Cyclists spend thousands of dollars on precise training and nutrition protocols, seek out the best equipment and supplements, and look to find the best training groups to push them to the next level. However, in spite of their enthusiasm and commitment, very few cyclists are taking advantage of valuable training off the bike. This three-part series outlines six key exercises that not only optimize performance, but will keep you healthy for the long haul, as well.
Thoracic extensions on the foam roller
A cyclist in an aerodynamic position must endure prolonged spinal flexion (rounding). Thus, it isn't surprising that many cyclists experience shoulder, neck, and upper- and lower-back pain.
Daily thoracic extensions on a foam roller can improve extensibility of the thoracic spine, making it easier for the shoulder girdle and lumbar spine to be stable and remain healthy. Additionally, many cyclists feel more compact and efficient on the bike after five to six weeks of dedicated thoracic extension work.
How to do it
Begin with the roller parallel to your upper back, about one inch below the bottom of your shoulder blades. Tighten your abdominals and put your hands behind your head with the elbows pulled together (don't pull on the neck, though).
While keeping your glutes on the floor, extend backward as if you were trying to touch your head to the floor. Make sure that the range of motion (ROM) comes at your thoracic spine and not your lumbar spine. When all is said and done, each rep will look like a limited-ROM crunch.
Do two reps in this first position, then slide the roller up an inch toward the neck and repeat the process. When finished, move it up again, and then once more after that. You should be able to cover the entire thoracic spine in four adjustments of two repetitions each.
Make sure to stretch your pecs, lats and upper trap muscles in addition to your work with the roller. Results will be more readily apparent when thoracic extensions are paired with plenty of rowing movements to strengthen the muscles of the upper back. Part II will address these in detail.
The deadlift is arguably the single most productive resistance training exercise there is. Cyclists with little time for strength training can benefit from the deadlift activating several muscles per movement—including the forearms/gripping muscles, core stabilizers, lats, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and upper, mid and lower back.
More importantly, the deadlift is perhaps the best posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) exercise possible, which is significant for health and performance in cyclists.