Pilates Pro, Olympian and Co-Founder of Studio Pilates International®, Jade Winter gives this insight on how to boost performance on your bike and get ahead of the pack without having to buying a new bicycle.
If you're into cycling then you know how much difference a great bike makes to your performance - what you may not know is how much difference good pelvic and core stability makes to your cycling performance. Whilst its great having an awesome bike, it's far cheaper to work on your body and your core stability than it is to buy the latest $15,000 lightweight bike frame from Italy.
Next time you're out on your bike and you're riding behind someone or you are in a pack, have a look at the hips and pelvis of the cyclists in front of you. Look very closely...what you're looking for is movement of the pelvis or hips. What you may see is that the hips will sheer, dip, drop or twist ever so slightly or even a lot. This movement usually appears each time pressure is applied to the pedal. It might be subtle but look closely...can you see it?
A shift of even half a centimetre is too much movement and if there is movement present you need to strengthen your core and most importantly your pelvic or gluteal stability. You do this by strengthening specific stabilising muscles to decrease this movement, which not only helps to decrease your chance of a chronic injury or muscular tightness, it also helps increase the power of your cycling.
Movement through the pelvis is the most common sign of a lack of pelvic and core stability on the bike but another sign can be the knee rolling inwards instead of having good alignment and pressing down in line with the hip joint and the pedal.
If you're a cyclist or triathlete or if you're a trainer or coach and you're training someone who is a cyclist then you need to get 'smart' about your cycle training. 'Training smart' in cycling is the same as training smart with any sport and in simple terms can be described as working on the weakest link in the chain and so often this weakest link is core and pelvic stability. After all there is no point doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result right? So let's 'break the cycle' so to speak and examine what needs to be done.
Why does good core and pelvic stability matter and what does it mean to me?
The consequences of pelvic instability are that it puts an incredible amount of extra wear and tear on the lumbar spine discs, this is never a good thing. It also means that because the stabilising muscles of the buttocks are weak, other muscles work overtime to try to stabilise the pelvis when on the bike these include the lumbar extensors and the quadratus lumborum (amongst others) causing them to overwork as they try and stabilise the pelvis and this leads to an tightening up of these muscles I mentioned in addition to the hip flexors.
Poor pelvic and core stability on the bike leads usually to a sore back, sore knees, tight ITBs (iliotibial band) and much more. These are often overuse injuries and are far from pleasant and can often take a long time to fix and to get the body back to normal.
Not only is there an increased risk of overuse injuries if the pelvic and core stability isn't addressed, but there is power that's lost every single time pressure is applied to the pedal, completely robbing you of the speed you just bought with that new $15,000 Italian bike frame....
Well if I cycle more won't my butt and core just get stronger?
No, the Gluteus Maximus may get stronger (and that's only a maybe) but your stabilising muscles of the buttocks and your core definitely won't and these stability muscles are the ones you really need to control the pelvis when you cycle. These muscles need to be trained specifically and targeted individually without using the larger more dominant ones. Doing this decreases injury risk and at the same time as enhancing your performance on the bike.
What do I need to do to get myself sorted?
The first step is to check your bike is set up correctly. Take your bike to a good physiotherapist or biomechanist who specialises in cycling and bike set ups. They can look at and asses any weakness and tightness in your body at the same time as looking at your bike. An experienced bike mechanic will also be able to help with your set up.
You might like to talk with an elite cycling or triathlon coach perhaps to get a recommendation or someone at your state high performance sporting association for example the Queensland Academy of Sport, the New South Wales Institute of Sport etc for advice on where to go and who to see.
During this process (and long after it) or if your bike is correctly set up already you then need to focus heavily on doing specific strengthening exercises to target the core and pelvic stabilising muscles in different ranges of motion to enhance your performance.
What muscles am I supposed to be training to increase my core and pelvic stability?
The specific abdominal muscles to focus on to help increase your core stability are the transversus abdominus, obliques and the pelvic floor.
The gluteal or buttock muscles you need to focus on include the Gluteus medius, Gluteus minimus, and the deeper smaller hip rotator muscles (Quadratus Femoris, Gemellus superior, Gemellus inferior, Obturator internus and Obturator externus).
The most effective way to train these muscles is not in the gym....its Pilates and for those that know their anatomy this list of muscles shouldn't sound like another language. If you're familiar with some or all of these muscles you may notice I have left out the rectus abdominus the gluteus maximus from the list of muscles to focus on.
The reason being is that these are not considered stabilising muscles. Whilst it's important that these two muscles are strong, training these over and over again is not 'smart' as they are often too strong and are dominant 99% of the time causing muscle imbalances and actually decreasing your core and pelvic stability and remember we want more stability and we are all about 'training smarter' remember?
Interested in cross training with Pilates to enhance your cycling? Interested in doing a Pilates course? Call 07 3899 4555 or visithttp://www.studiopilates.com