The biggest cycling event of the year is now in full swing, and as always, the hype of the Tour de France is inspiring us all to dust off our bikes and hit the road.
This increasingly popular sport is an easily accessible form of training, which helps cut commuting costs and keeps air pollution down here in London.
Today’s article explores how Pilates can improve your cycling performance, enhance stability and be useful for general conditioning as well as injury rehab.
How does pilates help cycling?
Pilates targets the core muscles, partially the abdominal, hips and buttocks (all of which makes endurance cycling much easier).
Strengthening your stability muscles though Pilates also helps you balance on your bike by keeping the spine in a stable position whilst the limbs move.
The other benefit pilates brings to cycling is maintaining a healthy weight. Competitive cyclists generally do not carry much weight, so they will avoid weight lifting or other “bulk building” exercises.
Improved limb alignment
As well as core stability, your performance will also benefit from the improved limb alignment that Pilates offers.
Again, this improves strength distribution and helps prevent injury to lower limbs.
Pilates improves your posture, which helps as cycling tends to leave you stooped forward. This position can also leave your hips, neck, and upper back vulnerable to injury, all the more reason to strengthen that core!
Cyclists frequently have lower bone mineral density due to the fact that cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise. Because of this there is an increased risk of fractures caused from crashes or falls. Practicing Pilates as part of a structured strength training programme can help to improve bone density.
Even for the day to day cyclist, those getting to work or getting yourself down to the shops, Pilates can help you increase your efficiency of movement and power generation, making it a much quicker and safer journey (with probably less sweat!).
How can Pilates help me recover from injury?
Pilates helps recovery from cycling-related injuries such as lower back pain, hip pain and knee pain. So this form of exercise can be very useful in your daily routine.
Most, if not all injuries that benefit from practicing Pilates, are those caused by muscular imbalances. So we really want to be focusing on prevention rather than cure. Pilates is not an impact or weight bearing exercise so it is ideal as a rehabilitation method to restore balance in the muscles.
Our top five Pilates exercises for cyclists
The shoulder bridge can strengthen your buttock muscles (glutes) and mobilise your whole spine. This encourages alignment with the knees when pedaling.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms resting by your side
- Curl your tailbone while gently pressing your lower back into the mat
- When you feel your tailbone start to tilt, allow your spine to follow, lifting your buttocks off the floor until you reach your shoulder blades, making sure you
- leave these on the floor
breathe in and hold
- When you are ready, exhale as you lower your body, from your shoulders all the way to your tailbone.
This focuses on mobility of the spine preventing neck and upper back pain.
- Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders
- When you are ready, inhale and then exhale while tucking your tailbone between your legs (your spine should flex upwards ,so you resemble a really angry cat!)
- Inhale, then on your exhale relax your glutes and send your tailbone in the opposite direction to lengthen and extend your spine.
This exercise is great for helping with lower back pain. Remember, static stretches are not useful before you exercise and should be used as a recovery tool or after you have finished.
For this you will need a resistance band but if you do not own one, then use your hands, or a belt, to aid your stretch.
- Lying flat on the floor with both knees bent, raise one foot so it is vertical (as can be)
- With your hands, a resistance band or belt, , slowly pull your leg towards your upper body, until you feel the stretch in the hamstring
- Hold for around 45 seconds, then perform our next move and repeat on the other leg
This exercise is great for those who practise sports with repetitive motion. Again, static stretching should be used after activity or as recovery but not before.
Starting in the position where we finished the exercise above, you should still have your leg in the air.
- From that position instead of bringing your leg towards the top of your body, move it across your body (So, if you’re stretching your right leg, move it across your body, gently pulling to the left)
- Hold for 45 seconds and then repeat your hamstring stretch (as above)
- A great extension exercise, particularly after your spine has been rounded forward while on a long bike ride.
- Laying on your stomach, with your legs separated hip distance apart, place your arms in a W position, so your hands are by your chest.
- As you inhale, push your upper body up, putting pressure through your hands.
- Exhale, and as you do, send your breastbone forwards to lengthen your spine and open your chest.
If you are not sure whether these exercises would be good for you why not book an appointment.
Education is key:
These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.
If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch
. We are here to help!