I’m a Cyclist and Physical Therapist, and This is Why I Recommend Plyometric Training For Cyclists

Explosive Gains: A Comprehensive Guide to Plyometric Training for Cyclists to Improve Power, Endurance, and Speed

Elite-level and recreational athletes alike continuously seek new and varied training methodologies to gain a competitive edge. Plyometrics has emerged as a vital training approach for cyclists looking to improve their explosive power. This comprehensive guide will explore the depth of plyometrics from its inception to the application, emphasizing how cyclists can leverage it for superior performance.

man crossing the finish line of a bike race holding up the number one with his finger
Photo courtesy of TLBVelo Photography at TLBVelo.com

The Theory and History of Plyometric Training For Cyclists

What is Plyometrics?

Plyometrics is a specialized training method that enhances explosive muscle power by rapidly stretching and contracting the targeted muscle groups. By utilizing the elastic characteristics of muscles and the stretch-reflex mechanism, plyometric exercises help athletes, including cyclists, to increase their power, speed, and efficiency. 


The theory behind plyometrics is training our muscles to produce the most significant force possible in the shortest time. By harnessing the power of the “stretch-shortening cycle,” our muscles create greater tension when a quick contraction follows a rapid stretching phase.


Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps, engage the stretch-shortening cycle, a vital component in producing explosive power. This cycle consists of two phases: the eccentric phase, when an athlete lengthens the muscles to accumulate potential energy, and the concentric phase, where that energy is rapidly released as the muscles shorten. The sequence contributes to building cyclists’ explosive strength for sprinting and anaerobic efforts.

Origins and Evolution

Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Russian sports scientist, pioneered plyometrics in the early 1960s. Initially used to boost Soviet Olympians’ performances, plyometric training has become a cornerstone for athletes across all disciplines.

two men racing to the line of a bike race
Photo courtesy of TLBVelo Photography at TLBVelo.com

Physiological Theory: The Mechanism Behind Plyometric Training For Cyclists

Usually achieved through jumping and bounding movements, plyometrics trains our nervous system to react to muscle lengthening by rapidly contracting with maximum force. While the potential benefits are clear for athletes engaging in jumping sports, research shows that plyometrics improves peak and short bursts of power in cyclists (Paton et al., 2005) through improvements in neuromuscular efficiency.

A Closer Look at a New Zealand Study on Plyometrics for Cyclists

The recent study explored the impact of a plyometric training program on well-trained cyclists. The program included three weekly sessions, each with three sets of 20 explosive single-leg jumps for each leg, alternated with three sets of five high-resistance cycling sprints lasting 30 seconds, with 30-second recoveries.


After a total of 12 sessions, the researchers observed significant improvements:

  • An average gain of 8.1% in 1 km power
  • An increase of 6.8% in peak power
  • An enhancement of 3.7% in lactate threshold power
  • A 3% reduction in total oxygen cost

Contrastingly, a control group of cyclists continuing regular bike training saw no significant changes.


The study’s authors concluded that introducing explosive and high-resistance interval training to already well-trained cyclists leads to substantial gains in both sprint and endurance performance. The scientists attributed these improvements to enhanced exercise efficiency, lactate threshold, and neuromuscular efficiency, characterized by a quicker stretch-shortening cycle in the muscles.


Most notably, these gains were observed in well-trained athletes, suggesting that recreational or age-group cyclists may experience even more pronounced benefits by incorporating plyometrics into their training programs. The study showcases the potential of plyometric training as a valuable addition to a cyclist’s training regimen, contributing to improved performance in various aspects of cycling.


The power of plyometrics lies in the engagement of fast-twitch muscle fibers, or Type II fibers. These fibers contract quickly, allowing explosive movements. In contrast, slow-twitch fibers, or Type I, are more endurance-oriented. Engaging fast-twitch fibers can mean a noticeable improvement in sprinting, climbing, and overall power for cyclists.

Physiological Adaptations: What Changes in the Body With Plyometric Training For Cyclists?

  • Muscle Power and Performance: Plyometric training enhances muscle power by improving the rate of force development, leading to better cycling performance through more forceful pedal strokes.
  • Neuromuscular Efficiency: The coordinated activation of muscle groups improves overall neuromuscular efficiency, translating into more precise energy transfer from muscles to pedals.
  • Bone and Joint Health: Controlled stress through plyometric exercises enhances bone density and joint health, providing resilience against the physical demands of cycling.
  • Metabolic Enhancements: Anaerobic energy pathways, vital for short bursts of energy, are triggered through plyometric exercises, aiding fat loss and improving energy utilization during intense cycling efforts.
  • Enhancing Tendon and Muscle Elasticity: The stretch-shortening cycle utilized during plyometrics builds explosive strength and enhances the elasticity within the muscles and tendons of the lower body. This increased elasticity translates into more dynamic and responsive pedaling for cyclists, offering tangible acceleration and sustained power improvements.
  • Boosts Mental Ability: Plyometric movements foster cognitive agility, training the mind to think quickly, coordinate body movements, and execute graceful landings. Combining mental and physical skills enhances athletic performance, improving reaction time and physical strength on and off the bike.
bike racers turning the curve use Plyometric Training For Cyclists
Photo courtesy of TLBVelo Photography at TLBVelo.com

Benefits for Cyclists: Why Plyometrics For Cyclists Matters?

Increased Anaerobic Power

Explosive leg power developed through plyometrics improves short anaerobic efforts. By targeting fast-twitch muscle fibers, riders maintain higher speeds and accelerate more quickly. 

Example: Cyclists participating in sprint events or looking to improve their final kick in a race can benefit significantly from plyometrics’ power-enhancing attributes.

Improved Climbing Efficiency

Climbing requires coordinated power, and plyometric training explicitly targets the muscles essential for uphill efforts. By working on the stretch-shortening cycle of the muscles involved in climbing, plyometrics can enhance strength and efficiency. 

Example: Mountain bikers, cyclocross riders, or road cyclists will improve their ability to attack steep climbs with consistent plyometric training.

Enhanced Endurance

Plyometrics also boosts overall fatigue resistance by improving both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. A study by Saunders et al. (2006) on endurance runners showed that incorporating plyometrics into a training regime led to better running economy. Although the study focused on runners, the physiological adaptations are transferable to cyclists, enabling them to maintain pace without sacrificing performance quality.

Example: Cyclists participating in more extended events may find that plyometrics helps them maintain a consistent pace and resist fatigue over extended periods.

TRX-Based Plyometric Exercises

The initiation and performance of a plyometrics program are often intimidating to the amateur athlete. Athletes experience a loss of control over the exercise movement and find the excessive impact troublesome for their joints. Using a suspension training device, commonly known as TRX, avoids those problems, and the cycling-specific benefits of plyometrics are realized and enjoyed.

TRX box jumps Plyometric Training For Cyclists
TRX Jump Squats
  • Execution: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Stand facing away from the TRX with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the TRX handles and lower into a squat.
  3. Jump explosively, extending your legs.
  4. Land softly and repeat.
TRX plyometric lunges Plyometric Training For Cyclists
TRX Plyometric Lunges
  • Execution: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Face away from the TRX, holding handles, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Perform a lunge with one leg, keeping the knee above the ankle.
  3. Explode into a jump, switching legs in the air.
  4. Land softly and repeat, alternating legs.
TRX power pull Plyometric Training For Cyclists
TRX Power Pull
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Stand facing the TRX, holding one handle with an extended arm.
  2. Lean back, keep your body straight, and open your free arm to the side.
  3. Pull your body explosively towards the TRX.
  4. Return to starting position and repeat.
TRX single leg burpees Plyometric Training For Cyclists
TRX Single-leg Burpees
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8-10 reps per leg.
  • Steps:
  1. Place one foot in a TRX strap, facing away.
  2. Perform a single-leg push-up.
  3. Jump onto the free foot.
  4. Return to starting position and repeat.
TRX Atomic Push-ups
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Place feet in TRX straps, facing down in a plank position.
  2. Perform a push-up.
  3. Pull knees towards the chest in a tuck.
  4. Extend your legs back out and repeat.

Traditional (Non-TRX) Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric Training For Cyclists box jumps
Box Jumps
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Stand facing a sturdy box or platform.
  2. Lower into a squat, and swing your arms backward.
  3. Explosively jump onto the box, using your arms to aid the jump.
  4. Land softly and step down to repeat.

Box Jump Exercise Variations for Cyclists

The traditional box jump may not be suitable for every cyclist, depending on individual goals, fitness levels, and specific cycling demands. Here are some modifications and progressions tailored to cyclists:

Building Power and Confidence: Simple Vertical Jump

An equipment-free modification safer than jumping onto a box, the simple vertical jump helps cyclists build the power necessary for those challenging climbs and sprints.

box jump variation exercise
Progression: Single-Leg Box Jump

For those looking to amplify the challenge, consider increasing the box height or even holding light dumbbells while jumping. A single-leg box jump offers an additional challenge to stability and power generation (using just one leg), reflecting the unilateral force exertion seen in cycling. This progression recommends lowering the box to about half the height used with the traditional box jump.

Plyometric Training For Cyclists jumping lunges
Jumping Lunges
  • Execution: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Begin in a lunge position.
  2. Explosively jump, switching legs mid-air.
  3. Land softly in a lunge with the opposite leg forward.
  4. Repeat, alternating legs.
clapping push ups exercise
Clapping Push-ups
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Start in a push-up position.
  2. Lower your body towards the floor.
  3. Push off with enough force to clap your hands at the top.
  4. Land with elbows slightly bent and repeat.
depth jumps exercise
Depth Jumps
  • Execution: 3 sets of 8 reps.
  • Steps:
  1. Stand on a platform or bench.
  2. Step off the edge, landing on both feet.
  3. Immediately explode into a vertical jump.
  4. Land softly and reset for the next rep.

So give plyometrics a try, and your end-of-the-race sprint will thank you—first, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t initiate a plyometric training program before building a strength base and conditioning your muscles, tendons, and joints through at least 6 to 8 weeks of resistance training.
  • Perform a thorough warm-up and muscle activation before you begin.
  • Don’t do plyometrics on tired muscles or following a demanding ride or run.
  • Limit to 2 times a week and begin with 50-60 jumps per session (increasing to tolerance) to avoid injury.
  • Maximize jump height or distance with every repetition and minimize the time spent contacting the ground between each.
  • Apply maximal effort to each repetition, and perform as quickly and powerfully as possible.
  • Learn, practice, focus on correct form, and stop your set or training session before it breaks down.

Safety and Precautions

Implementing plyometrics requires caution. Proper warm-up, attention to form, and gradual progression are essential. Consulting a fitness professional ensures safe integration into a cyclist’s training regime.

4 men in a bike race
Photo courtesy of TLBVelo Photography at TLBVelo.com

Conclusion—Plyometric Training For Cyclists

Plyometric training offers a scientifically validated and powerful avenue for cyclists seeking to elevate their performance. This training approach can lead to significant gains in both sprint and long-distance cycling through targeted exercises that enhance power, endurance, and speed. Whether tackling steep climbs or aiming for a stronger finishing kick, plyometrics provides the tools to achieve those goals.


By understanding the underlying physiological principles, including the engagement of fast-twitch muscle fibers and the improvement of neuromuscular efficiency, cyclists can tailor a plyometric regimen to their specific needs and cycling disciplines. Incorporating exercises like box jumps and single-leg jumps, both with and without equipment like TRX, allows for flexibility and customization within training programs.


The benefits of plyometrics aren’t only for elite athletes; cyclists of all levels can see substantial improvements. Embracing plyometrics as part of a holistic approach to cycling fitness empowers cyclists to reach new performance heights and adds an engaging and dynamic element to training. 

Your journey to cycling excellence begins with a single explosive leap. Whether a competitive racer or a weekend warrior, plyometric training might be the key to unlocking your next level.

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