Gain an Edge: Pilates Helps Improve Cycling Performance

Whether they’re in the Spinning studio or riding on the road, cyclists are always searching for ways to improve their performance in the saddle. They try the latest training techniques, equipment and nutritional plans in an attempt to gain an edge. But many don’t realize they can also reap benefits through a less obvious source—a Pilates exercise program.


Pilates conditioning, whether performed on the mat or on specialized equipment such as the reformer, involves a series of dynamic movements designed to strengthen the body’s core. It also aims to improve flexibility of the spine and joints.


As the fitness industry has evolved, professionals in the field have learned how important it is to effectively strengthen core musculature. If your center is strong and flexible, all types of movement are easier to perform. It’s clear that this concept applies well to improved performance in any type of sport or exercise.


Although cycling doesn’t use all of the body’s muscles, it does require overall strength, flexibility and balance. Pilates is a great complement to the Spinning program because it works the body as a whole and fosters postural alignment throughout a variety of motions. On the bike, this translates to more efficient performance. Think about the common postural faults of cyclists:

  • rounded shoulders and increased thoracic kyphosis
  • forward head posture
  • tight calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, IT band and low back muscles
  • less strength in the upper torso and abdomen
  • core weakness

Because it promotes proper body mechanics and postural awareness, Pilates can help correct these faults. To keep you riding on the road to success, Pilates also helps prevent common injuries and discomfort—such as pain in the knees, feet, back, neck and arms—that can all too easily sidetrack or squelch a training program.


Benefits specifically related to cyclists include:

  • greater effectiveness of the pedal stroke
  • increased upper body strength
  • prevention of lower back pain
  • improved balance
  • more efficient recovery of leg muscles
  • better endurance through focused breathing
  • correction of muscle imbalances         

For seasoned outdoor cyclists, incorporating Pilates into the transition and foundation training periods can pay off big during race season. Because Pilates doesn’t build bulky muscles, it’s also a great discipline to practice year-round. Even if you cycle exclusively in the studio, Pilates can enhance your performance and enjoyment of Spinning classes, as well as the activities of daily living.


Consider adding Pilates to your workout regimen. Any Pilates class taught by a qualified instructor will most likely feature a well-rounded workout that benefits cyclists. Private Pilates instruction on the mat or reformer better tailor a workout to your sports-specific needs. If you would like to take a specialized workshop or are interested in becoming certified to teach Pilates, log on to www.spinfitness/pilates for information about training programs near you.


Kim Goad is a SPIN Pilates Master Instructor and Spinning instructor based in Baltimore, MD. Also an author and performance improvement consultant, she speaks across the country on topics such as life balance, team building and peak performance. She can be reached at

A well-rounded Pilates regimen for cyclists or Spinning program participants will include an appropriate combination of strengthening and stretching exercises to address sports-specific postural and performance issues. Following are some examples of areas that should be included in a workout and a sampling of mat exercises that may be used to benefit each one.


Arms: necessary to control the bike and maintain posture when climbing

  • Push-ups
  • Tricep press-back
  • Leg pull back
  • Reverse plank
  • Twist

Knees: to strengthen quads and hamstrings, as well as correct misalignment of the knee

  • Swimming
  • Shoulder bridge
  • Wall squat

Legs: to stretch the hamstrings and quads

  • Kneeling side kick
  • Single leg circles
  • Thigh stretch
  • Single leg kick

Thoracic spine: to reduce kyphosis

  • Saw
  • Flight
  • Swimming
  • Bug
  • Cat/cow

Lower back and pelvis: for greater power and prevention of misalignment in the pedal stroke

  • Roll-up
  • Spine stretch forward
  • Hundred
  • Single leg stretch

Become a SPIN Pilates Instructor

SPIN Pilates offers certifications in Mat and Reformer-based Pilates instruction.


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