The dumbbell deadlift, which closely replicates the biomechanics of pedalling, is coach Jacques DeVore’s number one strength exercise in his five-part Maximum Overload program.

Lifting heavy weights from a dead stop makes you crazy strong, and it eliminates the rubber-band effect (in squats and other exercises) that helps you bounce back up. This variation of the deadlift works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and lower back, and causes less stress on your back because you don’t have to clear your knees as you would with a straight bar (a hex bar works too, though an unweighted one is 25kg, so you won’t use it until you can deadlift that much with proper form).

Get Low

Get Low
Illustration by @bicyclingdesign

 

To perform this exercise, you’ll need two dumbbells (scroll down for a guide to choosing the proper weight) or a hex bar. Lower your hips to pick up the weights or bar from the floor. Look forward, with your head and chin slightly tucked into your chest (DeVore calls it “packing the neck”), and keep your chest up. If your shirt has a logo, someone should be able to read it while standing in front of you.

Get Up

Illustration by @bicyclingdesign
 
Drive your heels and midfeet into the floor as you rise, straightening your hips and knees. Pretend there is a wall in front of you that you don’t want your knees to touch, which will force you to push your hips back. Keep your back and arms straight. Stand tall at the finish.

 

Get Down

Get Down

Illustration by @bicyclingdesign

 

Reverse the motion and slowly lower the weights back down. If you’re lifting less than 25kg, lower until the weights are at about mid-shin. Otherwise, lower them to the ground. 

Do three sets of increasing weight at the maximum you can lift at 10, then 6, then 3 reps. For example: 10 reps at 15kg, 6 reps at 20kg, 3 reps at 22.5kg. (Find your weights for each set using the guide below.) Rest for three to five minutes between sets. Do this move as part of a comprehensive strength-training program like Maximum Overload two or three times a week during the off-season and once a week or twice a month when you’re riding a lot.

FIND YOUR MAXIMUM WEIGHTS

Do 10 deadlifts with a 5kg dumbbell in each hand. If the last one was not a struggle (it won’t be for most), repeat with 7kg dumbbells. If you can maintain form and pace for eight to 10 reps, go to 10kg dumbbells, then to 12kg, then to 14kg or an unweighted, 25kg hex bar. Once you can’t do eight to 10 reps without a struggle, you’ve found your 10-rep weight. 

Repeat this process to find your six-rep weight, but start with more weight than your 10-rep amount. (For example, if you got to 10kg weights in each hand for 10 reps, start with 12kg this time.) Once you can’t do five or six reps without a struggle, you’ve found your max weight for 6 reps. Repeat similarly to find your three-rep max.

Continue to add weight as you get stronger, but never increase more than 10 percent from one session to the next.