How To Prevent Back Pain When Cycling | Injury Prevention For Triathletes

How To Prevent Back Pain When Cycling | Injury Prevention For Triathletes

– We all get aches and
pains when we’re training and we’re racing, that’s
normal and there are good pains such as that burning you get in your lungs or your muscles working hard when you’re at maximum effort. But then at the other end of the spectrum, there are pains that
are just going to hamper your training and take
away the enjoyment factor. Well, sadly, many people suffer from lower back pain whether that’s during cycling, sometimes even after as well and there are multiple causes for this,
but on the plus side, there are plenty of ways in
which you can prevent it. So, today I’m going to be
covering the more common causes and some of those proven solutions. (upbeat music) This is probably the best place to start and the most common cause
for back pain in cycling. So, first of all, check that you’ve got the right frame size for you. If you’re riding a bike that’s too big, that’s going to naturally stretch you out at the front, which will automatically put more pressure on your lower back. Now I understand it isn’t
necessarily really easy to go and just change your frame size, but you’ll be pleased
to know that there are lots of other aspects which
you can change more easily. So, starting off with the saddle height. You don’t want to be overreaching. If you’ve got your saddle too high, you’ll find that your hips will be rocking from side to side which
is then going to put unnecessary pressure on
your lower back from that. So, a good starting point
to work out if you’ve got roughly the right height,
sitting on your saddle nice and level, have your leg straight and your heels should be able to rest on your pedal with your
leg completely locked out ’cause then when you put your cleats on and your shoes back on,
that should correlate to when you’re actually pedaling to having a very slight knee bend at the
bottom of your pedal stroke. And you can also play around the position of your cleats on your
shoes as that’s going to alter the muscle recruitment which could also have an effect. Moving forwards, you need to address the length of your stem
and your stack height. Now, it’s common to see pros with a saddle much higher than their handlebars as this is obviously
great for aerodynamics, however, it’s not so brilliant if you don’t have the flexibility or the strength to hold that position
for long periods of time. So you need to experiment. The easiest one to start with is looking at your stack height. So usually you can add in some spacers like these just to bring the height up until you find what’s comfortable for you. Now, the length and the
stretch that you have on your bike is also going
to have a similar effect on your lower back as being too low. So, this is when you need to
address the length of the stem. Many bikes you will actually have to buy a new stem, sometimes even
an inch graded set-up. However, if you’re on a time trail bike, that’s often much easier ’cause you can usually just adjust the arrow bars and bring them back in closer to you. And if you’re on a road bike like this, a good rule of thumb is when you’re on the hoods on your bike to have a slight bend in your
elbows ’cause this will be more comfortable, but importantly, actually your elbows can act as a bit of a shock absorber for your lower back. If you do have the opportunity though, I would highly recommend going to get a professional bike
fit so you can work out the exact requirements for
you with the bike fitter. If you’re racing, however,
it’s going to be that balance between comfort and aerodynamics, but do remember that if you’re comfortable on your bike, you’re
more likely to ride it and therefore you’re quite
likely to get better, and also, comfort quite often relates to the amount of power you can put down through your pedals, too. (upbeat music) Building up gradually is important for any type of training so your body has time to get stronger,
and more importantly, adapt. And cycling, of course, is no different. So, if you’re new to cycling or if you’ve had a long time out of the saddle, just make sure you introduce it gradually, and also include some strength
and conditioning work, but we’ve got a little
bit more on that later. Now, obviously, position is important, and you can make your
position more aggressive as you get stronger,
so don’t feel the need to get completely aero to start with. Start with comfort and
then you can work into it. And on a bike you’re going
to be in a very closed hip position whilst
trying to put out a lot of force through your legs,
which obviously isn’t natural, and yes, you can get
stronger to a certain extent in the gym, but ultimately, you need to have time in the saddle. So, make sure you build
it up nice and gradually. It’s always easier to
increase your training rather than go too hard and then have to have a break because
you’ve got injured. Training is very much
about putting your body through stress and then
obviously giving it time to recover as that’s when it adapts, but bear in mind that
when you are stressed and your body is fatigued, your form is likely to drop and this could result in more pressure going
through your lower back. Gearing is another factor
you want to consider. If you’re in too big a
gear for all of your ride, you’re naturally going
to be putting more force through your legs and therefore
through your lower back. So, try to increase your cadence, and take away a little bit of that force. (funky music) Having a good posture on and off the bike is going to have a positive impact on pretty much any lower back issues, but I think it’s fair
to say that most of us don’t have optimal posture
when we’re sitting, and that’s where we spend
the majority of our day, and then at the end of the day, you head out on your bike and you carry that poor posture across with you. So, you need to address
your posture in sitting, whether that’s driving,
whether that’s at your desk. If you think about it, it means you’re basically in a flexed hip
position and when you get on your bike, you become even more flexed. So you need to think
about stretching them out. If you’ve got an opportunity, get up, walk around, and also, if you maybe have the chance of having a standing desk, that’ll also just help to
relieve that lower back pressure and prevent your hips getting too tight. In an ideal posture, you will have a visible lumbar lordosis. This is that concave
curve in your lower back, and some people will naturally have it more pronounced than others, but when you spend a lot of time
slouching or overstretched on your bike, that’s going to flatten out your back and put pressure on it, and also, it’s going to cause the muscles to elongate and eventually
actually weaken, and another thing that contribute to your lower back poor
posture is tight hamstrings as they will naturally pull on your pelvis and cause it to posturally rotate, and therefore flattening
out your lower back. So, before you do go out for a bike ride, it’s a good idea to
incorporate a mobility routine that’ll just help to open
up the front of your hips and to loosen your lower
back and if you want more tips on that, we’ve
actually got a video on a mobility routine which we’ll share with you at the end of this video. A poor position, as
I’ve already mentioned, can lead to muscle tightening
and therefore weakening, but the good new is it
can easily be rectified with a little bit of work. So, start off by focusing on the hips. Now to counteract the amount of time you spend in flexion, you’re going to need to work to open them up and help mobility there, and also work on mobility of your lower back, but if you think about it, the more mobile your hips are, then the less pressure,
and the less movement’s required from your lower back when it’s already in that stress
position on the bike. You also need to address your glutes and make sure that they
are firing properly, as if they are working well, then they’ll take off some of the
pressure from your hamstrings which will hopefully prevent them coming so tight and flattening
out your lower back. Next up, of course, you do actually need to strengthen your lower back
as well as the mobility there. So, start to introduce some lower back extension exercises to
strengthen this area. And finally, probably the
most important is your core. If you imagine it’s the
midsection that’s going to hold everything together
and allow the muscles around it and around your hips and your legs to actually work efficiently whilst also protecting your lower back. All of these are suggestions if you’ve purely got mild lower back pain. If you have severe back
pain, then I must say please go and see a
specialist and get help. Now I know today we haven’t had time to go into detail of the actual exercises that you need to do, but
it’s very much a matter of what works for you and
what areas need addressing. So I’d recommend going to get some help and actually make up a routine that works on those specific areas for you. Now if you have had lower
back pain in the past, and you’ve actually got over it, we’d love to know what you did or what you changed. So do share your experiences with us in the comment section below. If you’ve enjoyed it, give us a thumbs up, and hit the globe to make sure you get all of our videos here at GTN, and that mobility routine I talked about, well, you can find that just here, and if you want a video on how to recover after a bike ride, well
that’s just up here.

27 comments on “How To Prevent Back Pain When Cycling | Injury Prevention For Triathletes

  1. Kabir Campwala Post author

    I was in bed for few days after a back injury from cycling, but I'll be back from tomorrow. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Savage Poet Post author

    Lower back pain appears whenever I restart cycling after a long pause away. It is usually accompanied by hand and foot numbness. They all disappear after weeks of riding.

  3. Joseph Rogge Post author

    First of not going to a chiropractor is like not going to the dentist for a tooth pain. You just have to find a good sports chiropractor…and one that practices what he preaches.

  4. Welves Maia Post author

    When I started and was able to do a 5km bike ride a friend invited me and we did a 20km ride, way longer than my fitness lvl was able to accomplish back then. After 10km my lower back was numb because the excessive pain. The solution was to strengthen core muscles. After 2 weeks I was able to do 20km comfortably.

  5. mark ankone Post author

    I have lower backpain when i have to cycle harder uphill headwind ore when i am racing

  6. DRU Murry Post author

    Its hard to know in triathlon who knows what and who docent. I recently suffered a back injury from a aggressive aero position. I trusted a so called "professional" bike fitter determing the position. Despite my repeated warnings that I had limited hamstring flexibility, they never did any flexibility testing on me, that was a bad sign. I built the stack back up and droped the seat, that solved the back problem. I also use basic yoga that helps tremendously with my poor flexibility. Information like in this video helps me make the best desitions for myslef thank you.

  7. alfredo132220 Post author

    After increasing my bike training over the last weeks i ran into a strange problem: On longer Rides (4hours+) i tend to get a numbness coming from my elbows into my pinky fingers. Any tips on how to protect that nerve?

  8. Justin S Post author

    What about neck pain from craning your neck up during a long ride? Anyway to prevent this

  9. LTD Post author

    Incredibly informative video. You brushed over the point of getting a professional bike fit – I was feeling mild pain in my lower back especially when doing into Olympic distances and beyond in the saddle. I had this done and couldn't be more thankful for my lower back, hips and legs, definitely highly recommended for any cyclist doing triathlon or not!

  10. Mark Stacey Post author

    Another cool video.. For me I have to do loads and loads of miles.. I think we all underestimate just how long we need in the saddle and how hard it is to achieve with a busy life.

  11. lord vass Post author

    I spend most of my time on my feet. Specifically in the summer my job as a chef is very busy.
    Feels like my performance is going backwards. With no time to recover and do my strength training, I don't know if I should step back from training for my half ironman.
    Any advice will be appreciated.
    Thank you

  12. Nate M Post author

    Soo… No one is going to talk about the dude that sneaks up at 1:57, watches calmly at 2:11 and then (2:30) proceeds to just


  13. neil shannon Post author

    You're right with finding a good position. You'll always be stronger for longer when you're comfortable.
    And yes, as mentioned in the comments, Your socks are off the scale exceptional Heather.
    Ride safe…

  14. josiah9008 Post author

    For me I think it’s from swimming. When I stop of a recovery in an interval I can feel my lower back tightening.

  15. Jakob W Post author

    The DEFAULT rider position seems to be a SLIGHT FORWARD INCLINE. I find that this induces UPPER BACK, SHOULDER AND NECK PAIN over several hours of riding. Shouldn't the default position be PERFECTLY UPRIGHT with VOLUNTARY LEANING FORWARD for extra power climbing and riding against the wind?

  16. Adam Findell Post author

    Lower back pain relief-you’ll love my recommendation, Heather! It is what actually brought me to GTN in the first place-SWIMMING! Really helped me get stretched out and rebuild some of those injuries. Nothing like following a day of good riding with a nice day of pool work! Thanks for all you do to educate us newbies! -Adam in South Dakota.

  17. lildavo87 Post author

    Foundation training by Dr Eric Goodman was a god send for my back pain. Doing this 12 minute excercise everyday made a world of difference to my lower back pain He also has a good ted talk on the subject.


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