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Pilates & Cycling: A match made in heaven

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Pilates & Cycling: A match made in heaven

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August 26th, 2015

Aching lower back? Tight hip flexors, shoulders feeling hunched? Pilates might just be the answer!

One of our Ride25 Pioneers, Tricia, raves about Pilates (particularly the reformer dynamic version) and throughout the last 8 years she has found one trainer who challenges her core like no other. Tricia recently met up with Dmitri Tkatchev at his studio in London (you can read more about Dmitri at Epoch Fitness) to ask him why Pilates is so good for us cyclists and what we can do to alleviate some of that pain we may well experience. 

Most Ride25 tours mean that we will be on our bikes for many hours for  consecutive days. If though, like me, you aren’t great at stretching enough (or at all!) this can lead to tight hip flexors, a week lower back, tight pectorals and hunched shoulders. Not to mention sore bottoms! You might therefore be interested in knowing that Pilates can help alleviate lots of these.
cycling and pilatesLike any exercise technique, Pilates serves one main purpose, improving one’s health and ultimately quality of life. It enables your body to perform at its best doing daily activities by setting it into a default, anatomically favourable alignment. Pilates is particularly suitable for any individual whose daily lifestyle works against this optimum state.
As cyclists, after biking for many miles, we can experience tight hip flexors, week lower back, tight pectorals, hunched shoulders among other issues. This can flow over into every day life and with time can lead to deterioration of functional movements and consequently lead to musculoskeletal ailments. As well as resolving these issues, Pilates can improve athletic performance by targeting particular areas such as tight hip flexors or weak gluteus. Pilates is a low impact and sustainable form of supportive training that can bridge the gap between endurance cycling and everyday life. It therefore helps to correct postural instabilities caused by cycling returning the body to its natural state and in many cases improving it.
Pilates focuses on quality of movement, not quantity, and dramatically reduces the chances of injury, something that makes it accessible to all levels of fitness.

Talking to Dmitri there are 3 specific areas we want to focus on where Pilates can really help. We then outline 10 key stretches for you to do each morning as a routine – these should take no more than 15 minutes. Just watch the video below.


Key ways Pilates can help:

  1. It strengthens the spine and improves spine mobility
  2. It relieves muscle tightness via a library of exercises that help to mobilise tight joints and associated muscles – namely the hip flexor complex
  3. It improves gluteal strength, particularly important for quad dominant cyclists

1. It strengthens the spine and improves spine mobility


By working the spine in 3 dimensions both the distal and proximal musculature of the spinal column are evenly worked. In contrast to the general fitness classes that focus on mainly flexion (as in stomach crunches) Pilates also works on spine extension, lateral flexion, rotation and articulation. Not only does this mean that the spine itself stays healthy and mobile but also the deep supporting muscles of the spinal column (multifidus) stay strong.

Why is that important?

Weakness in spine muscles that are responsible for keeping the spine upright, namely the multifidus, can result in excessive spine flexion of the lower back during prolonged rides. This is one of the main factors associated with back pain in endurance cycling. Strengthening these muscles is important for resolving and managing lower back pain.

Who should do it?

Pretty much anyone who leads an inactive lifestyle or spends a considerable amount of time locked in a flexed/hunched position.


Reduced incidence and potential complete elimination of lower back pain. You should experience improved posture and body awareness.

2. It relieves muscle tightness via a library of exercises that help to mobilise tight joints and associated muscles – namely the hip flexor complex


Both mat and reformer exercises draw attention to lower limb movement patterns with particular emphasis on hip extension. This helps to open up the hip flexor angle and relieve the tension commonly caused by prolonged flexion in that area.

Why important?

Hip flexor tension is implicated in anterior pelvic tilt leading to excessive lumbar (lower back) flexion in standing position. When coupled with weak multifidus (deep spine stabiliser – see above) this can place unnecessary stress on to lumber spine leading to pain and discomfort when standing.

3. Improves gluteal strength, particularly important for quad dominant cyclists. 


A large number of mat and reformer based exercises work on strengthening the posterior chain – Calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, mid and upper back. Stronger glutes and improved firing pattern of these muscles means that you are more efficient at recruiting these muscles; a particular problem for quad dominant cyclist.

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