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Does cycling help you become a better sprinter?
While there is currently no definitive research that supports the statement that cycling helps an individual become a better sprinter, there are many reasons you can put forward about why cycling would be beneficial to sprinters. These include:
- Cycling develops stamina and endurance
- It reduces the chance of injury
- Building key muscles for sprinting
- Faster run times with less recovery time
- Improves your core
- Great aerobic workout
- Replicates intensity with low impact
- Helps to improve your running cadence
- Presents new challenges (as a form of cross-training)
In this post, I’ll take a look at these 9 important reasons why cycling can help sprinting.
9 Reasons Why Cycling Helps Sprinting
Below are some of the main reasons that make cycling beneficial to sprinting.
1. Develops Stamina and Endurance
Cycling can improve your run time because it helps develop stamina and endurance. These two factors are essential to sprinters, especially those who engage in longer sprint events.
Speed endurance in sprinting is the ability to maintain your pace even as fatigue kicks in. As a sprinter, you want to minimize deceleration while anticipating your muscles’ exhaustion.
Additionally, cycling can also train cardiovascular endurance. With something like a bicycle, you can increase the length of workouts without tiring yourself out too much.
According to personal trainer and running coach Alison Marie, a pedal speed of 80 to 100 RPMs is just the right amount to train cardiovascular endurance.
2. Lowers Chances of Injury
Cycling reduces the chances of injury by offering an alternative activity to sprinting during recovery. For example, if you participate in a sprint event, you need to give yourself time to recover.
Most of the time, you won’t be able to perform at the same level a day after a long sprint unless you want to risk an injury. You need to let your muscles rest between intensive workouts.
However, you don’t want to completely stray away from any kind of physical activity because that can also lead to injuries the next time you sprint. This is where cycling comes in.
You can use a stationary bike or ride an actual bicycle during your recovery period to work out any discomfort in your muscle groups without the risk of overworking them.
Additionally, cycling improves your blood flow and gives you the right amount of physical activity to keep your body moving during recovery.
3. Building Key Muscles For Sprinting
Research suggests that the muscle groups in the table below are the most important for sprinters:
|Muscle Group||Specific Muscles Involved|
|Hip Extensors||Gluteus maximus and Semitendinosus|
|Hip Flexors||Rectus femoris and Psoas major|
|Knee Flexors||Hamstring muscle group|
While sprinters grow and develop the strength of these muscles through running, they also need to incorporate a variety of other exercises. A change in routine every now and then maximizes the development of these key muscles.
An activity like cycling focuses on groups in the lower body, particularly the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps. Since cycling and sprinting primarily involve the legs, it’s no surprise that some of the muscles they work on overlap.
If you’re looking for the types of exercise that are ideal to improve your sprinting speed, then I found the following Youtube video really helpful:
4. Faster Run Times With Lesser Recovery Time
Remember how one of the goals of sprinting is to minimize deceleration? A workout that specifically focuses on that, as well as reducing your recovery time, is called a brick workout.
This type of workout combines two disciplines and incorporates them into one training regime. An example of a brick workout is a bike-to-run.
This tests and trains an athlete’s ability to shift from one activity to another without sacrificing performance or, in this case, minimizing deceleration.
While this is more commonly used for triathletes, it’s a great example of how cycling can be built into your workouts as a sprinter. This also shows that cycling can help you develop faster sprint times without necessarily running long laps.
In addition, it trains your muscles to have a lesser recovery time. Sprinting long-distance too often can harm your knees and ankles, especially if this is the only workout you plan to give yourself daily.
5. Improves Your Core
We already know that cycling and sprinting work on some of the same muscle groups. However, when done in conjunction with one another, cycling can also build complementary muscles that help improve sprinting abilities.
One of these complements includes your core muscles. A strong core is essential to sprinting because it’s the foundation for your body’s overall strength.
These core muscles—your abs, back, chest, and obliques—keep you upright and increase your stabilization when running. This is important because you want your torso in proper posture when running.
Cycling works on these muscles to give you better control of your center of gravity, even when you’re sprinting at intense speeds and lengths.
6. Great Aerobic Workout
Cycling is a great aerobic workout! This type of workout generally works on your cardiovascular fitness.
Activities like cycling are a good way to practice your cardiovascular fitness without putting your body, especially your joints, under too much strain.
You can opt for speedy rides in short bursts that spike your heart rate and train your system to adapt. On the other hand, you can also go on longer rides for a cardio workout that puts your endurance to the test.
In addition, cycling can help improve your lung function. It works on improving your respiration rate and teaching your system to handle oxygen efficiently during physical activities.
7. Replicates Intensity With Low Impact
Cycling is a low-impact exercise. Compared to other workouts, it puts significantly less strain on your body. It’s not an activity that strictly requires a certain level of skill to do.
However, despite being low impact, you can replicate the intensity of a long run with cycling. This way, you reap the benefits of an intense workout minus the additional strain that it comes with.
How is this done? Generally, there are two ways: long, slow rides or short, intense ones.
Even if these workouts are intense, it doesn’t pound your body too much—definitely not more than a long sprint would.
8. Helps Improve Running Cadence
Running cadence refers to a measure runners commonly use to assess performance. It’s often calculated by counting how many times your right foot hits the ground within a minute and then doubling that number.
Similarly, there’s the concept of bike cadence. This is the number of pedal revolutions a cyclist makes within a minute.
Working on developing a good bike cadence—between 80 to 100 RPM—helps you improve as a sprinter. This is because cycling can train you to shorten your stride and increase your speed instead.
Studies have shown that focusing on cadence significantly benefits a person’s speed and endurance. In addition, it also minimizes the risk of injury since your strides are shorter, quicker, and more controlled as opposed to long strides.
9. Presents New Challenges
You’ll find that for sprinters, cycling is a popular choice for cross-training. Aside from working on similar muscle groups and improving endurance, another reason behind this is that it’ll give you a chance to try something new.
Engaging in other physical activities in between sprinting presents new challenges for your mind and body. Introducing different workouts like cycling changes up your routine and gives you something else to look forward to every time.
When you’re training for a sprinting event, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the constant training and muscle development. Sometimes athletes may feel like these repetitive movement patterns or exercises stunt their growth.
It can feel like you’ve reached the maximum level of development you can get from this routine.
While we know that consistent exercising is a good thing, changing up your exercise routines now and then can prove beneficial for your mentality.
While cycling and sprinting are totally separate activities with their own muscle and movement patterns, you’d be surprised to know that they benefit greatly from one another.
We outlined nine reasons cycling helps with sprinting to show you that even though they’re not directly linked, the former brings a lot of advantages to aid in your running. These reasons range from building your endurance to lowering the risks of injury.
This is why many people try cycling as cross-training. Aside from improving your performance, it’s also a great way to tackle different challenges for your body, try new things, and simply have fun!