Get ready for riding season with the ABR fitness masterclass.
There are various figures quoted for the cost of back pain in the UK. £14 billion pounds seems to be a common amount. Anyone who has suffered with this affliction will know that it can completely disable movement and ruin more than a day’s riding. The back issue includes the spine being surrounded by nerves and the fact that most movement originates from the spinal area.
So, if you move, any injury or muscular imbalance can trigger pain. Obviously sitting in the saddle for long periods of time, or standing and bending the legs during off-road adventures, will be a challenge to someone with back pain, but by targeting the erector spinae and the obliques, you can help strengthen this weak area. So, how will this lessen the chances of developing back pain? One method is to create muscular endurance and balance in the ‘core’. To this end we dealt with some abdominal exercises in previous fitness masterclasses, and will look at balancing that with lower back exercises here.
To target the erector spinae, you need to start with back extensions. Lay face down on a mat or softish surface with your hands beside your ears. Keeping your feet and hips on the floor, raise your torso up until you can feel the end of the range of movement in the spine. Then lower slowly keeping the head in a locked neutral position. Complete 20 repetitions and 2 sets of these at a 1 sec up/1 sec down (1:1) tempo. Most experts put a normal range of motion in spinal extension at around 25 degrees, so this is what you should be aiming for.
This is an excellent exercise that targets both the erector spinae and the muscles that help stabilise the spine. Get into a ‘quad’ position: hands, feet and knees shoulder width apart on a mat with a neutral spine and a straight back, head facing down. Then raise an opposite arm/leg to reach straight out in front and behind. The key is to keep the other body parts completely still in order to isolate the muscles you are working. You may find this tricky from a balance point of view, but this is part of the training process. 20 reps (10 each side alternately) over 2 sets again with the 1:1 tempo.
This exercise helps to target the obliques. Lay face up on your mat with your arms stretched out and your knees bent to approximately 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor. The key to the subsequent movement is control – keeping the rest of the body still, rotate your knees to a comfortable height from the floor – the height will depend on your range of movement and strength in this area. You should aim for a tempo of 2:2, that’s 2 seconds down: 2 seconds up. Repeat on both sides 5 times (10 full rotations). This exercise will stretch and strengthen those muscles which perform the movement. The direct application is when you need to rotate the spine when riding for example, when you need to check around you before moving off or when off road to see other possible routes.