How to Get Your Body Bike-Ready
The only things cyclists should have to worry about wearing out are their tires—not their joints! Mountain Bike PT Sean shares how to stabilize three key areas of the body to prevent most cycling-related injuries.
BY SEAN SWOPES, PT, DPT, CSCS, RAUSCH PHYSICAL THERAPY
There are certain rules-of-thumb when it comes to the human body and how we are designed to move; our bodies are designed to walk, stand, sit, sleep and eat. Not on that list? Ride a bicycle.
However, that doesn’t stop us humans from having a lot of fun riding them! In fact, with research, experience and continued learning, we can make body and bike work well together. One way is to get a bike fit, which sets up the bike’s geometry to best fit the rider. You can also find a program like Ride Right, which focuses on the rider’s biomechanics. However, the most important (and oft forgotten) step if you’re planning to get into any type of cycling is first getting your body ready to tolerate all the stress it will endure while pedaling, climbing and descending.
As the Mountain Bike PT, I work with a lot of cyclists who deal with chronic pain or injury without realizing that they need to get their body in the correct balance. Like I said, the human body was not designed to be on a bike, but if you focus on and prepare a few key musculoskeletal areas, you can ride for miles without the unwanted stress.
The most commonly injured areas on a cyclist’s body are the knees, back and hips. If you can get your body in an optimal balance of strength and flexibility (also known as stability) in these areas, you can prevent most injuries on the bike.
Sean’s “Bike Bod” Exercise Program
Here are five exercises to help you gain the crucial knee, back and hip stability you need to avoid most cycling-related injuries before you even hop on the bike:
- Thoracic extension over a foam roll. The goal of this stretch is to improve the mobility of the thoracic spine to improve the postural alignment of the spine and decrease unnecessary stress to the lumbar spine.
- Prayer Stretch (Child’s Pose.) This a truly versatile stretch that can improve your overall mobility. The key is to prevent your lumbar spine from becoming overly-flexed to emphasize maximal mobility out of the hips.
- Hand Up Stretch (Couch Stretch.) The focus of this stretch is to improve your quadriceps and hip flexor mobility. The key is to maintain a posterior pelvic tilt (flatten the curvature of your lumbar spine) while sitting up tall.
- Squat with a stick overhead. This is not only a great exercise, it’s also an assessment. It will point out the flexibility and lumbopelvic (core) weakness you have.
- Dynamic LE warm up: Worlds Greatest Stretch (WGS) and Inchworms. WGS will take every aspect of the body to its end-range to prepare it for what’s to come, while inchworms focus on improving mobility of the entire posterior chain.
*Check back soon for my video explaining more about these five exercises!
As an avid cyclist, the only things you should have to worry about wearing out are your tires—not your joints. By taking the time and doing the work to optimize your body stability, you can defy human nature and adapt your body to your bike so you can continue to enjoy riding for many years, pain-free.
Sean Swopes, PT, DPT, CSCS graduated from CSU Fullerton with a bachelor of science in kinesiology. He went on to receive his doctorate in physical therapy in 2015 from University of St. Augustine, and began his career here at Rausch Physical Therapy and Sports Performance. Sean is also a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a physical therapist, Sean’s goal is to help his patients understand their musculoskeletal impairments and work together to improve them.