PILATES is a great addition to the fitness program for all motorcyclists because it offers support and stability for all the joints in the body, length and strength for the muscles and increases the postural endurance needed for those long, lovely rides.
As fun as riding a bike is, it can be hard on our bodies. Although different styles of bikes demand different riding postures, there are some common areas in the body that tend to feel the most stress. Upper back, hips and wrists are a few of these areas that will feel more flexible, more supportive and less sore when incorporating some Pilates exercises into the weekly regime.
Below are a few great mat exercises that everyone can do without needing all the extra Pilates equipment.
You want to initiate all of these exercises with your core engagement and breathing. As you exhale, pull your lower belly in helping to engage your transversus abdominus muscle and keep this tension as best you can when you inhale.
Tightness and cramping in the front of the hips
Position of the hip is flexed (bent up)and abducted (away from your midline) causing the quads, psoas and TFL (Tensor Fasciae Latae) to work continuously as they help to stabilize your upright position on the seat.
What can help?
Moving your pegs forward or using highway pegs will lessen the tension through the hip.
Keeping the quads flexible, the TFL working only when it should be and growing a strong and efficient psoas.
Shoulder Bridge – lengthens front of weight bearing hip, strengthens and trains working hip to support the pelvis
Hips,knees and ankles are in line with each other. Shoulder blades are pressing into the floor. Exhale, pull your lower belly in to help engage your stability muscles and roll your spine up away from the floor. Inhale to bend one knee in towards your chest and straighten it up to the ceiling. Exhale, flex your foot (pull your toes up towards your shin) and lower your leg just until it is at the same height as the other. Inhale, point your toes and lift your leg. Watch that you don’t let your leg roll inwards as it lifts and lowers which you will notice by your kneecap rolling in. Repeat 3x. Do the other side. The idea is to use your core muscles to keep your body very still other than your hip, knee and ankle. Keep your hips up at the same height as you lift and lower your leg.
Side Kick – trains hip to stay in a neutral position during movement, (kneecap not rolling in) helps engage hamstring and gluteus muscles so front of the leg muscles will not have to work as much.
Bring your hips slightly forward and lift your lower side up away from the floor to keep your waist even on both sides. Lift your top leg up to hip height and inhale as you reach it forward and exhale to come back to your start position. Keep your spine in neutral the whole time. Engage your hamstrings and glutes to bring your leg back. The purpose is to keep the upper body, pelvis and spine very still as you move your lower body. Don’t let the top of your pelvis roll forwards and backwards.
Wrists become sore possibly resulting in a tendinopathy.
Position of the bars may put the wrist in too much radial deviation (wrist is bent more on the thumb side) or ulnar deviation (wrist is bent more on the pinkie side). The clutch hand is constantly flexing/extending through the tendons of the wrist, hand and fingers. The throttle hand holds constantly in a position through which vibration travels as well as the wrist working through extension (back of the wrist bent up) and flexion (palm side of wrist bent more) to increase and decrease speed.
What can help?
Position the height and angle of the bars to achieve the most ergonomically efficient setup as possible. Strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist that are necessary for gripping, flexing and extending. Strengthen the scapular muscles. The more supportive these muscles are, the less force will travel to your extremities.
Leg Pull Front – Holds shoulder blades in a neutral position and moves ankle through range.
On your hands and toes, feel as if you are pressing the floor away from you to help engage your serratus muscles for increased stability. Your lower belly is lifted up. Inhale to lift one foot up away from the floor by engaging your glutes and hamstrings, ankle is dorsiflexed ( pulling your foot up towards your shin). Exhale to shift your body backwards through your supporting foot while pointing your top ankle. Inhale as you shift forward again returning to a dorsiflexed ankle and exhale to bring back to the start position.
Having a squeezy ball by your computer or by the tv is a great way to help strengthen your grip. Spend 5-10 minutes at a time. Do some fast squeeze and release movements and then squeeze and hold for 5-10 seconds.
Tension is created in the upper traps and the fronts of the shoulders
When the arms are held forward, the front shoulder and chest muscles become tight. Due to the widening between the shoulder blades in this position, the muscles here become lengthened and weak. The head is often pulled forward along with the arms resulting in weak front neck muscles and stiff back of the neck muscles.
What can Help?
Creating strength and support between the shoulder blades, stretching the front of the shoulders and chest and retraining the anterior neck muscles to better hold your head in a more efficient position.
Swimming – strengthens your back muscles, your hamstrings and glutes
When your arms are overhead, draw your shoulder blades down. Lift your belly slightly up away from the floor (as if you were laying on something really hot) to engage your core and keep the motion from dumping into your lumbar spine. Exhale to lift both arms and both legs up. Keep your head in line with the rest of your spine. Reach one arm and opposite leg higher while lowering the other arm and leg, and switch. Inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 5 and complete 3-5 sets. Sit back into a shell stretch (buttocks on heels) to stretch out your low back afterwards.
Leg Pull – this allows your shoulders to hold a constant position and strengthens your lower back and core muscles while you move through your hip.
Engage the muscles between your shoulder blades. Lift your hips up away from the floor and hold here. Imagine a string attached to the front of your chest pulling up towards the ceiling. Exhale to lift one leg straight up with pointed toes and inhale to dorsiflex (foot pulled up towards your shin) your ankle and lower to just above the mat. The idea is to keep your pelvis and spine very still so you only lift your leg high enough that you can maintain that good position of your pelvis and spine. You don’t want your buttocks to lift and lower in space. 3-5x each side.
Practicing these exercises a few times per week will help strengthen the muscles that are lengthening during those rides and lengthen those muscles that are tightening. Have a happy and comfortable ride!
Next week, I’ll add on some equipment based exercises for those of you that have access to a reformer/cadillac and be sure to contact me if you have any questions or comments.