28th February, 2016
Whether you enjoy road, mountain or leisurely cycling – we think all cyclists can benefit from pilates exercises from novices through to the elite athlete.
Here are our favorite exercises for cyclists to stretch out and rebalance muscle activity after a ride and to strengthen up key areas of your body to reduce aches and pains and enhance performance.
1. Shoulder bridge
You can strengthen your buttock muscles (glutes) and mobilise your whole spine by practicing a shoulder bridge. Stronger glutes mean better alignment of your knees when pedaling and that reduces the risk of knee pain. Here’s how it’s done properly:
• Lie on your back with your knees bent.
• Breathe out and curl up your tailbone so your lower back is gently pressed into the mat.
• Keep scooping up your tailbone and peel your backbones off the floor one at a time until you are resting on your shoulder blades.
• Breathe in and hold.
• Breathe out and lower your ribcage, then your lower back and finally your pelvis and tailbone last.
2. Extension over foam roller
Reverse the forward stooped posture of the upper back by extending your upper back out over a foam roller:
• Lie on your back with your knees bent and the foam roller at the level of your shoulder blades. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck.
• Breathe out and lower your head.
• Breathe in to hold.
• Breathe out to lift your upper body again.
Keep your abs tight and try not to let your lower back arch during the movement.
3. Quadriceps stretches
Quads naturally get very tight with cycling – as a muscle gets stronger, it usually shortens. When the quads are tight they pull forwards on the pelvis and lower back, which can cause back pain. Tight quads will also compress your kneecap against the thigh bone, which over time can cause inflammation and knee pain. Simply stretch after a ride, maybe even daily if they feel tight. Here’s what to do …
• Lie face down.
• Reach back and take hold of your ankle.
• Press back into your hand and hold for 10 seconds.
• Exhale, gently pulling your ankle toward your hip.
• Repeat three times on each side.
4. Hamstring stretches
Tight hamstrings mean that you have less flexibility in your hips and your lower back has to compensate by bending more than it should. It’s much safer to bend from the hip, so you can use the stronger gluteal muscles properly rather than the smaller back muscles. More flexible hamstrings mean better posture on the bike, a happier back and the ability to ride for longer!
• Sit on the edge of a chair with one leg straight out in front of you and the other knee bent.
• Bend from the hip joint, keeping your back straight, until you feel a stretch behind your straight leg.
• Hold the position for at least 30 seconds, three times each side.
5. Abdominal prep
Long periods of training with the neck arched upwards to look at the road ahead, leads to a lengthening of the muscles on the front of the neck (neck flexors) and a shortening or the muscles on the back of the neck (neck extensor). This imbalance in the muscle activity eventually causes neck pain on movement. This exercise helps to rebalance the neck muscles:
• Tuck in your chin to lengthen the back of your neck as you lift your head from the mat and look at your abdominals (imagine holding a soft peach under your chin).
• Breathe out and reach away through your hands, lifting your shoulder blades off the floor.
• Breathe in to hold.
• Breathe out to lower again.
If you experience neck ache, place your hands behind your head for support.
Prevention is better than cure so if you’re serious about your cycling training and you want to prevent injuries then you have to work on posture on and off the bike, flexibility and gluteal strength.
Hope to see you on Strava – The Physiofit team!