Cyclists: How To Stay Strong & Injury Free
By Heather Oakes, BSc PGCE PGDip
There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you have self propelled yourself from A to B with the wind (and possibly rain) in your face.
You’ve beaten the odds of a puncture, survived on your gels and energy drinks, given your sweat and probably a few tears…. but you’ve done it. Pretty soon you’ll want to do it again, and again. So how can you stay strong and injury free for your cycling sessions?
This picture shows you how cycling uses all the major muscles in your legs in different phases of the movement.
This means all over lower body strength is great for conditioning and injury prevention in cyclists. If you have muscle imbalances caused by previous sport or injury, then your body will adapt by over compensating with other muscles. This means you can still cycle on that day, but over time, the difference will become greater eventually leading to common injuries such as achilles tendonitis and patella tendonitis. Both of these need time out to rest and recuperate, so making time to prevent them is super important.
Lower back pain is a common issue with cyclists also. It is amazing how many cyclists will ride for weeks, months or even years without having their bike position assessed. Incorrect saddle height, handle bar position and frame size can hugely impact your spine health and contribute towards knee and hip problems.
You can see from the picture, that even with a perfectly set up bike, and good technique, the actual action of cycling places strain on the disks in your lumbar (lower) back.
Strengthening your core and lower back can help to prevent back pain in cyclists, and is definitely worth devoting time to in between rides.
Tuffit Exercises for Cyclists
This exercise arches and strengthens your lower back which is the opposite to your cycling position. This is the key to un-do any back tension you have from cycling.
Advice: Take your time lifting and lowering your upper body. Squeeze these muscles slower and for longer to really gain the benefits.
Your glutes (bottom) and quads (front of your thigh) are responsible for almost half of your pedal stroke, so keeping them injury free and strong makes a huge difference to your cycling success. Check tuffit advice on correct set up for this exercise, and remember to sit up tall with good posture as you extend.
Advice: Control. Watch the movement of your leg to make sure your knee is always in line, and lower slowly to encourage strengthening.
Glute Lift With Arms
Glute strength and balance is so important to injury prevention. If this muscle isn’t activating as it should, your body compensates by either rotating your femur (thigh bone) and causing knee pain, or over working your hamstrings (back of thigh) causing stress to your lower back and possibly resulting in a tight IT band. Now we know how important those glutes are, really focus on squeezing them throughout this exercise.
Advice: Think of lengthening your body, rather than just lifting your leg. If you lift your leg too high, you might accidentally arch your lower back. Try to keep your focus on posture and technique.
What an all over lower body challenge this is. Ideal for attacking cardio fitness and lower body toning. Check the tuffit educational video for technique tips and imagine doing every lunge with your tightest belt on – this will help to remind you to keep your core engaged.
Advice: Play with speed to keep your body guessing. Quick, quick, slow. Slow down, power up. Bottom half hold, power jump up. The options are endless.
There’s nothing like a core challenge. This is tough. Really tough. If you feel you need to start on your knees to perfect your technique, then definitely do. Engage your core – as if you have a spring gently lifting your belly button towards your spine.
Advice: If you feel it in your lower back, this is a clue that you are incorrectly positioned. You need to tilt your pelvis (tuck your tail in) so that you are in neutral alignment. This is much harder to maintain, but the results are worth it.
Maybe today’s the day you change your workout and take your journey towards an injury free future with these top 5 tuffit exercises recommended for cyclists.
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Heather Oakes BSc PGCE PGDip has a wealth of experience in the fitness industry and is also a qualified Exercise Referral Specialist – so she is expertly placed to provide advice on how exercise can be used to help many physical conditions. Heather has a BSc in Sport, Health, Exercise and Nutrition and a PGDip in Weight Management.