Fitness: Pilates – The Silver Bullet for Cyclists
All of us have heard the name “Pilates” from celebrity fitness gurus and sub-urban moms, but you may be wondering, what is Pilates, and how can it make you better at cycling?
What Is Pilates?
Pilates is a fitness and strengthening system developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. The system focuses on building strength and flexibility mainly in the abdomen, chest, arms, back and buttocks, which typically are the weakest muscles on a road or mountain bikers physique.
Pilates Guide Marguerite Ogle made this observation while watching the Tour de France.
“As with most sports, in bicycling there are common pitfalls like repetitive stress on certain muscle groups and the accompanying uneven development of the musculature.”
In other words, we as cyclists tend to have highly-developed legs, but frequently without the same sort of muscular conditioning of the upper body.
In order to strengthen the commonly underdeveloped muscles try these three Pilates exercises:
Front Support/Plank Exercise: Works Arms, Core, Butt and Legs.
Position your body on all fours with either your hands flat on the floor or your upper body resting on your forearms. Pull your tummy in and straighten your legs one at a time so your body creates a straight line. Be conscious that you do not sag through your shoulder blades or hips. If your arms are straight, keep your elbows soft; not locked. Hold for two sets of five slow breaths. Increase the number of breaths as you gain in strength.
Pilates Push Up: Works Arms, Core, butt and Legs.
Assume regular push-up position with hands shoulder width, arms and feet directly behind you. While keeping your head and spine in-line, lift one leg up off the ground eight inches.
Do 6-10 push-ups or until failure in this tripod position while tightening core to your hold leg steady off the ground, and rest on knees for 30-60 seconds. Again while tightening core and keeping feet the same distance apart, lift leg off ground and complete your set with 6-10 push-ups or until failure.
Pilates Swimming: Works Lower Back, Butt, Core and Shoulders.
Lie flat on stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you, with legs outstretched behind you.
Before you begin squeeze inner thighs and heels together. When ready, tighten core and flex butt, slowly lifting chest off mat with arms extended away from you and about 6 inches off ground in a superman position. Without straining lower back, lift legs off the mat. Begin alternating arms and legs up and down in an even rhythm of swimming. Think of elongating your body and stretching your arms as far away as possible, pointing hands and feet. Make sure not to rock your core back and forth, keep as steady as possible on the ground while keeping tension out of neck.
Swim for 24 beats or six full breaths to complete one set.
If Swimming strains back or muscles to much try the modified swimming movement. Get on all fours and with the same idea, switch arms and legs in an alternating rhythm, stretching one arm and leg at a time. Make sure to not drop hips or arch back, engage abdominal to maintain tightened back angle. Swim for 24 beats to complete one set.
Athletes of all sports recognize the importance of cross training, more importantly weak-point training. Pilates being a program that is tailored to cyclists, should be utilized by all who wish to take their fitness to the next level. Be sure to check out the Top 5 Weight Lifting Exercises for Cyclists for additional cross training tips.
Also, If you are looking to improve your fitness further, Take a look at the Cycling Computers we offer for accurate exercise tracking and statistics.