IMPROVING FITNESS FOR SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES
Mountain bike


The human body is an amazingly adaptive vessel. The human body is dependent on stress not only to challenge it and consequently change it but also to simply maintain it.

Understanding the stresses is important for training for specific activities, and when you understand how the body responds to the stresses imposed upon it then you can direct your training to improve your fitness in specific ways.

A client put to me, “are there certain exercises I can do to improve my fitness on a bike?”

My response is simple and complicated.

“Yes. Yes there are exercises or activities you can do to improve your fitness on a bike.”

That’s the simple part.

My first thought with improving performance in a specific activity comes back to the SAID principle. The SAID principle captures the bodies response in that the body will make Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. That means the most specific way to train for an activity is to perform the activity.

My conversation with my client continued with that principle. “If you want to jump higher, start jumping, if you want to improve cycling get cycling. The body is designed to respond specifically to the stress imposed upon it.”

I go on to consider the complexities of the question further.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. A powerful quote I love using and considering when training.

So when considering the actual activity and in this case cycling, there are multiple ways we can challenge the body. The bike is a good example where training can be varied but maintain very specific adaptations by overloading or challenging the body. Types of training include;

  • sustained distance training. Challenge the body by riding further than what your comfortable with.
  • cadence training. typically train the activity at a high pace or tempo, turn the pedals faster (higher RPM)
  • interval training. Work hard then recover then work hard and recover, can be used in multiple ways too, speed, strength or a combination of both to generate power.

Then I discussed cross-training principles where training other activities will have a cross-over effect with the intent to challenge fitness components that will also improve on the target activity too.

  • resistance training to target strength fitness into the legs, performing squats, lunges dead-lifts will improve strength into the muscles also required to pedal on the bike or using more compound activities like clean and press to train power into the same muscles.
  • cardiovascular training to improve cardiovascular capacity/fitness, running, swimming, rowing or BodyAttack classes are all examples of activities that will improve cardiovascular fitness and consequently also roll over into the target activity, cycling in this case.

All these activities will stress and stimulate an adaptive response in the human body to improve the ease in which the body can complete the task, improve the bodies fitness to perform.

One component I did overlook in our discussion was the physical therapy component. When I first met this particular client, they were unable to walk up stairs or jog across the road due to low back and sciatic pain which was chronic in nature. Through Chiropractic and some fairly unique sciatic therapy the body was stimulated to heal and consequently adapt to the stress and improve performance. Chiropractic care was integral to improving the fitness or ability to perform physical activity.

“Yes. Yes there are exercises or activities you can do to improve your fitness on a bike.”

Dr Adam Epskamp
Chiropractor (BSc, BChiro), Fitness Instructor

A practicing Chiropractor at Childrens Sunshine Chiropractic in Caloundra, Queensland, Australia. Compliments his active role in health care by leading a range of group fitness classes around Sunshine Coast. A qualified pilates instructor as well as a certified Les Mills instructor for Bodypump, CXWorx and RPM and also a Les Mills SPRINT Coach. Dr Adam is also a National Presenter and Master Trainer for Les Mills Bodypump.