Tips On How To Improve Your Cycling PerformanceApr 19, 2023
Cycling is a great way to exercise and improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. However, just like any other physical activity, cycling requires coordinated muscle effort to produce efficient movement. Without proper timing, posture, and technique, performance leaks can occur, leading to wasted energy and reduced efficiency. Whether you are attacking hills in North Georgia or biking Silk Sheets southwest of Atlanta, here are a couple of concepts to focus on to improve your cycling.
- Ensure Proper Bike Fit: Proper bike fit is essential for comfortable and efficient cycling, especially on longer rides. If your bike is not properly set up, it can lead to discomfort in your neck, shoulders, back, and knees. A professional bike fitting can help ensure that your bike is adjusted to fit your body's unique measurements, as well as making sure you are riding the right size bike. I personally recommend Atlanta Cycling or All3Sports for a great bike fit experience.
- Proper Positioning for Riding: Proper positioning on your bike can make a big difference in your performance and comfort on the bike. Saddle height, handlebar height, and forward/back positioning can make a huge difference in your ability to generate force from the hips, as well as maintain optimal core engagement and proper shoulder position. Aim to keep a neutral lower back position to maintain equal abdominal and lumbar muscle engagement. You want to keep your neck as relaxed as possible with slightly rounded shoulders and elbows slightly bent.
- Proper Pedal Technique: To pedal efficiently, you should aim to maintain a smooth, circular pedaling motion. This means applying constant pressure to the pedals as you move through each pedal stroke. Rather than just pushing down with the quads and calves, make sure you are able to properly pull with the hip flexors and hamstrings while keeping a stable pelvis and low back. You can also vary your cadence (pedaling speed) and resistance (gear level) to maintain a more consistent pedal stroke effort.
- Use Your Core and Hip Muscles to Help Generate Power: Your core and hip muscles (abdominals, lower back, hip flexors and glutes) play a crucial role in generating power on the bike. To maximize your power output and avoid energy leaks, focus on engaging the abdominals, obliques, and lumbar muscles as you pedal, rather than relying solely on your lower leg muscles. This will help maintain a more neutral spine and stabilize the pelvis in order to generate more power from the legs.
- Proper Breathing Techniques: Proper breathing can help you become more efficient while cycling and reduce your fatigue. You should aim to breathe deeply and rhythmically into and throughout the entire rib cage, and not just “belly breathing.” Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Breathing deeply will become more important with higher efforts, as well as during a more aerodynamic posture.
- Learn to Shift Gears: Shifting gears is an important skill for any cyclist to master. Learn to shift prior to starting a hill in order to more easily maintain your cycling cadence and speed when going up hills. Just as important is making sure you are using your higher gears to generate more power output at the same cadence while on flat surfaces or downhill.
By following these simple tips, you can improve your cycling performance and reduce energy leaks while riding around the Atlanta area this spring and summer!
Also, if you’re in the Atlanta area struggling with any sort of injury limiting you from doing the things you love, give Athletes' Potential a call at 470-355-2106 or fill out a contact request form and we will reach out to you.
All the best,
Dr. Sam, PT, DPT, OCS
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