Tis the Season for long periods of time in the “saddle”. For those of us that start logging more and more hours on our bikes as the sun starts shining, we need to get our muscles primed and ready before that ride starts. What you do before you saddle up can have a huge affect on how your session goes. Taking five minutes to work what I like to call “intentional movement”, focusing on the areas that matter most to riders, can really set you up for success. Use these cycling exercises to get you started.
1) Bracing and Breathing
Believe it or not, many of us have lost our ability to breath properly. Focusing an extra minute to breath using your diaphragm while you brace your core will only enhance your pedal effort. Lay on your back with your feet on a chair and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Take a deep breath in; when you do so your belly should rise. Once you have that concept down, start attempting to “brace your core”. “Brace your core?” you might ask. Here is what we are looking for. Start with your hands on the lowest point of your belly and toward the sides. Now cough. The force produced by your muscles when you cough is exactly what we need to reproduce. Now we need to combine the breathing with the bracing. Spend 3o seconds to a minute in this position then continue with the next series of movements.
2) Hip Flexor Dynamic Stretch
Forget those static hip flexor stretches. If we are talking about you getting the most out of those hips while you ride, you need to start engaging your anterior fascial chain. First, get into a kneeling lunge position (option here to elevate that back leg on a step or couch). Keep your core canister solid and braced – that’s everything from the bottom of the ribs to top of the hips. No leaning back necessary; brace your core and then squeeze that kneeling butt cheek. This will drive your kneeling hip forward and open up the front of your hip. Complete one-two second contractions about 20 times per side and then move on.
3) Standing Prayer – Lats
As riders, we tend to get stuck in a shoulder-rounded-forward position on the bike. This is an area of the body that needs to be prepped before and after the ride. Set yourself up on a table/chair or workout bench. Bend forward at the waist and have your arms resting on the table (shoulders next to your ears). Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, think about driving your chest toward the floor. Repeat 10-15 times.
Now it’s time to get those glutes firing and working in proper timing with hip movement. Every pedal stroke we need to extend the hip, therefore, organizing a proper sequencing in the hip can’t come soon enough. Lay on your back, knees bent to 90 degrees with feet flat on the ground and shoulder width apart. It’s all about conscious effect. Brace your core and then squeeze those butt cheeks together like your trying to “break a walnut”. Then lift the pelvis in the air. Here’s the trick: do not stop squeezing until you go through the entire movement. It’s not until you touch the floor once again that you take a break. One second up and one second down. Repeat 20 times.
5) Wall SLR (Straight Leg Raise)
The hamstrings are a generally misunderstood muscle. Typically athletes will spend a lot of time stretching them, yet not really feeling a result. Its time to move into the dynamic world. Get the hamstring to react and stretch with movement. Lay on your back, splitting the legs though a doorway. One leg straight up resting of the doorframe and the other on the ground. The key here is having the leg resting on the floor move up and down. As one hip moves we get a resultant stretch on the opposite side. Complete 15 lifts per leg.
All these cycling exercises are intended as movement preparations before you hit the road or trail. If you have any pre-existing issues or conditions or experience any discomfort while performing these exercises, make sure you check with a healthcare provider who is knowledgable in functional movement and exercise rehab.