Pilates, created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, is one of the most popular physical fitness systems in the country. The form of exercise stresses a balanced body through core strength, flexibility and awareness.
Aimee Baker, master Pilates teacher said cyclists should make exercise choices that are going to counter balance the stresses that being hunched over does to your spine and core muscles.
“For cyclists, it’s about introducing counter movements to balance the demands on the body. You want to introduce more balance to your system,” she advised.
Every intervention is about bringing you out of the hunched position you are in when you bike. It’s about elongating your spine, remodeling tissue and restoring balance and core stability.
“You want to bring yourself out of the seated, hunched position, correcting posture back to a more elongated spine. The priority is getting yourself back to a more neutral spinal position,” she said.
Pilates is a way to bring your body back to being balanced and stable when you are not on your bike—back to being upright and elongated instead of hunched over.
Baker recommended the following five exercises for cyclists.
Exercise 1 - Quad Release With Foam Rollers
You must be doing some a quad release on the foam roller to keep your quads, knees and hips in prime condition.
You’ll do this on the floor ideally. Put the foam roller on the floor and position yourself so that your elbows are supporting your up while your quads are on top of the foam roller. Stay in one spot for at least two minutes. Keep moving the foam roller until you have done all of your quads.
Quad releases on a foam roller helps to release chronic tightness and helps them to elongate, release and become more responsive. This will be strengthening your quads in an elongated position so it remodels the tone of the quads.
After strengthening the elongated quads you will want to put a stabilization demand on the quad tissue that you had released.
Exercise 2 - Half Kneel Position For Quad Release
Put the foam roller on the ground perpendicular to your body. Kneel just one leg so your shin is on top of the foam roller and extend out your other leg so you are balancing on that leg (like a lunge). Your hip should be directly over your knee though. Stay here for 2 minutes and switch sides. Do at least 3 times.
The leg that is down will get the hip flexors elongated, when you sustain and breathe and balance you are starting to train your quads in an elongated position and it will start to change the tone of the quads.
Exercise 3 - Thoracic Spine Extension
Put a foam roller on the ground and it should be underneath your back perpendicular to your body. It should be positioned at your bra line (or bottom of the shoulder blades for guys). You are going to lay on top of the foam roller.
Clasp your hands and put them around the back of your head. Moving from your spine start to slowly move up and lower your head back. The movement is not coming from your head and neck but from your upper back. Do at least 10 reps.
This is getting your thoraic spine elongated. When you are flexing your spine then you are getting thoracic spinal extension over the foam roller so you can un-hunch your spine.
Exercise 4 - Spinal Stability, Articulation and Mobilization
Lay on the ground with your right leg stretched out so that your foot is pressing a wall (for stability). Turn to left side. Bring your left leg up and bend your knee out. Stick your arms straight out in the air and then turn to the right and hold for 5 breaths. Turn with your ribcage. Keep your pelvis and straight leg stable as you twist. Turn back. Repeat 5 times. Repeat on the other side.
The benefits for cyclists are in just getting your thoracic spine moving and then clearing the thoracic spine and bringing more movement to your vertebrae. The sideline rotation is a spinal pattern you don’t do when you are cycling so it is helping to mobilize for spinal stability. It’s a high priority that the upper back retains movement in all planes of motion so you don’t lose range of motion in other directions.
Exercise 5 - Flexion, Strengthening and Stabilizing
Lay on the floor with one leg straight resting against the wall. Slowly raise and lower the other leg ten times. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits for cyclists - Your spine is always supported and this helps to stabilize your trunk while gesturing the legs in a controlled manner. The is a different demand than on a bicycle. You are training your core in a more active and stabilizing manner. This is helping to balance the demand on the lower half of the body.