Cycling is becoming increasingly popular, but it can leave you leaning forward on the bike and not always in the best position to use the body effectively. The position on the bike also means that the hips, neck and back are prone to injury. Efficiency is paramount for the cyclist. The more power you can produce and with minimal effort, the faster and longer you can go. A tired rider will begin to roll their body on the bike becoming less efficient whereas with a stronger and more stable body, head and shoulders, the legs will be able to turn the pedals more easily and with less effort. Sir Bradley Wiggins is quoted as saying that “without a strong core you can’t transfer power efficiently”.
With the emphasis in Pilates on core stability, strengthening the abs, hips and glutes as well as good posture and alignment, it then becomes an invaluable tool for the cyclist…especially on long journeys. Having a stronger core means easier and more efficient cycling.
A stronger core – Pilates helps stabilize the rider, building core muscle endurance so you can ride faster, further and in good form all the way. A better core will help generate more power in the legs. Better core stability is known to help reduce back problems.
Better balance – By strengthening your core and deep stabilizing muscles, it will help improve your balance on the bike by keeping your spine in a stable position as you move your limbs. For the competitive cyclist this improves safety and performance and for the recreational cyclist even safer and more efficient.
Improved limb alignment – By practicing Pilates you will benefit from a better alignment of the limbs. When the legs are properly aligned from the hip down, it will give you better stability and control when moving. More stable movement means improved movement patterns in the legs. Pilates is about moving effortlessly and with control, which comes from proper alignment of the limbs for optimal functioning of the muscles and the body as a whole. For example, it will help the knees and feet turn and twist during the pedal stroke. The better and more even distribution of force will also reduce the risk of injury.
Recovery and injury prevention – As mentioned above, proper alignment will protect against injury alongside a stronger core which improves force production and efficiency. It can help prevent potential knee and ankle injuries as well as reduce neck and back pain. Plus, if you’re injured, Pilates is a great way to recover from other cycling-related injuries, such as hip and lower back pain. Your mobility and strength can be improved in a safe and gradual way.
Bone health – Cyclists may have lower bone mineral density because it is a non-weight bearing exercise. This can lead to an increased risk of fractures caused by collisions or falls. Pilates, which is not a high-impact activity, can load your spine and hips, which cycling does not. Additionally, by adding weight bearing and resistance exercises that will load the bones and joints, it will help increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.
Improved muscle strength – Pilates training will help increase muscle strength without bulk, which is important for the cyclist in terms of power to weight ratio. Emphasis is also placed on strengthening and effectively working the glutes in Pilates, which, combined with mobilizing the hips, will also help reduce the risk of hip problems.
Improved flexibility – Cyclists are notorious for having tight hip flexors, neck and upper back due to leaning forward. Stretching and lengthening these muscles will help. If they are kept tight and short, injuries are more likely. Pilates will help treat muscle tension and imbalances caused by sometimes endless hours on the bike.
Pilates is undoubtedly the perfect addition to any cyclists training program and as a Pilates instructor it is important to understand where the majority of cycling injuries occur and to create programs that specifically benefit the cyclist. . During the off season, work can be done to build strength and alignment and during the season, more work can be done to stretch and release tight muscles while improving core endurance. If you want to prevent injuries, improve your performance and pedal longer… practice Pilates!
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