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Clara’s cyclocross strength workout

The US national cyclocross champ shares her go-to strength workout

November 23, 2022

To the uninitiated, cyclocross might not seem all that different to road racing. Both disciplines are highly intense, include fit and dedicated cyclists, and EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is extremely competitive in both arenas. But there is a world of difference between the two.

“Cyclocross is fascinating to me because it’s only a 50 minute race and you think, ‘But that’s just a quarter of a road race,’” says US national cyclocross champion Clara Honsinger. “However, in that 50 minute race, I’m so amazed how it just empties you. Cyclocross is like if you took a road race, isolated 50 minutes of the hardest parts, and then said, ‘How can I amp this up?’”

Whereas endurance is key to road racing, cyclocross is more about explosivity and shorter, aggressive efforts.

“You’re doing something like a 15 second sprint, then slamming on your breaks to slow down for a corner and doing a technical section, and then you’re in another sprint right out of that,” says Clara.

To prepare for cyclocross season, Clara uses her cardio fitness from road racing as her base.

“Having a good base and aerobic capacity is going to help you be able to maintain for the cyclocross 50 minute efforts, trying to keep the first lap as fast as the last lap, if not faster. In July when I was still in the road season, I started adding a bit of running into my routine, just to get my body accustomed to that because when you go from not bearing any weight on the bicycle to suddenly hopping on and off your bike and sprinting across sand or up a set of stairs or over barriers in cyclocross, it's really quite hard on your body,” Clara explains.

In addition to running a few times a week, Clara adds cyclocross specific weight training to her routine designed to develop fast twitch muscles. There’s usually a series of deadlifts or squats in a gym session, but she will spend more time on her upper body than a road racer typically does.

“You also need that upper body strength, not only to steer your bike through technical terrain but to pick it up to shoulder it. Kettlebells, overhead presses, pull ups, and such. Cyclocross really demands all of your body.”

Clara’s cyclocross strength workout

Duration: approximately 45-60 minutes

Warm up: 3-5 minutes of any cardio

2 sets of the following:
10x each side thread the needle (start on all fours, lift your right arm skyward, then slide it between your chest and the floor until your right ear faces the ground)
5x each side runners lunge to rotation
10x air squats
8x each side single leg hip hinge to high knee

1x 60 seconds stability ball plank
1x 30 seconds each side side-plank (hold a dumbbell in the top arm if you want a larger challenge)
2x 10 seconds superman hold (hold the top of the superman for 10s, take a break, then repeat for 10s)

Strength main set:
1x warm up power squats with just the bar
4x 4-5 power barbell squats
4x 5 weighted squat jumps (hold onto dumbbells in each hand for the squat jumps)
3x 10 each side kettlebell pullover dead bugs

Rest 2+ minutes before repeating the strength main set a second time

3 sets of the following strength accessory work:
15x stability ball hamstring curls
8x each side single arm cable row

8 minutes of cycling through the following for as many rounds as possible with as few breaks as possible:
10x kettlebell swings
10x dumbbell push press
10x explosive scissor lunges
10x explosive V-ups

Cool down: 3-5 minutes easy of gentle cardio, followed by stretching

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