Your aching back may be the result of weak abdominal muscles, says Shannon Sovndal, MD, author of Cycling Anatomy and owner of Thrive Health and Fitness Medicine (thrivehfm.com), in Boulder, Colorado.
"When you hunch over in the saddle for hours at a time, your back becomes overly conditioned, and if you don't have equally strong abdominal muscles to counter your forceful back muscles, your spinal balance can be thrown off," he says.
For a solid core and a stable pedaling platform, Sovndal recommends these exercises, done at least two nonconsecutive days a week.
Hanging Knee Raise
Benefits: Decompresses the spine; works abdominal muscles; and aids forearm and grip strength
Do It: Hang from a pull-up bar, palms facing forward, and simultaneously lift both knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly lower your legs. To target your oblique muscles, alternately raise your knees to one side, then the other. Do two or three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Benefit: Works most anterior (front-side) abdominal muscles
Do It: Stand sideways beside a high pulley and extend your arms above your head to grasp the handle with both hands. Pull downward. As your hands pass your shoulders, twist and crunch your abdomen. Continue to pull as you bend your knees into the squat position. Slowly return to the starting position. Do two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
To see a demonstration of the moves, click here.
Benefits: Keeps the spine in alignment by solidifying your core; mimics various positions on the bike (hoods, tops, drops), which trains your body to be strong in those positions
Do It: Kneeling on a mat and facing away from a pulley system, hold a high-pulley rope attachment above your head. Curl your body toward the floor, bending at the waist. Slowly return to the upright kneeling position. Do two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Stabilize your spine at a strength training class