The Most Time-Efficient Full-Body Workout You Can Do With a Set of Free Weights
It’s impossible to find one workout that does everything… but this one designed by Lindsey Clayton, senior instructor at Barry’s in New York City and co-founder of the Brave Body Project, comes close.
“This is a full-body workout utilizing compound exercises with a set of free weights,” Clayton tells Bicycling. “Compound exercises are multi-joint movements involving more than one muscle group. They are an efficient use of time, as they improve strength and muscular coordination, elevate heart rate, provide a cardiovascular training benefit, burn more calories, and help prevent injuries,” she says.
In other words, you can knock out both your cardio and strength workout with just seven free weight exercises, which include a set of dumbbells (or two, if you have them)—and all in under 30 minutes. It’s a small investment of time with a huge pay-off, especially for cyclists, Clayton explains.
The Benefits of These Free Weight Exercises for Cyclists
Cyclists can greatly benefit from a workout like this because they will gain strength and learn to move more efficiently, Clayton says. “Because the movements are compound, you’re also getting cardiovascular benefits, as the exercises recruit large muscle groups and challenge the heart to pump blood to continue moving and fueling the muscles.” This is what you need to happen when you’re cycling, too.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below in order for 50 seconds, resting 10 seconds between sets. Complete 2-3 rounds, resting a minute between rounds. Prefer going for reps? Aim for 8 to 12 reps of each exercise. Choose a weight that makes you feel fatigued by the final rep.
Each move is demonstrated by Clayton in the video above so you can learn the proper form. You will need an exercise mat and a pair of medium-weight dumbbells. A pair of heavy dumbbells is optional.
1. Squat to Biceps Curl
Why it works: Squatting works the glutes, quads, and hamstrings while strengthening the core, cyclists’ most important stabilizers. Biceps curls target the upper arm muscles, which help support your upper body.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulders, palms facing in. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat. Press feet into ground to stand back up. Perform a second squat. Then, standing, straighten arms to lower weights to sides. Then bend both elbows to lift dumbbells toward shoulders, keeping elbows close to torso. Lower and curl weights again for a second rep. Repeat sequence.
2. Deadlift to Bent-Over Row
Why it works: Combining the deadlift with a bent-over row adds an upper-body component to the leg day staple. Rowing engages the core while targeting the back muscles, which are critical to good posture.
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in. With a flat back and knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips, send butt back, and lower torso. Keep weights close to legs and only lower until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Engage glutes and drive feet into the floor to stand back up. Perform a second deadlift, then hinge at hips again to lower torso. Use shoulder and back muscles to draw weights up toward hips, elbows staying close to sides and weights reaching just below ribs. Lower and row weights for a second rep. Return to standing with straight arms. Repeat sequence.
3. Forward Lunge to Hammer Curl
Why it works: In addition to firing up the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, the forward lunge drills single-leg balance and coordination. Hammer curls engage the biceps, building functional strength for everyday activity.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing each other. Take a big step forward with left foot. Bend both knees, right knee hovering above ground, and left knee stacked over left ankle. Push through feet to return to stand back up and repeat lunge on right side. From standing position, bend elbows to curl weights toward shoulders, keeping palms facing each other. Lower and curl weights for a second rep. Repeat sequence.
4. Lateral Lunge to Rear Delt Fly
Why it works: Paired with the leg- and glute-strengthening lateral lunge, the rear delt fly counteracts rounded shoulders and other common postural problems by strengthening the shoulders and back.
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing each other. Take a big step to the right with right foot. Bend right knee and send hips back, shifting weight over right foot to drop into a side lunge. Keep left leg straight, and lower weights to frame right shin. Drive through right foot to stand back up. Repeat on left leg. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, hinge forward at hips about 45 degrees and allow arms to hang straight down. Engage core and draw shoulders down and back. With elbows slightly bent, lift arms out to sides to shoulder height. Lower and lift weights for a second rep. Then stand back up. Repeat sequence.
5. Reverse Lunge to Upright Row
Why it works: Strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, while dynamically stretching the hip flexors, which are often tight in cyclists. The upright row can help increase muscular endurance in the upper body, with a focus on the shoulders.
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you. Take a big step back with right foot. Bend both knees to lower body, right knee hovering above ground, and left knee stacked over left ankle. Push through feet to stand back up. Repeat reverse lunge on left side. From standing position, engage upper back and shoulder muscles to pull dumbbells straight up to shoulder height, elbows bending and reaching them up and back. Straighten arms back down. Row and lower weights for a second rep. Repeat sequence.
6. High-Kneeling Hammer Curl to Overhead Press
Why it works: Performing a hammer curl to overhead press from a high-kneeling position dials up the intensity of this exercise, as it demands more strength and stability from the core, shoulders, and biceps.
How to do it: Start in a high-kneeling position, arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bend both elbows to lift dumbbells toward shoulders, then extend arms to press weights directly overhead. Lower weights to shoulders, then straighten arms to lower weights to sides. Repeat.
7. Chest Press to Skull Crusher With Leg Lower
Why it works: While the chest press and skull crusher target the pectorals and triceps, respectively, slowly lowering and lifting the legs strengthens the abdominal muscles and hip flexors for a more powerful knee drive.
How to do it: Lie faceup, legs together and straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand above chest. Engage abdominals to lift both legs so that they’re perpendicular to ground. This is the starting position. With control, bend elbows and lower weights down toward chest. Pause, then press back up. Lower legs to about a foot above the ground (go only as low as you can while keeping lower back pressed against ground), and at the same time, slowly bend elbows to lower dumbbells down toward the top of the head, keeping elbows over shoulders. Simultaneously lift legs and press weights back up, extending elbows, to return to starting position. Repeat sequence.
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