Hitting spring, longer evenings and warmer weather cycling is definitely in full swing! Whether you’re cycling at elite level, for enjoyment or as part of your commute I hope this article will get you to consider the benefits of Pilates in Cycling.
For all cyclists improving efficiency on the bike is key. The more power a cyclist can produce using the minimal amount of effort the faster they can travel for longer. As well as power cyclists need to consider their form on a bike, the longer you are able to maintain good form the more efficient your energy use on the bike will be. Pain from sustained postures adopted on the bike is common and so improving and maintaining mobility and flexibility is essential.
How will Pilates help?
Pilates is a blend of flexibility and strength training targeting the deep postural muscles of the abdomen and spine improving posture and body awareness. Strengthening your local ‘core’ muscle groups will help stabilise you on the bike thus allowing more efficient strengthening and use of your global ‘power’ muscles such as glutes and hamstrings. This can in turn improve power and speed on the bike as well as your handling and balance.
It’s important to mention here that if muscles become tight they become less efficient. Maintaining length and flexibility in your hamstrings and hip flexors is key for cyclists.
Equally important is addressing stiffness and decreased strength and flexibility in areas such as your mid back and neck to counteract the sustained postures you are in on the bike.
The length and flexibility in these areas is even more important if you have a desk based job and are already sitting for prolonged periods. We know that postures we adopt in sitting can create stiffness in the thoracic and cervical spine as well as weaken our postural back, neck and shoulder muscles.
Key areas that Pilates can work on to address the above are:
Back - strengthen postural muscles of the abdomen and spine
Neck - improve scapula stability to withstand postures without loading neck
Legs - maintain hamstring length to avoid pull on the back and facilitate glutes
Hips - prevent hip flexor shortening whilst maintaining strength
So basically Pilates is a great form of conditioning exercise to compliment cycling, to help you avoid injury and improve your overall performance. Whether you choose mat or reformer Pilates or both I promise you won’t regret it!
At Four Sides London we always start you off with a Pilates Intro, a 1 hour 1:1 session with one of our expert physiotherapist’s where we’ll be able to assess your posture and any movement dysfunctions. We will then build a program tailored to you and your goals and recommend the best class or session type for you.
If you are unable to get to our space you could try our Four Sides @ Home Pilates Method. Two mat Pilates videos you can do anytime, anywhere!
Here are a couple of useful mat Pilates exercises that are great for cyclists to get you started…..
Good for: Mobilisation of the thoracic spine (mid back)
Action: Sitting up tall on your seat bones in a comfortable position. Inhale to prepare. Exhale as you reach the left arm forward and slide your right hand to your chest (like drawing a bow and arrow) rotating your upper back around a vertical axis looking around over your right shoulder. Keep your hips facing forward. Inhale to hold the stretch. Exhale rotate your body back to the centre. Repeat x 8 each side.
Tips: Imagine your breastbone as the point of rotation. Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Good for: Stretching the front of the hips.
Action: To stretch the right hip start in a lunge position with your left leg forward at 90 degrees at the hip and knee and right leg kneeling on the floor. Grow tall through your spine. Imagine tucking your tail bone in and tilting your pelvis backwards. You should feel a stretch across your right hip. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 45 seconds.
N.B You can add in your arms to increase the stretch by taking both hands overhead keeping your shoulders away from your ears and lengthening further up through the spine.
Tips: If you cannot feel the stretch ensure you are activating your glutes by imagining squeezing your bottom muscles.
Repeat each 45 second stretch 3 times to gain enough length through the muscle fibres and tissue