The importance of a strong and fit back cannot be overemphasized. The back and spine provide the foundation for almost every activity performed, and cycling is no exception. Unfortunately, back problems are a frequent complaint of cyclists. Because of the bent-over position on a bike, back muscles are constantly engaged. This stress can wreak havoc on the body if it isn't conditioned and trained to withstand the ongoing effort. In addition to withstanding the strain of the cyclists' position, the back must also provide a solid base that enables a cyclist to generate power during their pedal stroke. Back muscles stabilize the spine and pelvis, allowing the legs to generate maximal power.
The best strategy for a healthy back is to proactively condition the body to avoid any problems before they arise. Take time to build strength in the back-this will pay dividends in the long run.
Exercise: Stability Ball Extension
- Primary: Erector spinae
- Secondary: Splenius capitis, gluteus maximus, deltoid
- Lie with the lower abdomen draped over a stability ball.
- Keeping one foot on the floor, arch the back while raising and extending the arm and opposite leg. The elbow and knee should be straight (extended).
- Slowly lower the arm and leg. Curl the body around the stability ball.
- Repeat the exercise using your other arm and leg.
The erector spinae muscles must withstand enduring workloads when riding a bike. For the majority of rides, these muscles will maintain a forward leaning posture. If the back becomes sore or fatigued, the erector spinae muscles are usually the culprit. The stability ball extension is particularly effective because it provides full range of motion at maximal extension. This will counter the hours spent with the back arched forward on the bike. Added weights are not needed to make this workout effective. Remember that stretching and moving muscles through their complete range of motion will help get the most out of muscle fibers.
Excerpt adapted from Cycling Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2009). For more information on Cycling Anatomy or other books in the anatomy series, visit www.HumanKinetics.com or call 800.747.4457.