POSTURAL EXERCISES THAT WILL KEEP YOU CYCLING STRONG

January 07 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California

Words and Images // Dr. Karen Roitz


We are a head forward, shoulders forward society. We sit too long looking at computer screens and constantly look down at our phones. Many of us have a “postural syndrome” meaning that our shoulders rotate inward, forward and downward which causes our head to move forward. When we then translate our “postural syndrome” to the cycling position it is easy to get neck pain, shoulder pain and low back pain as a result.


Our spine is designed to have three balanced curves in the shape of an "S". With poor posture on the bike, our spine loses its shape as the body rounds forward from the tailbone to the shoulders when we reach between the saddle and handlebars. Neck pain from cycling is probably one of the most common overuse injuries that stems from poor posture and weak muscles. Despite the lack of trauma, the injuries associated with neck pain can be debilitating to the point where it is almost impossible to get on the bike. Unless tension is released regularly your neck, shoulder, mid-back and low back pain will progress and your posture will deteriorate.


cyclingposture_1.jpg

Juliana Bicycles Image
Matthew DeLorme


Maybe you don't have any pain cycling for an hour or two, and only get pain on the longer rides or things “get tight” after you ride. If this is you, chances are the muscles of the neck and shoulders aren't strong enough to support the weight of the head for that long of duration, which can also be a source of pain.


This happens because of the tensing of the trapezius muscles that run along the side of the neck and shoulder and attach at the base of the head. When these muscles are tensed for a long period of time, blood flow to the area is decreased, which starves the muscles of oxygen. This can lead to trigger points, muscle spasms and potentially quite a bit of pain.


To keep the muscles loose and relaxed (also important to do while riding) and strong enough to support the amount of cycling you're doing, cyclists should develop a consistent routine of strengthening and mobility exercises to stay pain free.


The following mobility and strengthening exercises are designed to keep you standing tall and riding hard.

*Remember that pain is a good indicator that something is wrong. These exercises are not meant to be an alternative to seeing a doctor, as some conditions can be more serious than simple stretching and strengthening exercises can fix. As always, be smart and listen to your body.


TRX POSTURAL STRENGTHENING EXERCISES: What the heck is TRX?


Invented by a former U.S. Navy SEAL, the TRX (short for total-body resistance exercise) turns every exercise into a challenge for your core by using two simple resources: gravity and your body weight. All you have to do is anchor the TRX straps to a secure spot — think a weight machine, a door frame, or monkey bars if you’re getting creative. Depending on the exercise, you’ll use your feet or hands to hold onto the straps.



TRX CHEST STRETCH:


Starting Position: Turn around so you are facing away from the TRX anchor. Walk forward with arms extended out to the side in the ‘T’ position until tension is felt across the chest. Take a lunge stance with one foot in front of the other.


Movement: Bend front knee until a gentle stretch is felt across the chest. Repeat for 3 sets of 1 rep with 30 seconds rest in between sets.



OPTIONAL SIDE STRETCH: Bring one arm up overhead opposite the front leg side. The other arm is down and behind the front leg side. Lean toward the front leg side for additional side stretch.



OPTIONAL CHEST STRETCH WITHOUT TRX:


Starting Position: Using a doorway, a pole or a stable piece of exercise equipment place your forearm and hand up against it. Make sure your elbow is below your shoulder. Take a lunge stance.


Movement: Bend the front knee, keep your chest high and your head back. Feel a gentle stretch across the front of the chest. Repeat for 3 sets of 1 rep with 30 seconds rest in between sets.



TRX ‘T’ DELTOID FLY:


Starting position: Take an offset foot stance, lean back slightly and extend arms straight in front of the body.


Movement: Extend arms to sides level with shoulders and palms forward making a ‘T’. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets. 3x/week.



TRX ‘I’ OVERHEAD BACK EXTENSION:


Starting position: Extend arms directly out in front of body with slight tension on handles.


Movement: While pulling back on handles, extend arms directly over shoulders. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.



TRX ‘W’ DELTOID FLY:


Starting position: Lean back slightly and extend arms directly out in front of the body with slight tension on handles.


Movement: Extend arms to sides while keeping elbows bent and rotating shoulders backwards into the shape of a ‘W” with palms facing forward. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets. 3x/week.



SUPERWOMAN WITH HOLD:


Starting position: Lying flat on the floor, face down


Movement: With arms overhead and toes maintaining contact with the ground, raise the chest off the ground and hold for 10 seconds while continuing to breath. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest 3x/week.


MOBILITY EXERCISES:


Mobility exercises increase elasticity and circulation in your muscles. A great thing to do daily!



GLUTE FOAM ROLL MYOFASCIAL RELEASE:


Starting Position: Begin seated on foam roll. Cross one leg over the other, placing the ankle on the thigh above the knee. Support the upper body with one or two hands.


Movement: Press downward on crossed knee with hand initiating a tightening sensation in the hip. Lean slightly to the same side and gently roll forward and back for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, then continue. Alternate sides. Rest and repeat for 3 sets of 1 rep with 30 seconds rest in between sets.



MID BACK FOAM ROLL MYOFASCIAL RELEASE:


Starting Position: Begin seated on the floor. Lie back placing foam roll across upper back. Cross arms in front or cradle head while you interlace your fingers with elbows open.


Movement: Lift hips off floor. Slowly massage your upper back, rolling up and down as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, then continue. Rest and repeat for 3 sets of 1 rep with 30 seconds rest in between sets.



Courtesy of SOL Santa Cruz


Juliana Ambassador - Karen Roitz, DC - Dr. Karen has worked with many professional cyclists over the years at major events like Sea Otter. When she is not working at her clinic, SOL Santa Cruz, she can be found riding her Furtado or Quincy on the local Santa Cruz trails.

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