Pilates for cyclists: 6 moves that make you a stronger runner

“As cyclists, we always worry about our legs being the driving force, but it’s your torso that stabilizes you on the bike, so forgetting about your core and back muscles can lead to injury,” says Hannah Attenburrow, former elite racer who cyclist turned coach, Pilates instructor and founder of Beyond The Studio Pilates.

Pilates keeps you strong and in good posture on the bike. It helps with proper posture and uses functional movement patterns to maintain flexibility.”

This 20-minute routine was devised by Attenburrow to prevent injuries, increase flexibility, improve muscle strength and help correct muscle imbalances. It can be done at home and doesn’t require any special equipment (if you don’t have a stretchable band, you can always use a spare inner tube). You also don’t need to have any previous Pilates experience.



“It’s easy to do and accessible to anyone,” says Attenburrow. “My goal with Pilates is to build functional strength so you can go faster for longer. A tired cyclist is easy to spot. When fatigue in their body begins to roll from side to side. For riders who still move efficiently, their legs will smoothly turn the pedals while their head, shoulders and body remain still and safe.”

Try to do this routine once or twice a week. You can shorten or lengthen the session to suit your fitness level by changing the number of repetitions for each exercise.

“It will take time for the benefits to become apparent,” says Attenburrow, “but by rebalancing yourself you will eventually become a more efficient cyclist of your own—giving you more power for less effort.”

Six Pilates moves to make you a stronger cyclist

1 shoulder bridge

This is a fantastic move for cyclists because it stretches your quadriceps and builds strength in your hamstrings and glutes, and is also an excellent mobility exercise for your spine.

• Lie down with feet hip-width apart
• Slowly roll into a bridge position, starting with your pelvis and through each vertebra. The weight should be on your shoulders, not your neck
• Keep your hips up, but don’t arch your back. Hold the top as you inhale
• Exhale and slowly lower vertebra by vertebra
• To make this exercise more difficult, lift one heel at the top of the bridge position or do an ankle leg bridge

Repeat 6-8 times

2 Darts

This reduces the risk of neck complaints when you are in the saddle for a long time.

• Lie on your stomach and tighten your core muscles, pulling your navel toward your spine
• As you exhale, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor and stretch your arms at your sides with your palms facing inwards
• Inhale and hold as you pull your shoulder blades down. Keep your eyeline on the floor
• Exhale and slowly return to the start. Be careful not to push your belly into the mat

Repeat 4-6 times

3 shellfish

Improves hip muscle activation and develops better hip stability, promoting pedaling efficiency and reducing the likelihood of hamstring strain and hip pain.

• Wrap a resistance band around your thighs and lie on your side. Keep your knees and toes in line
• Bend your forearm under your head so that it supports your head and neck
• Tighten your core muscles
• Slowly open the upper leg by moving your upper knee away from the lower leg and keeping your feet together
• Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds before lowering slowly, keeping your back and hips still

Repeat 6-8 times on each side

4 Swim and curl up

This move stabilizes the core muscles, which help with your position on the bike. It strengthens the glutes and hamstrings for stronger legs and improves coordination.

• Start in the four-point kneeling position and engage your core muscles
• Keep your eyes down and slowly extend your left arm and right leg
• Hold briefly and then bring your knee to your wrist below your chest before extending your arm and leg back out
• Think about the length, not the height, of your arm and leg
• Keep your pelvis neutral by imagining you are balancing a tray of drinks on your back

Repeat 6-8 times on each side

5 Stretch your back

This simple stretch relieves tension in the spine, hips and shoulders and relieves discomfort in the lumbar spine.

• Lie on your back and stretch both arms out along the floor to open the space between your shoulder blades
• Bring your knees to your chest, inhale and engage your core
• Exhale and roll your knees to the side, resting them on a pillow if necessary
• Keep your shoulders and arms flat on the floor
• As the lower back gradually releases, you can slowly straighten your legs, eventually aiming for your toes to touch your hand

Repeat on the other side

6 Hamstring stretch

Helps with hip pain and hamstring strain by maintaining the length of your hamstrings while stabilizing your torso.

• Lie down with your back flat and feet on the floor, knees bent
• Slowly raise one leg to straight, either with your hands or with a band or inner tube
• Hold for 30 seconds
• Gently pull back to increase the stretch, pointing your toes toward your face. Hold for another 30 seconds
• Pass the leg over the other bent leg. Hold for 30 seconds, then drop the leg to the side and hold for another 30 seconds

Repeat on the other leg


Meet the expert

Hannah Attenburrow is an elite mountain bike racer with a penchant for all things endurance, whether it’s a marathon, stage race, or 12 and 24 hour race.

Hannah loves long, grueling miles and the reward that comes with completing personal adventures on a bike.

She believes in the strength Pilates adds to her workout, and uses it to strengthen her body and stay injury free (most of the time).

Hannah is a professional cycling coach and guide, as well as a Pilates instructor specializing in sports Pilates and women’s health and fitness. She has worked with several athletes who compete at the international level and use Pilates as a way to improve their performance and efficiency on the bike.

Instagram: @beyondthestudiopilates

Facebook: @beyondthemud

Website: Beyond the Pilates studio / Beyond the mud


Pilates Photography: Jon Golden

Pilates for cyclists: 6 moves that make you a stronger runner

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