August 09, 2022 5 min read
Despite a stronger ride being a faster ride, there is more to cycling than simply power output. Strength, speed and endurance are essential. In order to increase your endurance whilst reducing your risk of injury, targeted strength training is advised. Cycling has been recommended as a means to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle by health experts for years. Yet studies in recent years have provided evidence to suggest that combining cardio with strength training will have maximum benefit results to your health.
Wanting more power on your bike should not be a cyclists’ only focus for incorporating a strength training program into their routine. These programs should leave you feeling your best both on and off the bike.
As cycling is a low impact activity, it is a well known fact that this sport is good for your joints. However, it has negative impacts on your bone density as well as postural deficits. The repetitive nature of the movements involved in the cycling motion may lead to imbalances in the body. This is most commonly associated with the overdevelopment of the glutes and quad muscles along with the underdevelopment of the hip stabilizers and hamstrings. Furthermore, due to the nature of our day to day life styles, many of us do too much sitting down; something that is also involved when cycling. Thus, the correct posture and maintaining core strength is vital in order to prevent lower back pain and injury.
The gaps which cycling does not fill can be helped through strength training which also aids in preventing injury, improving coordination, building stronger bones whilst ultimately also providing more power on the bike.
The muscles that provide power on the bike need a stable platform in which to push against; this is provided by a silent upper body. The goal of strengthening the core is to make the core muscles function as a unit with established control. Although you may or may not see physical changes, you will feel better during your ride which is the fundamental end goal of building strength
It is important to understand lower crossed syndrome in order to understand one of the most common causes of back pain experienced by cyclists.
The image above shows improper muscle loading which leads to discomfort and pain. During cycling, the inhibited muscles, glutes and abdominals are never fully engaged whilst the facilitated muscles, the quads, iliopsoas and thoraco-lumbar extensors are always engaged as well as often being overworked. Lower back pain is caused by cyclists constantly engaging these lower back muscles but without strong support from a stable core.
When you complete the pedalling movement, the quad muscles pull the pelvis forward. Your lower back resists this pull in order to keep your body securely on the bike. This action is not inherent to the design of the lower back muscles and as a result these lower back muscles become overworked which may develop into pain.
However, there is a common misconception that developing glutes has not occurred because the glutes do not “fire”. The glute muscles help to maintain an upright posture, supporting us in our daily activities such as walking and standing and then exercising such as running. If your glutes did not fire then you would fall every time you took a step, this helps us to understand that if your glutes did not fire then you could be suffering from a spinal injury. Due to this, a better explanation is to say that contraction of the glutes is inhibited in comparison to glutes that do not fire. This is referred to as gluteal amnesia which is often caused by tightness in the muscles that flex the hip and also abduct the hip; this is generally a consequence of excessive amount of sitting. In the case of gluteal amnesia it is recommended from professional research that stretching should be the first course of treatment. If after stretching for 2 weeks, the problem remains, then glute activation exercises should be performed, mainly at the beginning of the workout, such as pelvic bridges.