Just like runners, cyclists need specific Pilates exercises to complement their training. Here’s what to ask for next time you’re in class.
1) Abs of steel
There’s a reason our Mama K (Kaitlyn Rhoades, Owner — OnPointe Training) is such a boss cyclist: cycling is all about the abs! It may seem like biking is mainly a leg workout, but don’t be fooled. To ride in proper alignment, your core muscles are actually doing a lot of work. It’s also a myth that cyclists are hunched over their handlebars all the time. If you’re riding properly, your back should actually be flat, your chest open, shoulders back, and lats engaged.
2) Mid-back work is a must
Next to the abs, the mid-back muscles are the most essential ones for maintaining alignment. The lats, those wide muscles that spread from your spine to your side, are the ones you want responsible for keeping your shoulders down. If they aren’t properly active, the low back can take over, and that’s nothing but trouble. Pilates allows you to engage your abs and back simultaneously to ensure that your entire core is working as one efficient team.
3) Find your rotation
Like running, cycling occurs mostly in one plane of movement, so when you’re off the bike, it’s important to find rotation in your spine. Enter Pilates. Kaitlyn recommends doing rolldown’s at the tower with rotation and lateral flexion. Not only does this engage your abs and mid-back, but the twists will activate your obliques and ensure that nothing gets stiff.
4) It’s all about balance
Because cycling is repetitive, some muscles work a whole lot and others get to sit back and relax. It’s important to keep the body balanced by engaging the muscles opposite the ones that are working so hard. We refer to these as ‘opposing muscles.’
For example, serious cyclists wear specialized shoes that clip into their pedals, keeping their feet attached to the bike. This allows the quads and the hamstrings to do equal work: the quads push the pedal down and the hamstrings pull it back up. This is important because it works both the front and back of your thigh, but it mainly works the lateral hamstring. That means that when you’re in class, you need to make sure your other hammies are active in order to keep your entire leg functioning properly.
5) Stop, drop, & foam roll
Another part of keeping your body balanced is working out the lactic acid and knots that an intense bike ride can produce. Foam rollers are the most accessible, albeit sometimes painful, way to work out the kinks. Try rolling out your quads, hamstrings, back and IT bands on days off of the bike.
Foam rolling is also a great way to alleviate pain from improper form. Many cyclists tend to pedal with their knees out. This overworks the IT bands, making the temporary pain of rolling them out far preferable to the pain of a knee injury.
Stay tuned all month for more tips on how Pilates can help build you up in all of your physical activities!
Author: Ali Weeks