Too many cyclists with bulging quads still struggle with a squishy core, wobbly hips, or stiff shoulders. On the bright side, fixing those issues will make you a more efficient rider, says Darcy Norman, a trainer with Athlete's Performance in Phoenix. Stand in front of a mirror or grab an observant friend and take these tests—the same ones Norman gave every member of team HTC-Highroad last year. If you fall short on any of them, do the corrective moves on non-ride days or as a warm-up on ride days. You'll come out pedaling stronger than ever.
Test Your: Hip and Quad Strength
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms in front of you. Lift your right foot a few inches and lower your body as far as you can into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your left knee. Return to start. Switch legs. Your hip should not push out to the side. Your knee should not collapse inward.
Improve It: Place a 6-inch-high stack of books on a chair. Repeat the test, lowering only until your butt reaches the books. Return to start. Do 15 with each leg. Over time, remove each book until you can squat correctly all the way to the chair.
Test Your: Hip Mobility
Lie face up on the floor and, one at a time, raise each leg toward the ceiling until it's perpendicular to the floor. If neither leg rises more than 50 to 60 degrees, both hips are weak. One leg goes higher? Then it's stronger and more mobile; you'll lack power on the opposite side.
Improve It: Lie on your back, arms out to the sides, and lift both legs perpendicular to the floor. Lower your left leg to the floor. (Prop your right leg on a stationary object, if needed.) Raise your left leg back to start. That's one rep. Do 10 on each side.
Test Your: Shoulder Mobility
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your elbow to lower your right hand behind your upper back. Reach your left hand behind your back and try to touch the fingers of your right hand. Can you get your fingers to within a hand's-length of each other?
Improve It: Lie on your left side, right knee crossed over the left, arms extended at shoulder level on the floor, hands together. Rotate your torso to center and your right arm out to the side. Bring your legs to center. Do 10 reps on each side.
Test Your: Rotational Stability
Start on all fours with your knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Slowly extend your right arm and right leg away from each other. Can you stay in a straight line from head to toe, without wobbling?
Improve It: Start on all fours and extend your right arm in front of you. But this time extend your left leg behind you. Bring your right elbow and left knee in toward each other. Return to start. Do 15 reps on each side.
Test Your: Single-Leg Balance and Core Stability
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a broomstick horizontally over your shoulders, and step your right leg over an imaginary hurdle that's just lower than knee-height in front of you. Repeat with your left leg. You should be able to lift your knee straight up and over the imaginary hurdle. Your torso should not lean forward, back, or to either side.
Improve It: Stand in the middle of a resistance tube, feet hip-width apart, elbows bent, holding one end in each hand at shoulder height. Press your arms overhead as you lift right knee to hip level; lower knee then arms to starting position. That's one rep. Do 15 with each leg.
Test Your: Total-Body Mobility and Stability
Use masking tape to mark a straight line on the floor. Stand with your feet together on the tape, holding a broomstick vertically behind your back, one hand holding it behind your head, the other grabbing it behind your hips. Lunge forward with your right foot directly in front of left on the tape, until your right knee is bent 90 degrees and your left knee nearly touches the floor. Repeat on the other side. Your torso should not lean in any direction. Your knee should not collapse inward or pushes out to the side. The stick should stay in contact with your butt, back, and head at all times.
Improve It: Kneel on your right knee holding a, 8- to 10-pound dumbbell horizontally in both hands, arms extended in front of your chest. Keeping your arms straight and your torso facing forward, raise the weight up and to the left. Then, lower it diagonally across your body to your right hip. That's one rep. Do 10 on each side.
Test Your: Strength and Coordination Between Your Shoulders, Back, and Hips
Lie facedown on the floor, with palms under shoulders, elbows bent by sides. Push your body up in one solid movement until you're in a pushup position. You should be able to raise your body in one unit and not roll up or sway from side to side.
Improve It: Start in a plank position with your forearms on the floor, elbows under shoulders, back flat. Brace your core by contracting your abs. Hold for 30 seconds, then lower to the floor. Rotate to the left, resting your weight on your right elbow and forearm, with hips and legs stacked. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
"There's a certain amount of freedom involved in cycling: you're self-propelled and decide exactly where to go. If you see something that catches your eye to the left, you can veer off there, which isn't so easy in a car, and you can't cover as much ground walking." - David Byrne