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Cycling + Pilates: The Perfect Combination

Woman CyclistAs the fitness industry has evolved, professionals in the field have learned how important it is to effectively strengthen core musculature. If your center is strong and flexible, all types of movement are easier to perform. It’s clear that this concept applies well to improved performance in any type of sport or exercise.

Cycling requires overall strength, flexibility and balance. Pilates is a great complement to cycling because it works the body as a whole and fosters postural alignment throughout a variety of motions. On the bike, this translates to more efficient performance. Think about the common postural faults of cyclists:

  • Rounded shoulders and increased thoracic kyphosis
  • Tight calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, IT band and low back muscles
  • Less strength in the upper torso and abdomen
  • Core weakness

Because it promotes proper body mechanics and postural awareness, Pilates can help correct these faults. Pilates can correct muscular imbalances such as overloaded quads by stretching tight hip flexors and quads and by working opposite (hamstring) muscles.

One of the key elements in Pilates is elongation and stability of the spine, as well as proper pelvic alignment. This allows for powerful and streamlined extremity movement, in this case, pedalling. The push and pull of the legs becomes more energy efficient and ergonomic, hence power and endurance improve.

Benefits specifically related to cyclists include:

  • Greater effectiveness of the pedal stroke
  • Increased upper body strength and better posture
  • Prevention of lower back pain
  • Improved balance
  • More efficient recovery of leg muscles
  • Better endurance through focused breathing
  • Correction of muscle imbalances

While Pilates may not increase your power output, it will teach you how to pedal more efficiently because it works on movement control and pelvic stability. Your abdominal and back muscles are called “core muscles” for a good reason—they are the foundation of the body’s stabilization and strength. Because much of the power in your pedal stroke comes from using these core muscle groups, developing a strong core is essential to your cycling success.

If your pelvis and spine rock and shift inappropriately as you pedal, you can strain or even injure the muscles in your hips and lower back. Pilates will teach you how to keep your pelvis appropriately stable during movements like pedaling. From the Pilates concepts and exercises, you will learn how to protect your body from injury, increase your comfort on the bike, improve muscle performance and challenge your extension on the bike.
 Your core is the platform from which your legs push, so when the core is weak, so is your pedal stroke. Pilates classes address this issue and help keep your center rock-steady by following three Pilates concepts

Heel-to-Buttock Connection: (ex. footwork on the reformer with heels on foot bar)
  • Rib-to-Scapula Connection: (ex. pulling straps on the long box and the long stretch)
Three Anchors: 1) low abdominals, 2) inner thighs, and 3) gluteus/hamstrings (ex. using the Power Circle between the knees to engage and connect the three anchors and standing side splits)

For overall conditioning, cycling performance and injury prevention, Pilates is essential.