Top 5 Cyclocross Strength Exercises

by | Nov 11, 2014 | Video

Cyclocross is a demanding sport because it requires a variety of full body movements off-the bike including lifting and rotation. There are several exercises that can be included to ensure you have movement skill and capacity to perform in each race this season.

0) Bonus -> Take your bike and practice the skills on a short route that forces many (100+) skill repetitions in the ride. I remember riding around my parent’s house for an hour twice a week as cross season came so that I could get a huge number of repeats of dismounts/mounts, carries, shoulders and corners (and maybe to ruin my Dad’s grass).  This really biases the skill/agility/mobility/strength required for cyclocross. A local park trail works too, add extra dismounts with logs etc. Combo it with the exercises below and you have a really fun circuit you can do at home.

1) Alternating Bent Over Dumbell Row 

-> I love this exercise because it challenges the back/torso to remain stable against the alternating rotational forces of the dumbell row and the hanging weight . These forces are not unlike the challenge of maintaining your posture on the bike while pedaling hard and while pulling on the handlebars to sprint.

*This could be done as a ‘renegade row’ in the top of a pushup position if you find this awkward or painful.

2) Farmer’s Carry and Suitcase Carry 

-> Nothing makes a 16 pound Cyclocross bike seem extra-light after carrying 1/2 bodyweight (or more) dumbells around. Start with a Dumbell in each hand and walk out and back 10-50m. The point is more the weight being moved and less about the distance  traveled. Keep your shoulders back and torso upright. Try and make it look like the weights aren’t heavy. These carries also make airport travel much less stressful and easy to recover from. Make sure you challenge the weight you use once you are comfortable lifting the weight up to carry. Learning to handle heavier weights before you need them for other exercises makes progressing in your other lifts quicker.

3) Overhead Press

-> A classic upper body movement that will help you in shouldering and also for your remount. While not quite as specific as some of the other movements I think working on basic pushing mechanics and challenging your shoulder range of motion have many benefits beyond pushing your bike up a hill or off your shoulder.Watch that your belly stays tight and your back doesn’t compensate for limited shoulder range of motion. This can be done alternating as well for additional challenge to that stable torso.

4) Split Squat

-> Barrier hopping is often limited by hip flexion. Compare the method of having your front knee coming up super high while your back leg stays straight—picture Sailor Moon—versus the more athletic hurdle step. A great way to improve hip range of motion is with split squat or lunges. If very restricted un-weighted or altered range of motion might be required. Progress range of motion or load each week.


(Images on this page from

5) Hurdles / High Steps / Step-ups of some kind 

-> to the best of your ability get coordinated. Strength training generally will help but looking into some actual ‘agility’ work would help many cyclocross riders feel more comfortable on their feet and over barriers. Add speed and height up to (and beyond) Cx barrier height. Fast and coordinated feet are your friend ! A stair set can be a great way force stepping up and timing. Skipping and learning double unders is another great way to understand how your body can move in a coordinated fashion.

Did I miss an exercise you use ? Please leave a comment

New to Cross or Want to learn more ? Check out Bike Skills and these 3 videos specific to cross


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