Think about your posture at your desk and on the bike: It’s very forward focused, with your shoulders likely rounded, and spine, hips, and knees flexed. As you ride, your quads also take on a lot of work, along with your chest and abdominal muscles which help to keep you stable and assist in bike handling. This all means that you’re mostly working the muscles on the front of the body throughout the day. And the perfect antidote to our front-dominant lifestyle: a posterior chain workout.
What is the posterior chain?
You might have heard trainers or even your cycling coach refer to this group of muscles, which is just a fancy way to say the entire back of your body. Your posterior chain spans from the back of the neck, down the back of the torso (think muscles like the lats, rhomboids, traps, and erector spinae which support the spine), to the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, explains Ian Finestein, certified weightlifting and CrossFit coach, and owner of AR Strength in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Why is working the posterior chain so important for cyclists?
Simply put: You need your posterior chain strong for everyday life and for efficient, powerful cycling.
“The most common phrase I hear from people about picking something up off the floor is, ‘use your legs,’” Finestein says. “People think to do that, you perform a squat. But really, you want to hinge or deadlift. So learning the proper form of a deadlift [a posterior chain-focused exercise], is crucial for balancing out the body and being functionally fit.”
“Balancing out the body” is exactly what we were referring to earlier: With most of our movements and daily body positions shortening and/or overworking the front of the body, you need some exercises that strengthen the opposing muscle groups a.k.a. that posterior chain. This helps you sidestep injury, while also engaging all the right muscles that make your body work like the powerful, efficient machine that it is.
What’s more: The posterior chain-focused hinge movement pattern—like the deadlift Finestein referred to—helps you practice a strong posture as it requires you to maintain a flat back and engaged core, he explains. This keeps you from that rounded, hunched position that can derail your efficiency, potentially hinder your breathing, and likely lead to some aches throughout the body. Translation: A posterior chain workout can not only improve your form on the bike, but it can also lead to better, more comfortable rides.
The Best Posterior Chain Workout for Cyclists
Finestein curated a posterior chain workout just for cyclists, so you can balance out the body, build up your power-providing muscles, improve your pedaling efficiency, and work your core for better posture.
How to use this list: Perform the exercises below for the number of reps listed. Do 2 to 3 sets, resting as needed between exercises and sets. Finestein demonstrates each exercise so you can mimic proper form. You will need a set of medium to heavy dumbbells. An exercise mat is optional.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at sides. With shoulders down and back, back flat and core engaged, hinge at the hips by sending butt straight back. Lower torso and weights toward the floor, bending knees slightly. Stop when you feel a pull in the hamstrings or when you’re about parallel to the floor. Then drive through feet, engaging glutes, to stand back up. Repeat. Do 6 to 10 reps.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, palms facing each other. With shoulders down and back, back flat and core engaged, hinge at the hips by sending butt straight back. Arms should be straight down in front of you. This is your starting position. Pull the weights back, keeping elbows close to sides to perform the row. Make sure shoulders stay down away from ears and core tight. When weights reach the ribcage, straighten arms to return to starting position. Repeat. Do 6 to 10 reps.
Sumo Deadlift High Pull
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you or one kettlebell with both hands in front of you, palms facing you. With shoulders down and back, back flat and core engaged, hinge at the hips by sending butt straight back. Lower torso and weights toward the floor, bending knees just slightly. Stop when you feel a pull in the hamstrings or when you’re about parallel to the floor. Then drive through feet to stand back up. As you stand up, pull the elbows up and slightly back, dumbbells or kettlebell reaching chest. Lower weights and repeat. Do 6 to 10 reps.
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding dumbbell in left hand in front of you, palm facing you. With shoulders down and back, back flat and core engaged, hinge at the hips by sending butt straight back. Lower torso and dumbbell toward the floor, bending knees slightly. Then, drive through feet to stand back up and as you do, pull elbow high and shoulder up and back, weight coming to shoulder, then flipping elbow, and pressing the dumbbell straight overhead. (This should happen in one fluid movement, with power coming from the lower body.) Lower weight back down in front of you. Repeat. Do 5 to 10 reps. Then switch sides.
You Might Also Like