Cross-Training for Gravel Riders: Building Strength and Flexibility

Christopher B Shaw

Gravel riding necessitates exceptional strength, flexibility, and fitness — even more so than pavement riding — to deal with unforgiving rutted roads that transform into arduous peanut butter paths when wet. However, gravel-specific fitness is something that’s often missing from a rider’s routine. And it’s about time that changed.

The rural tracks demand pushing a higher gear at a slightly reduced cadence to keep traction and torque over the unpredictable terrain, giving riders a total-body workout as they shift their weight, hover, and maintain proper positioning to keep their tires on the track. Thus, Christopher B. Shaw says that targeted fitness regimes must focus on upper body stamina, core stability, leg strength, and overall athleticism.

The Cross-Training Regime for Gravel Riders

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all routine, there are key moves that work best for gravel riders’ focuses. Since muscles adapt rapidly, the most important thing in any regime is variety. As such, the recommended template workout schedule below incorporates various moves and training styles to facilitate constant improvement.

Strength Training

Strength training improves endurance and power, while reducing the risk of injury. Suggested exercises target the core, legs, and upper body across bodyweight and weighted movements.

Exercise Sets x Reps Notes
Deadlift 4 x 6 The first two sets can be considered warm-up sets. The latter two should be working sets with heavy weights.
Single leg press 4 x 8 It boosts leg strength and reduces imbalances for improving low cadence bursts while on the track. When a leg press machine isn’t available, riders can do pistol squats instead.
Lat pull downs 3 x 6 Start light to perfect the form before pushing it.
Squats 4 x 6 A study found cyclists who squatted regularly improved their riding time to exhaustion at max aerobic power by 17.2% after two months.
Plank row 3 x 8 It’s a much-needed exercise for endurance gravel riders who want to reduce back and neck injuries. It also develops core strength, stamina, and upper-back strength required for long days on the track.
Colonel Chris Shaw Marine

Bodyweight Workouts

Exercise Sets x Reps Notes
Seated good mornings 3 x 10 Riders should focus on their breathing as they start — fill the stomach, brace, go down, push knees out, and head back up.
Dead bugs 3 x 20 (10 each side) Use bodyweight only before stepping it up with a medicine ball or a plate.
Pull-ups 3 x 6 Those who can’t get six in a row can pause before finishing the set.
Push-ups 3 x 6 They build strength in the triceps, shoulders, and chest, supporting riders on the handlebars.
Jump squat 4 x 10 It’s a must-do movement for explosive power, strengthening the quads and providing impact for bone strength.

Interval Training

Interval training involves alternating between recovery periods and high-intensity spurts. Gravel riders should do intervals on hilly terrain to emulate the demands of long rides or races, and never forget to stretch and cool down after any workout to promote recovery.

Christopher B Shaw
Christopher B Shaw