How Pilates Benefits Cyclists
51% of adult cyclists in the UK ride for recreation, health, and fitness. This statistic highlights the fact that cycling is not only a great way to get around, but also a great way to stay active and healthy. It also shows that cycling is becoming increasingly popular among adults in the UK, which is a positive sign for the future of cycling in the country.
Training for cycling has been traditionally very simple; the more miles the better! But could the introduction of Pilates help the cyclist?
The answer to this is a resounding yes – at both an elite level, and also for someone who is using their bike to get to work or for health benefits.
For any cyclist improving efficiency is key – the more power they can produce with less effort, the faster they can travel for longer.
It is easy to spot a tiring cyclist – as fatigue sets in their effort becomes less and less efficient, and as they pedal, their bodies will start to roll from side to side on their bikes. In contrast, riders who are still moving efficiently will have their legs turning the pedals smoothly whilst their head, shoulders and body remain still and secure, in doing so they are wasting less energy to propel the bike.
Clearly, the longer a cyclist is able to maintain good form on the bike, the more efficiently they will use their energy, and the further and faster they can go.
What are the benefits of Pilates for Cyclists?
Pilates targets the core muscles that help stabilise the rider on the bike, keeping the spine in a stable position whilst the limbs move. By improving their core strength, cyclists can increase their power output. An increase in core strength also improves balance and therefore bike handling – always an advantage in both performance and safety.
It is not just through the core where performance gains can be found. Pilates also encourages improved limb alignment when moving. Again, the key here is improved stability. Making the movement more stable improves the movement pattern in the leg, stopping the knees and feet from turning or twisting during the pedal stroke. This delivers significant benefits in both force production and efficiency and – equally important – also helps protect against potential knee or ankle injuries.
Another advantage of using Pilates for resistance training is that it will improve muscle strength without increasing bulk, allowing cyclists to improve their power to weight ratio.
Last but not least, Pilates is known for its ability to improve flexibility and posture, so it’s a great way to redress some of the postural and muscular tightness and imbalances that cycling inevitably brings. Cyclists tend to suffer from tight hip flexors, necks and upper backs, caused by being hunched forward over the frame. Pilates will help stretch, strengthen and lengthen these muscles, and help to avoid injury.
Given most cyclists’ obsession about getting their bikes as light and strong as possible, perhaps it’s time more of them thought about their bodies in the same way, and start improving their speed, efficiency and endurance whilst warding off injury by introducing Pilates to their cycling regimen.