Hello and welcome to the ADAM COPLEY: PERSONAL TRAINING blog. Here you will find weekly updates designed to educate you on strength and conditioning for cycling. Over the coming weeks I will be covering all aspects of conditioning your body for cycling and how it can benefit you in terms of comfort, speed, and improving your riding. So, without further delay. Let’s get right into this week’s entry!
HOW TRAINING CAN IMPROVE YOUR COMFORT ON THE BIKE:
Ever been out on the bike and felt you back in absolute bits after a certain number of miles, knowing you have a fair few miles left before you get home. You feel like you need to pull up and stop, but you don’t want to be back late, or slow your mates down. Not nice, is it?
Lower back pain and cycling go hand in hand, almost as much as lower back pain and being in an office job.
The source of the pain is usually due to being in a static position for extended periods of time. Or if you are riding off road/commuting it can come from wearing a backpack, pot holes/braking bumps. Especially on a hard tail and a rigid bike.
So, we have established that we stiffen up, and our back starts to hurt when we are on the bike. How do we solve this in the gym?
First of all, let’s look into the potential causes of pain when cycling:
1: YOUR BODIES ACTUAL PHYSICAL CONDITION:
You can be fit, but out of condition. Think of the word condition as the body’s strength, flexibility and mobility combined. All these three things WILL affect your comfort on the bike, if your body isn’t strong enough to hold a static position for very long it’s going to struggle. Likewise, if your body isn’t flexible enough to sit in the riding position you are going to feel this in your groin and lower back sooner rather than later. Think of the stretch where you sit down with straight legs and touch your toes. It’s a tricky stretch and it pulls. The position your upper body is in is similar to that on a bike (leaning forward, hunched with the shoulders and reaching forwards). Do this stretch and take note of where you feel it. This is where you will need to focus your efforts towards strengthening and mobilisation.
Yoga and Pilates can be a great introduction to getting your body back into condition and won’t tire your legs out too much so you can still cycle. I would look into local yoga studios or get hold of some workouts (you tube and social media can help here) and try them for 10-15 minutes per night/morning. It’s easily done, you can incorporate your family into them and even do them while watching telly. There is no excuse.
This form of exercise is low stress on the body, easy to access in terms of equipment and relatively cheap.
You would also benefit from employing a coach to work on your core strength, view the core as your whole torso instead of your abs and remember, visible abs are not a sign of core strength. I have seen plenty of people with six pacs who are awful at balance and stability work.
Give it a try and see how you get on.
2: YOUR MUSCLES AREN’T ACTIVATING:
A lot of lower back pain can come from a weakness or a lack of activation in muscles around the back.
Specifically, the glutes (bum), Hamstrings (back of the legs) and the upper back area.
The issue created here is that the body doesn’t need to use them during work hours (in most cases), or when cycling. Cycling is a very quad and calf dominant sport (as most are) and unless you are regularly descending on a mountain bike it is very rare you will use your glutes and hamstrings.
When your body doesn’t need to use a muscle, it will forget how to activate it when performing certain exercises. Your bodies neuro muscular mindset will think “my lower backs strong enough to do this so I’ll just use that”. And that is how a lot of cases of back problems occur:
Working on activating these areas through targeted exercises is key. This can be done bodyweight or at home with resistance bands but, once you have done this for a couple of weeks you WILL need to get in the gym and strengthen these areas to keep them stimulated. Here are a few methods of bodyweight and resistance band exercises to help you activate your muscle fibres:
1: Body weight glute bridge hold: Lay flat, and then put your feet on the floor so your knees are in a v, after that raise your hips up and tense your glutes (hold them, they should feel solid). Hold this for 20 seconds, once you can do this increase the time by 10 seconds. You should feel this in your glutes and ONLY your glutes.
2: resistance band crab walks: As pictured. Tie a resistance band around your ankles (you can get them cheap off amazon). Step out so there is tension on the band and step to the side, always keep tension on the bands and you should feel this burning the glutes nicely.
After you have done these exercises for 10-20 minutes a night for two weeks, I would seriously consider investing in a coach to look at your posture and how you move. They will be able to tell you so much about your body and really improve how you feel on the bike.
3: YOUR FATIGUED:
On the flipside of the above, your body could also be suffering from lower back fatigue. Caused by being active so much due to the reasons above it is constantly tired and giving in early due to this.
Let your body recover, stretch your back after a ride and after you have cleaned your bike, and put it away then run yourself a hot bath and soak your muscles. Heat will allow the muscle to relax with ease, allowing increased blood flow (and due to this, oxygen) to your muscles to enable them to recover. Taking care of your back is key to maintaining a healthy condition for cycling.
I have also included some pictures of stretching below for you to try out. Hold these for 8-10 seconds, relax the position and then repeat it twice. Do each stretch and hold it and you should see your back start to increase in condition and feel looser and more flexible.
Also, if you do have a job where you sit down all day. Try to have a few moments where you move, change position on your chair or just have a stroll about the office if you can. Keeping it moving in a gentle way is very beneficial to recovering tired muscles.
I am barefoot (and have odd socks on) in these pictures as I believe that walking around barefoot for a minimum of 10 minutes a day is beneficial for your body. It teaches your feet, legs and torso how to stand and move correctly in a world where trainers and shoes can be detrimental to your posture.
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