So You’re A Cyclist…..
What does this mean? To a physical therapist it means many things. The relatively static position of the bike with a fixed repetitive movement for hours has many impacts. The position leads us to think about what muscles are doing the majority of the work and what muscles will need attention due to prolonged time in a shortened position. Hopefully, you are using the correct muscles but that is a different post. Strengthening specific muscles and spending time on stretching/mobility for other muscles will allow for greater power and efficiency, as well as prevent pain and injuries.
Let’s start with the strengthening portion. As a cyclist, most of your power comes from the glutes, but the core and shoulder blades also play crucial roles. If you are weak through your core, then you lose power due to unnecessary movement through the bike. Key muscles to focus on are gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, obliques, transverse abdominis and lower/middle trapezius. A key factor to keep in mind with cycling is that pedaling happens one leg at a time, so to be specific, you need to incorporate single leg exercises.
After hours in the saddle, post ride stretching is crucial, but should also be performed throughout the week. Cyclist are prone to tightness in the hip flexors, lats, thoracic spine and pecs. Decreased mobility can impact posture on the bike, breathing and ability to activate the glutes properly. Proper muscle stretching technique is pain-free low load, long duration. Mobilizing the thoracic spine should be done with repetitive low-grade oscillations.
Maintaining mobility and incorporating focused strengthening will help keep you healthy and pedaling happy through your training, riding, and racing.