Why Pilates should be the ‘go to’ for cyclists
Let’s be honest, when cyclists think of training, the first thing you usually do is reach for the heart rate monitor or power meters, climb on the bike and go hard. You might do some intervals or sprints on the turbo trainer, or go and punish yourself on some hills, you might even go and do some squats or deadlifts in the gym, but truthfully, how many of you actually put time into developing your core, or really understand why Pilates should be the ‘go to’ for cyclists?
There’s no doubt going out and sweating on the bike makes you feel good, plus it’s good fun and can help drive tangible results. However, the reality is if you can take a step back a couple of times a week in order to do some specific Pilates, you’ll reap benefits in terms of power, endurance, posture and stability on the bike, as well as helping with longer term injury prevention.
Whether you’re a road cyclist wanting to gain a few precious watts, or a mountain biker looking to attack the trails with improved speed and confidence, Pilates for cyclists will help fine tune you! It can even help with the daily commute or keeping up with the kids in the park.
Cycling position and muscle fatigue
If you’ve ever ridden someone elses bike you will know just how important
the cycling position is. You may feel comfortable for the first hour or so but
if you are a keen cyclist you will be often be out for much longer,
and sometimes from dawn until dusk.
The cycling position is difficult to sustain even if your bike fits you like
a glove. The road cycling position, particularly in the upper body,
results in changes in posture as you fatigue. With mountain biking you change position more frequently as you react to the changes in terrain, however this is in itself takes its toll on your core stability.
In cycling, if your core muscles begin to fatigue whilst supporting your upper body position your pelvis tilts to compensate. This can lead to increased strain on the lower back and subsequently reduced power output in the legs. As you lose power in your legs you will grip through your hands, arms and shoulders resulting in stress and tension through your upper body.
It’s no accident that pro cyclists can keep a strong and stable upper body over long periods of time. In road cycling especially, any unwanted movement or rocking is wasted energy resulting in lower power output, higher fatigue and poorer results.
Are you ‘bike fit’?
There are numerous guides online which can help you set your bike up, as well as specialists who provide bike fit services. Making sure your bike is fitted to you will undoubtedly help you get the most power from your legs, however that will only get you so far – you also need to be ‘bike fit’!
As with most sports getting out on the bike is definitely the most specific training you can do to build up your cycling specific muscles. However, if those muscles are not working correctly in the first place your body quickly finds compensatory power from other muscles. Over time this can result in muscle dysfunction, asymmetries and potentially pain.
How Pilates can help you become ‘bike fit’
So how can Pilates help you become ‘bike fit’ and why should Pilates be the go to for cyclists? Pilates trains stability and strength in your core muscles. These are the muscles in your trunk which help support the leg muscles as they push onto the pedal. They also provide support to the upper body and shoulder position.
Pilates increases your awareness and ability to fire your leg muscles correctly and more effectively when you are cycling. This results in increased power and better endurance. It also increases your awareness of a good upper body position (both on and off the bike), and as a result upper body stamina improves. While your legs spin and provide the power, your upper body is relatively still but it needs muscle endurance in order to maintain that stillness and stability allowing your legs to work efficiently.
Your bottom muscles (gluteals), thigh muscles at the front (quads) and back (hamstrings) work together to provide the power on the pedals. This is transmitted to the pedal through the lower leg muscles. Getting these muscles working together and firing correctly is vital for good cycling technique.
Take inspiration from the pros’
So now you know why Pilates should be the ‘go to’ for cyclists, take a little inspiration. Try watching a few moments of the time trial action at the Tour de France. Even when extremely fatigued towards the end, the best riders barely move their upper body allowing them to maintain power and retain aerodynamic efficiency. This is down to spectacular muscle endurance and lots of core work in preparation!
If mountain biking is more your thing then watch the elite riders tackle the world cup downhill tracks. Their stamina and strength lets the bike move effortlessly underneath them as they shift their weight to find the fastest lines with enviable core control.
Inspired by why Pilates should be the go to for cyclists and how it might help you? Get in touch to enquire about our current Pilates programmes or click here to book a bespoke 1:1 session with Kate.
Move Better | Prevent Injury | Improve Performance | Create ChangeView more articles from Kate Mackintosh