Goal Setting, Beginner Tips, Weight Loss and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 239

Hi can you please try to get @ambermalika to explain how she does the “glute firing” exercise? Reps, sets, time etc.


Have you ever come back from injury/time off swearing your FTP would be lower than what it was last set at (not retested yet), but you get into workouts and suddenly they seem way easier. I used to have the biggest issues with Sweet Spot, questioning my entire existence and choice of sport. But now, coming back after not training in a structured way plus being injured, Sweet Spot feels extremely doable. Quite the change to now feel like a winner while finishing a workout. I suspect it might in part be due to better fueling, can you think of other causes that I might be missing?

overtraining could be another cause. now that you are “fresher” workouts are easier

Second that. Glutes are a bit a of mystery to me.


At the end there’s a mention of a few scales, I was wondering if anyone has a good recommendation for body fat calipers?

Fat calipers as shared by Nate

Hi! Great question. First, let me clarify that this is muscle activation work, which is focused first and foremost on strengthening the brain-muscle connection, which paves the way to increased strength/power through better motor patterns. For example, glutes serve as hip extensors (opposite of hip flexors) and as external rotators. On the bike, you don’t “need” external rotation, because you’re moving your legs in a single plane, and hamstrings/calves can easily compensate in the job of “extensor” in the limited range of angles your hip travels during a pedal stroke. BUT glutes are extremely powerful and – when strong – can contribute a lot of strength to the pedal stroke, in addition to hip stability and thus knee health on and off the bike.

Activation work is about reminding your brain to fire your glutes as part of a specific neuromuscular motor pattern (e.g. sequence of muscle contractions through an efficient pedal stroke). As such, activation work does NOT require the effortful type of muscle contractions you would do during a typical weight lifting routine. Consistency, however, helps a lot, as does doing this type of work before getting on the bike, so you’ve warmed up that brain-muscle connection and reminded your brain to fire those glutes on the bike.

Simple activations I like to do:

  1. Lie face down on your stomach, with left leg straight and right leg bent with knee at ninety degrees, so your right quad is in contact with the ground, but your right foot is in the air. First, fire your transverse abdominus to stabilize your core, then fire your right glute, gently - just enough to engage the muscle. Do this for ten or so distinct pulses, but try to do so without activating your hamstring, without rocking your hips, and without using your back muscles: erector spinae or quadratus lumborum. (Again, this is a very subtle activation, so you might not even feel your leg/knee lift more than an inch off the ground; if you’re lifting your whole leg off the ground, you’re trying too hard and probably recruiting too many muscles.) This can be difficult, if you rely mostly on your hamstrings, and takes a lot of awareness and focus to know when you’re actually and truly isolating the glute. Focus on form for these! Only do as many reps as you can gently and correctly, isolating the glute. Repeat on the left side.

  2. Lie on your back with your left leg out straight, and with a Swiss ball under your right leg, allowing you to rest the leg with your right hip and knee at 90-degree angles. Activate your transverse abdominus to stabilize your Coren, then activate the right glute with a gentle, isometric contraction. Again, try to do this without engaging the hamstring, or otherwise compensating with other muscles. This teaches your brain to access the glute when your hip is flexed, as it is on the bike. Do as many reps as you can with excellent form (up to 10), then repeat on the left side.

These two exercises are enough to do before a training session on the bike. When you’re on the bike, it can help to use proprioception to “remind” your brain to activate those glutes at the appropriate part of the pedal stroke. To do this, you can rest your hands on your glutes (yup, put your hands on your butt) and feel when they are or are not firing. You can do this during rest intervals as a quick reminder for your brain during your workout. Don’t worry if you’re not firing every pedal stroke; each time your forget is an opportunity to “remind” your brain and strengthen that motor pattern!

A couple of other exercises I like for this that move into more strength/stability work:

Dipping Bird (example video here) - uses the glutes as extensors - good for balance, core, hip stability and glute activation/strength.

Monster Walk - uses glutes as external rotators - good for core, balance, hip stability, knees.

Bridge (example here) & Single Leg Bridge - uses glutes as extensors, works rotational stability in isometric contraction

Clamshells (example here) - uses glutes as external rotators, really gets medial glutes

Standing 4-Way Hip with or without band - can do these without a band everyday while you brush your teeth! (example here)

Hope this helps!


Excellent tips @ambermalika…having had to do more than my fair share of glute exercises for running injuries, I’d add a couple of things that are pretty simple, as well…

  1. Activation - simply work on firing your glutes as you walk around during the day. If you are in an office, when you have to go to a different area or floor, try and do it the whole way…you’ll be surprised how fast your glutes can fatigue!!! But it is a great mental cue to fire your glutes.

  2. Single leg squats - make sure you keep your weight back over your heel and don’t lean forward. Do it on a balance pad to also bring the stabilizing muscles in your calf / ankle into the exercise as well.

  3. Running Man exercise - kind of an exaggerated version of Single Leg Squats…raise your opposite leg as you squat and extend your same side arm as your squat leg (as if in a running motion). Helps build your stabilizing muscles.

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These are great! I like the single leg squats, too; I’ve never tried “Running Man” - can’t wait to give it a shot! Thanks for adding these!


Bah…I did really bad job describing Running Man. Here’s a video link that shows the exercise.

Not cycling, but some goal motivation from the legend that is … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx1zC_03K2M

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Ah @Nate_Pearson you made my day, just at the end of a Baxter whilst listening to the podcast and your comment about over 50s being pleased with a maintenance of FTP. I’m 54 this year and my FTP has remained within 10W for the last 5 years or so. Hearing you say that a “non lowering” of FTP is an achievement really cheered me up :+1:


It totally is! Our data shows steady drop for people’s FTP on average compared to younger people.


as Chad often says “its about consistency”. I’ve learned I simply have to stay on it. No quit. Ever. I’ll turn 78 this summer and can confirm that things certainly do fade as time goes on but I can influence how fast that happens. I use the following thoughts to keep things in perspective…

I cannot halt the natural physical deterioration that attends aging and I won’t try. That is not a valid reason for not purposefully diminishing the pace and scope of that deterioration, which I will do. (a.k.a. degrading the rate of degradation!)

I cannot be what I used to be and I won’t try. That is not a valid reason for not being everything I can be, which I will be.


That is excellent, love it.


Can @Nate_Pearson please share the routine/products he uses to avoid sinus infections?

@chad were you referring to the Piru 20 and 40k TTs? If so here is the course profile: https://www.strava.com/segments/21407908

It’s two out and backs. I would do the 20k for FTP tests when I first started riding.

It’s a very low key vibe, but I always enjoyed them and I found the course to be pretty fun.

Wilson’s solution (get it from your doctor) and a sinus rinse bottle. 40ml in the bottle with distilled saline water.

But really, just ask your doctor about dosing and if this is the correct method for you.

The NM 40k time trial is in Moriarity, outside Albuquerque. It was great fun when I lived in NM, they would host the state TT championships there in the spring (when it could be windy) and then a special Record Challenge event in the fall (less windy). I was there the day in 1990 when John Frey set the men’s 40k record, and I think Lance Armstrong set a junior men’s 20k record the same day.

Anyway, it’s a really fast course. So fast that one time I under paced because I was going so fast I assumed I had a big tailwind, and I wanted to save something for after the turnaround. Then I turned around and it was just as fast in the other direction!

Looks like they held the Record Challenge in September 2019: http://www.newmexicosportsonline.com/Cycling/Paula-Higgins-Memorial-Record-Challenge-Time-Trial-2019/67987

I wish this episode had been a year ago, I might not have burned myself out so bad. “I’ve got time for mid volume, let’s do it” … bad plan.

About reducing rather than eliminating. Not everyone can do this. If I have a box of cookies in the house they will be gone within a few hours. I get sugar in me and it’s automatically a binge. Cutting them out entirely is far, far easier.