Most people have heard about Pilates, but are not entirely sure what it involves. In summary, Pilates is a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness. The exercises take a lot of precision and control and there is strong emphasis on technique, not unlike cycling.
Pilates can specifically help cyclist in these 3 areas:
(1) Core control
A solid core provides a base from which to push on the pedals. Having too much movement in the core results in less stabilisation and energy wasted. A strong core also means that your position on the bike will be consistent. When you are consistently in the right position, the right muscles will be able to work and get stronger, leading to greater muscle memory and muscle endurance, and better technique.
When fatigued, cyclist tend to round their back and rest their weight on their arms. They dissociates the upper and lower body, and the cyclist will then need to work harder to achieve the same power output. This fatigues the cyclist even further, creating a vicious cycle where the cyclist gets slower and more tired!
When people think about core work, they often think about crunches, sit up and planks. The core involves all the muscles of the front, back and pelvis. Crunches, sit up and planks only target the front of the body. For cyclists, it is especially important to also focus on the back to prevent rounding during long rides. Pilates exercises like swimming, swan dive, snake and twist are great exercises to build back strength and endurance.