By USAC Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 1 certified ALP Cycles Coach Alison Powers
Not a lot of attention is spent on how we sit on our bikes. Yes, most of us take the time to get a proper bike fit, which is good. However, a proper bike fit is one thing, what you do with your body in that fit is another thing. How do you sit on your bike and do you make use of strong core muscles to provide a solid base from which to make power and ride pain free?
During a session of Pilates a few months back, it came to my attention that if I rode my bike using the same muscles in my core as I do in Pilates, I would ride stronger, longer and more pain free. We all spend time working on our core strength, but if we don’t use that core strength when riding, then it doesn’t really matter. Without utilizing our core muscles, our spines will collapse, pain will ensue, followed by poor and/or un-enjoyable cycling performance.
This got me thinking. When I ride my bike with a strong core, not only do my watts go up and I clear technical terrain more easily, it feels almost like I am doing a plank or getting ready to do a push-up. I have a long and open spine. My low belly is working and my shoulders are down and back. I’m gently pulling back with my arms opening my shoulders (helping me breath) while also helping to stabilize. This plugs everything in together- into my core. I am pain free and I am strong.
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Take a minute to think about it- if your position and how you sit on the bike is a position that you would not do a push-up in, then your posture on the bike is wrong. If you bounce or have excessive upper body movement when you pedal, then your core is not working. If you are sinking into any parts of your back or shoulders when riding, then your core is not working. Get your low belly working. The stronger your low belly gets, it will make your back more stable and you’ll have added power to the pedals.
Pay attention to how you sit on the bike- especially when you ride hard. Do you have a long, open spin or are you sinking into any parts of your spine? Are you sitting on your sits bones? Is your low belly working? Your shoulders should be down, back, and open.
Pull gently with your arms to plug it all together. You should feel like you are doing a plank in perfect form.
Spend time this off season to dial in your core strength and your posture on the bike. Come Spring with long hours on the bike, the last thing you want to endure is back pain and old, bad, habits.