by Andrew Randell and Steve Neal of The Cycling Gym
The typical cyclist has poor mobility and a lack of overall body strength. You can see it in the cyclist’s bike position. Most riders have their seats set up too low and ride with a slouched, rounded back position. We go from sitting at our desks all day to sitting on our bikes. Not much variation there, and it takes its toll on our bodies.
Stretching can help your mobility, which will then allow you to get into an optimal bike position. With the right position, you can maximize your efficiency on the bike. But better mobility doesn’t just come from stretching. Weights can play an important role, too. Strength training will help develop the sturdiness in your back, abdominals and shoulders that you need for your body to “bridge” the space between your saddle and handlebars.
For weight training that addresses both your strength and mobility, get away from the machines. Use free weights instead. The core exercises are the squat and dead lift. These should be done through a full range of motion. Riders often talk about squatting halfway, to the bench for example, but this shallow squat misses out on the mobility aspect of the movement. Also, it is harder on the knees than doing a full squat and going below parallel, where the hip crease goes below the knee.
The great thing about movements such as the squat and dead lift is that they incorporate the whole body. You may think of the squat as working the quads, or the dead lift, the hamstrings. But in order to do each exercise properly and actually move some weight, you must use the whole body.
In both movements, use breathing and your abs to brace your spine and maintain a safe, neutral position. Your shoulders are active in both as well. In the squat, pull back with the shoulders to keep the bar moving straight up and down and avoid getting pulled forward. In the deadlift, set your shoulders and extend them out in front of the bar. Without full-body activation, the movements fall apart.
Incorporating proper weight training will help increase your mobility and help your body develop the strength it needs to get into an optimal position. Rather than slumping over the bike with straightened arms taking all your weight, you will be able to keep your shoulders back and arms bent, even as the hours tick by in the saddle.