Pilates and cycling would not normally be two exercise options uttered in the same sentence. The traditional view of improving cycling performance would be to get on your bike and pedal, the more miles the better! But what if unrolling the Pilates mat, and spending some time strengthening, mobilising and stretching could also provide improvements?
Recent reports suggest that 85% of cyclists reported one or more overuse injury at some point, with 48% experiencing neck injuries, and 42% knee injuries (Scanner and O’Halloran 2000). Cyclists frequently have lower bone mineral density due to the non-weight bearing nature of cycling. This can increase the risk of fractures and breaks if a cyclist were to crash. Due to the forward hunched posture of cycling, hip flexors, necks and upper backs tend to be areas of tightness, and lower backs can often get tight and painful too.
Pilates exercises target the muscles of the core. This can improve cycling efficiency and power output, balance, and bike handling. Improved postural and limb alignment can reduce the risk of injury to the back and knees. The strength aspect of Pilates will increase muscle strength without increasing muscle bulk. This is important for cyclists, creating an improved power to weight ratio (watts/kg)
Benefits of Pilates for Cyclists:
- Improved mobility and flexibility to increase comfort and efficiency.
- Addresses muscular imbalances.
- Lengthens the hamstrings and strengthens the glutes.
- Creates strong but not tight hip flexors.
- Reduces the hamstring pull on the pelvis, reducing back pain and tightness.
- Increased scapula stability and mobility reduces neck pain.
Try these Pilates exercises at home for improved core strength, mobility and flexibility. Aim for 8-10 of each exercise and remember to exhale on the effort. Hold the stretches for 30-45secs.
Thread the Needle – mobilise and stretch the thoracic spine.
Mermaid – strengthen the obliques and stretch the lateral flexors of the spine and back.
Leg Pull in Prone – stabilises the scapula and strengthens the back and core.
Breast Stroke – strengthens the upper back and neck.
Shoulder Bridge – strengthens the glutes, hamstrings and core.
Extension over a Foam Roller – releases tension in the upper back and thoracic spine.
Quad Stretch – reduces the forward pull on the pelvis and lower back.
Hamstring Stretch – increases flexion in the hips and lower back.
Building a strong core and being flexible through the lower back, hamstrings and core will increase comfort on the bike, increase power output, reduce the risk of injury, and see your bike times getting faster! So start using Pilates and Cycling in the same sentence, and see a stronger body, and great sport specific results. If you want to see how Pilates can improve your cycling then book an appointment in the Studio today! Contact Real Motion for 1:1 session availability or join a class.
Written by Rhea Malkin BSc (Hons) Sports Therapist MSST and STOTT/APPI Pilates Instructor.