioning portion to boost your aerobic and anaerobic capacity.

“Each component is a key element in maximizing performance for any cyclist,” Ellis says.

He suggests incorporating this workout into your cross-training routine 2 to 4 times per week, giving yourself 30 to 40 minutes to sweat through it as a standalone routine. You could also complete it before a short distance day—he says it’s designed to prime the body before an easier ride.

How to do this workout: Perform the circuits sequentially, following the prescribed number of reps and rest periods for each circuit. You won’t need any equipment, though you could always roll out a yoga mat for comfort.

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Warmup Circuit

Rest up to 30 seconds between sets and 10 to 15 seconds between exercises. Once you’ve completed all sets of the circuit, break for 30 seconds before moving into the plyometrics circuit.

1. Forearm Plank Ankle Rock

Great for: Strengthening upper body, abs, hips; improving ankle-foot mobility to create a more powerful pedal stroke

How to do it: Start in a basic forearm plank position with forearms on the ground, elbows directly under shoulders, forming a straight line from head to feet. Keeping your core engaged, push forward with your feet and upper trunk, then pull back to starting position. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps; complete 3 sets.

To make it harder, perform 3 sets of 7 to 10 reps with left leg lifted. Then switch sides and perform 3 sets of 7 to 10 reps with right leg lifted.

2. Loaded Beast Push-Up

Great for: Building upper body strength; improving active range of motion in upper back and shoulders; increasing posterior chain flexibility

How to do it: Start in a high plank position. Lower into the bottom of a push-up, keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line, then release your hands off the ground. Push back up to a high plank, then immediately go into a downward dog position by sending your hips back into an inverted V position. Move back into a high plank to return to start. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps; complete 3 sets.

3. Inchworm Walkout

Great for: Dynamically stretching hamstrings; strengthening anterior chain and hip flexors

How to do it: Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at hips to touch your hands to the floor, then walk your hands out (one hand at a time) to high plank position, then walk them out a little further so your arms are extended and your shoulders are at your ears. Walk your hands back to starting position and stand up. That’s 1 rep. Repeat for 3 to 5 reps; complete 3 sets.

4. Beast Crawl

Great for: Building core strength; reinforcing neutral spine during dynamic movements

How to do it: Start in a quadruped position, knees under hips and wrists under shoulders with knees hovering 2 to 3 inches off the ground. Maintaining a neutral spine, move forward with opposite extremities (right arm, left leg) for 15 seconds. Then, do the same thing traveling backward for 15 seconds to complete 1 set. Complete 3 sets.

5. Windmill

Great for: Improving strength, mobility, and stability

How to do it: Start standing with feet staggered, right foot out in front. Hinge at hips and rotate torso, reaching right arm down toward right foot and extending left arm toward the ceiling. Return to standing. Repeat for 3 to 5 reps, then perform on opposite side. Complete 3 sets.

Plyometrics Circuit

Rest up to 2 minutes between sets and 1 minute between exercises. Once you’ve completed all sets of this circuit, rest up to 2 minutes before moving onto the strength circuit.

1. Tuck Jump

Great for: Building lower body power

How to do it: Start standing with feet hip-width apart, slight bend in the knees. Initiate the movement by sending the hips back. Bend knees to lower down into a quarter-squat position, bringing your torso to a 45-degree angle from the floor with your lower back in a relaxed, neutral position. In one quick motion, flex at the hips, knees, and ankles, swing the arms back, and explode vertically. (Think of yourself as a spring coiling before uncoiling.) As you rise, swing your hands forward and drive your knees up toward your chest so you tuck in the air, keeping your torso upright. Extend the legs back down and softly land in your base position to complete 1 rep. Immediately repeat for 3 to 7 explosive reps; complete 2 sets.

2. Split Lunge Jump

Great for: Building dynamic single-leg power

How to do it: Start in a split-lunge position: right leg in front forming a 90-degree angle, left leg in back forming another 90-degree angle. Hands should be relaxed at your sides. To start the movement, swing your arms back to generate momentum. Then quickly swing them forward and explode vertically, switching legs mid-air so your left leg is in front and your right leg is in back. Land softly in the lunge position. Immediately repeat for 3 to 7 reps on each leg; complete 3 sets.

Strength Circuit

Rest up to 40 seconds between sets; up to 20 seconds between exercises. Once you’ve completed the entire circuit, break for 1 minute before moving onto the final conditioning circuit.

1. Tempo Push-Up

Great for: Building total body strength; relieving tension in lower back on long rides; improving posture

How to do it: Start in a high plank position, shoulders over wrists, core, glutes, and legs engaged. Bend elbows to lower chest to the floor, slowly for a count of about 3 seconds. Your elbows should point back at a 45-degree angle. Pause for 1 second. Keeping core engaged and hips in line with the rest of your body, push back up to the starting position for a count of about 3 seconds. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps; complete 2 to 4 sets.

2. Tempo Split Squat

Great for: Improving single-leg strength in quads, glutes, hamstrings; fixing muscular imbalances

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step right foot forward as far as you can while keeping both heels planted on the ground, toes pointed forward. Place your arms straight out in front of you. Keeping an upright torso, bend both knees, allowing your back (left) heel to come off the ground as you shift your weight into the heel of your front (right) leg. Take 3 seconds to lower into your squat, going until your back shin and front thigh are parallel with the ground. Hold for 1 second, then quickly drive through your front heel to return to your starting position. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps then switch legs. Complete 2 to 4 sets.

3. Hollow Knee Tuck

Great for: Building core and hip flexor strength; improving posture

How to do it: Start lying faceup, arms relaxed at your sides with a bend in the elbow (so your hands rest gently on the ground). Leading with your chest, sit all the way up, and bring your knees in toward your chest. With control, extend back to start. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps; complete 2 to 4 sets.

4. Superman Pulse

Great for: Strengthening back, glutes, hamstrings

How to do it: Start lying facedown with hands behind head. Take a breath in, and on your exhale squeeze your glutes and lift your torso and legs off the ground as high as possible. Hold for 1 second, then lower to return to start. Quickly repeat for 5 to 8 reps; complete 1 to 2 sets.

Conditioning Circuit

Rest up to 40 seconds between sets; up to 20 seconds between exercises.

1. Sprinter Sit-Up

Great for: Building core and hip flexor strength

How to do it: Start lying faceup, arms at your sides and legs extended. Quickly sit up, bringing your right knee to your chest while swinging your left arm forward (as if running). Return to start. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps per side; alternating sides. Complete 2 to 4 sets.

2. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Sprinter Stance

Great for: Building single-leg strength and stability; improving hip function

How to do it: Start standing with your weight in your right leg, establishing a stable base from the foot up. (Grip the ground using your right big toe, pinky toe, and heel.) Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the waist. Allow your left arm to come forward and bend at 90 degrees while your right arm straightens out behind you. Allow your left leg to lift behind you, keeping it bent at 90 degrees and in line with your body throughout the rep. Drive through your heel and push your hips forward to return to starting position, bringing your left leg forward to flex at 90 degrees. Perform a quick jump switch to change stance legs. Repeat for 5 to 8 reps per side; complete 3 sets.

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