Psssst, I have a secret for you…..cross is coming!
Whether or not you have been strength training in preparation for cyclocross season, I want to share some basic mobility and strength exercises that you can start doing immediately to help keep your body functioning well deep into the cross season.
I hear about a lot of back and neck injuries and ailments midway through the season and have experienced some issues myself. The combination of spending long and/or intense hours in the saddle and all the fun stuff about cyclocross- mounts and dismounts, rough/bumpy courses, and grinding through MUD just to name a few, wreck havoc on our bodies and posture. Sitting for long hours at work whether in a car or at a desk exacerbates these issues as well.
Slouching makes our upper back muscles weak and elongated and our chest and shoulders tight. Extended periods of sitting will also cause our glutes and abdominals to get lazy and hips to tighten. Think about when you sit for a while, your feet almost always splay out right? That’s lazy glutes right there.
Here are a few basic exercises you can do before and after workouts or anytime to stay strong and mobile for the entirety of cyclocross season.
Activate upper back/stretch chest and shoulders: I recommend to all my clients to do resistance band pull-aparts to activate the upper back muscles. Keep a resistance band at home and at work to do pull-aparts a couple times a day and your neck and shoulders will thank you! You can also use the same band, or a belt, yoga strap, or a broomstick to open up your chest and shoulders before your ride.
Wake up your core with basic planks. You don’t have to hold planks for very long to reap the benefits! My routine is 2 or 3 sets of front and side planks for 30-45 seconds each. I’ll top these off with core stability and rotational exercises, usually a spinal balance and Russian Twists. These are the just the basic exercises I start with and I do mix in other exercises from time to time so feel free to mix in your favorite core exercises. Or for a bigger challenge, check out some of my favorite TRX abs here .
Stretch out your hips with a deep lunge to reverse the lumbar hunch and cossack squats to stretch the inner thigh.
To wake up the glutes, start with a basic glute bridge. Do single leg glute bridges for more of a challenge. Do 10-20 repetitions before your next ride and I bet you will gain a few watts. 😉 If you really want to do your glutes a favor, add in a set or two of light-weight deadlifts.
Side note: Deadlifts are one of the most important and productive strength exercises for cyclists and non-cyclists alike, activating many muscle groups at once including the forearms/gripping muscles, core stabilizers, lats, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and upper, mid and lower back. If you have never done deadlifts before, this is a great time to start working on form while using a light weight. Once the season is over and it’s time to focus on building strength in the gym again you will be primed and ready to add resistance.
Reverse upper back slouching: The first thing you can do after any amount of time hunched over is to lay on your back to allow your body to realign. Putting your arms out like a goal post will further allow your chest and shoulders to open up again. Breathe(!) deep into your chest and shoulders for a nice stretch. If that is a piece of cake, you can lie on a long foam roller and see if you can get your forearms as flat to the ground as you can, but please don’t force it!
For all stretches, hold each for 1 to 3 rounds of 20-30 seconds, or until you can’t tolerate it. Don’t forget to BREATHE! If it is uncomfortable to breathe deeply, then you are too deep into the stretch and need to back off a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a super basic routine to add daily, especially before rides and ESPECIALLY before cross practice.
Do you include other stretches in your warm-up routine? Let me know in the comments!