Lower back pain is one of the most common injuries among cyclists. What you might not realize is that most of these injuries are due to muscular imbalances that can easily be prevented.
While serious conditions such as a herniated disc or a strained muscle warrant a break from the bike, most low-level chronic back pain that results from muscular imbalances can be fixed before resulting in injury.
A muscular imbalance occurs when the workload is not being distributed evenly or efficiently, and can cause certain muscles to work either too hard or not enough.
The transversus abdominus, or TVA—the deep abdominal muscles that wrap around the entire core—and the gluteus maximus are two common muscles that can lead to back pain if they aren't working efficiently. The correlation between weakness in these muscles and low back pain is directly related to the order in which these muscles activate.
If they aren't firing correctly, and in the right order, these muscles won't provide the stabilization needed to support the lumbar spine.
In a healthy person, the TVA should activate a fraction of a second before any movement takes place in the limbs. If the TVA doesn't fire, the pelvis and lumbar spine aren't properly stabilized during movement and the low back is allowed to move around too much, stressing the muscles of that area and eventually causing chronic pain.
The solution is to follow a core exercise routine that helps strengthen the TVA and gluteus maximus. Stay away from abdominal crunches; the crunch movement only exacerbates the rounded shoulders and tucked pelvis that contributes to low back pain.
Below are four core-strengthening exercises that will help to alleviate chronic low back pain. Start with one set of each exercise and rest 30 seconds between. Increase your repetitions gradually until you can complete 2 to 3 sets of each exercise.
Opposite Arm/Leg Reach
Start on your hands and knees. Keep the back of your neck long and don't look up or let your chin drop toward the ground. Gently pull your belly button up, being careful not to round your upper back. Keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground and lift your right foot and left hand at the same time.