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Pilates for Cyclists: 8 Exercises for Core Strength and Trunk Flexibility

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For cyclists, it is very important to have the flexibility of the arm and shoulders, in addition to high endurance. Having core strength and trunk flexibility is also tremendously beneficial for cyclists. Pilates sessions can specifically address these concerns. That is one of the main reasons why pilates is getting increasingly popular these days. The great thing about pilates for cyclists is that the benefits provided by this form of exercise are very useful to them. Even with a few supervised sessions of pilates, cyclists will notice an improvement in their performance. Regular pilates sessions will teach the cyclists how to increase balance and this results in fewer fall injuries.

Pilates constitutes a group of exercises that target specific areas of the body. Various pilates poses aim at strengthening body strength, upper body conditioning, and flexibility. All these effects come together to give a strong core. Core strengthening is very important for anyone who rides a cycle and pilates can benefit mountain bikers as well.

Importance of Pilates for Cyclists

In the simplest terms, the ultimate effect of pilates for cyclists is core strengthening. A strong core is a holy grail for cyclists because it provides the body with a very strong platform to pedal and push against.

Specifically, pilates targets the following muscles:

  1. Rectus abdominis
  2. Transverse abdominis
  3. Internal and external oblique
  4. Erector spinae

All these muscles influence the pelvic and abdominal movements that are very important for cyclists.

back muscles
Pilates strengthens the pelvic muscles

Back pain is a very common problem among cyclists. An increased core strength also leads to a stronger back. Cyclists who practice pilates regularly are less prone to back aches and pains. Practising pilates regularly will make you more aware of each body part you are stretching and bending. This way, you will be able to assess your posture and learn how to improve balance better when you are cycling.

Contrary to the popular belief that strong legs are the essence of cycling, it is now proven that a strong abdominal wall is equally important. With pilates, you can target your abdominal muscles, improve balance and your overall cycling performance. Now that we have listed the benefits of pilates for cyclists, let us look at specific poses and exercises that Pilates has to offer.

Read more about Cycling Exercises: Strength Training Exercises for Cyclists!

Best Pilates Exercises for Cyclists

Following are some of the best exercises that cyclists should incorporate in their fitness regimes. With these exercises, you will reap all the benefits of Pilates for mountain bikers and cyclists alike.

1. Standing Shoulder Exercise

For this exercise, you have to stand straight with your hands at the sides. Reach your hand to interlock the fingers on your backside. Try not to bend the arms as you do this.

While interlocking the fingers, try to roll the shoulders back, expand your chest and arch the upper back so that the front chest experiences a stretching. Hold this position for 30 seconds before returning to the original position. Do three reps on each side.

standing shoulder pose
The standing shoulder exercise

This exercise is beneficial for removing the soreness and tightness that cyclists experience commonly. When combined with other exercises mentioned below, this exercise is very efficient in toning up the pectoral muscles.

2. One-Legged Plank

Start the exercise by being in a plank position. You should be facing downwards, with straight arms and extended legs. The palms should be lateral on the floor and the feet should be supported on toes.

Raise one leg off the floor and keep it in straight alignment with the spine, while making sure that the other leg does not move at all. Tighten your abdomen and hold this position for about 30 seconds before bringing the leg down. Wait for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg. Perform 3 reps.

one legged plank pose
The one-legged plank exercise

This exercise not only helps in shoulder alignment with the body but also increases lumbar strength. Overall you improve power and balance greatly with this exercise.

3. Jack Rabbit

This exercise is similar to the one-legged plank exercise described above. Together, these two are considered to be important exercises for cyclists. You start with the same plank position as described for the one-legged plank.

Lift one foot off the floor and instead of lifting your leg backwards, you have to bend your knee and bring the knee forward towards your arms but not more than your hip level. Tighten the abdomen and maintain this position for about 30 minutes before returning to the original position. Repeat for the other leg for a total of three reps.

jack rabbit pose
The jack rabbit exercise

Along with the benefits of the one-legged plank, this exercise also provides added pedalling strength by fine tuning the alignment of your feet, knees and back. The similarity of these two pilates poses make them ideal partners during pilates workouts.

4.  Mermaid

For this exercise, you have to sit with your legs making a Z-formation, with your left leg in external rotation and the right back leg in an internal rotation.

Raise your left arm towards the ceiling and bend to your right side such that there is no disc compression. Use your core to inhale as you bend and exhale as you return back to the starting position. Repeat up to five times on each side.

mermaid pose
The mermaid exercise

This exercise is the backbone of pilates for cyclists. It is great for increasing lung capacity allow the use of available breathing air in the best way during challenging tracks.

5.  Climbing a Tree

For this exercise, you have to lie down on your back in a straight line. Press the right leg into the mat and thrust the left leg upwards so that the toes are pointing to the ceiling and the leg is absolutely straight.

climb a tree pose
The climb a tree exercise

Imagine this upright leg as a tree and use your hands to mimic climbing on it. Pull your head toward the leg for extra stretch. Gradually, climb down and return to the starting position. Repeat thrice on each side.

This exercise reinforces shoulder and neck alignment and is extremely good for strengthening the core. This exercise is also extremely suited for mountain bikers.

6. Floor Bridge

Lie on the floor stomach up, and keep your legs apart and feet on the ground at shoulder width. Lift up your pelvis and try to align your hips, knees and shoulders. As you do this you will feel a tight squeeze on your glutes. 

Lower the pelvis down and stop when you are an inch above the ground. Do this exercise for 10 reps. This easy exercise helps you trighten the glutes and strengthen lower back muscles. If you have mastered the floor bridge and need a more challenging way to do this exercise, then you can try lifting a foot up about an inch from the ground. Do the exercise with a leg up and switch legs after 10 reps.

basic bridge pose
The floor bridge exercise

7.  The Boat

To try this exercise, you start by sitting on the ground. Place both your hands behind you and lean backwards to allow your torso to make a 45 degree angle with the ground. Now lift legs off the ground while keeping them together and stretch out your arms to shoulder height. Hold your abs in and try to let your thighs make a 90 degree angle. You can bend your knees if there is a tight pull on the hamstrings. Hold your pose for around a minute.

the boat
The boat exercise


The boat exercise can give your lower back and core more stabilty and this helps when you have to maintain a single position on your bike for hours at a time.

8.  Prone Snow Angels

Start by lying face down on a yoga mat and with arms along your sides. Hold in and squeeze your glutes to raise your legs, hands and chest off the ground. Do not lift them more than six inches. Spread apart your legs while raised and stretch your arms forward in front of your head. Slowly relax your body and bring yourself down to a relaxed pose. Do this exercise 10 times for twenty minutes.

This exercise is great at stretching all your vital muslces for cycling. These are your glutes, shoulders, lower and mid back muscles.

prone snow angels pose
The prone snow angels exercise

In general, these exercises rotate your spine when you are not riding your cycle. A workout comprising of the above exercises will ensure that your body muscles don’t get stiff. Therefore, you should power-up your cycling with pilates exercises.

Summing Up

Pilates makes a very good inclusion in a cyclist’s fitness routine because of the ease with which these exercises integrate with a cyclist’s movements. It is recommended that pilates for cyclists is performed on their recovery days because it is a low impact workout. It can be done in the comfort of your home and will not exhaust or exert you. If you know of more pilates exercises that are beneficial for cyclists in particular, we look forward to hear from you.

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