Seven exercises to help prevent cycling injuries

Stay strong in the saddle with these injury-prevention exercises.

You might think that’s it’s just your legs that are working when you cycle. In fact, your whole body needs to be strong and stable if you want to glide through your training plan injury free. Some of the drills below, such as the lower leg moves and the shoulder drill, are aimed at counteracting the effects of being fixed into a rigid position on the bike. Others, such as the hip bridges, will help you develop the stability and power needed to cycle faster.

Hip and spine drills

"The glue bridges will help knee stability and help your leg extend when pedalling," says biomechanics consultant Travis Allan. "Stronger glutes will also reduce the stress on your lower back."

1. Band glute bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent at about 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Secure an exercise band around your lower thighs so that it gently pulls your knees together.
  • Start the move by raising your hips up to form a straight line from knees to shoulders.
  • As your hips rise, try to push your knees outwards to create some tension in the band.
  • Start with a five-second hold at the top and gradually increase that until you are holding the top position for 30 seconds.

2. Towel glute bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent at about 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Secure a rolled up towel between your knees by pushing them together.
  • Start the move by raising your hips up to form a straight line from knees to shoulders.
  • As your hips rise keep squeezing your knees together to keep the towel in place.
  • You may find that your range of motion is less than when you perform the band version of the exercise.
  • Start with a five-second hold at the top and gradually increase that until you are holding the top position for 30 seconds.

3. Cat to camel drill

  • Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  • Arch your spine towards the ceiling while tucking your chin in to your chest then reverse the movement and continue until you create a depression in your spine.
  • As you do so, stick your bum out and lift your head upwards slightly.
  • Do 15-20 reps, aiming to gradually increase your range of motion each rep.

Lower leg drills

"If you are using clipped in cycling shoes and your foot alignment is off, your knee gets messed up so it’s important to strengthen the ankle, knee and hip joints," says Travis. "Your foot is also in such a rigid position. You don't get to move your foot much on the bike so it’s important to strengthen your lower leg and keep those muscles firing."

How to do it

Perform the exercises below in order on non-cycling days. Some of the exercises involve subtle movements so to get the full benefit you need to follow the form guides and concentrate on the precise movements.

1. Foot eversion

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Secure an exercise band around your mid-foot (not your toes) on both feet so that there is a small amount of tension in the band when your feet are roughly shoulder width apart.
  • On one foot, tilt the heel and big toe inwards slightly then sweep your foot outwards across the floor to create a stretch in the band.
  • The movement will be subtle and you’ll know you’re doing it correctly if you feel a muscle contraction in the outside of your lower leg.
  • Hold that position for a count of six seconds. Come back to the start position for 6-10 seconds and repeat that six times then do the same on the other foot.

2. Foot inversion

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Secure an exercise band around your mid-foot (not your toes) on both feet and cross one foot over the other.
  • Let your heel roll outwards (but don’t tilt it so far that you’re on the side of your foot) then sweep your foot inwards until you feel a contraction on the inside of your lower leg.
  • Hold that position for a count of six seconds. Come back to the start position for 6-10 seconds and repeat that six times then do the same on the other foot.

3. Plantar flexion

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.
  • Take one foot back to place the top of that foot behind your other heel.
  • Gently push the forefoot of your front foot into the ground, rotate your foot inwards slightly and pull it back in towards your other foot to feel your calf muscle engage.

Shoulder drill

You can do this drill on non-cycling days to strengthen and stabilise your shoulder joints and counteract the effects of rounding your spine while you cycle. "This is good because it externally rotates your shoulders while also working the muscles that extend your spine," says Travis.

Trunk raise

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Place your hands flat on the floor, level with your face and out to the sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  • Slightly raise your arms and torso off the floor.
  • Hold that position for a count of six seconds. Come back to the start position for 6-10 seconds and repeat that six times.

For more on Travis, visit travisallantt.com  

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