Increasing power output is a common goal for many cyclists. Even those that don’t race love the feeling when turning the pedals feels effortless on a climb or we reach a personal best on a section of trail. We know the best way to improve power on the bike is simple…ride more! Yet for many of us, our rides are limited by full schedules and other obligations. Even if we are fortunate enough to ride more often there can also be diminishing returns in fitness with riding more.
The solution? Cross-training and also training smarter are helpful. A great time to think about power is actually early in the off-season or during the Fall. Many riders are content on resting or slowly transitioning during this period to other cross-training activities such as weight training, running, skiing, etc. However, this is the perfect time to keep the body in cycling shape and think about raising the ceiling for power. The only challenge is that many cyclists are worn down or need rest after a long Summer of riding. In addition, cooler temperatures can make it less appealing to get outside.
This is where yoga can offer a viable solution. In my previous cycling and yoga articles, I outlined the areas that yoga can help with recovery, range of motion, activating muscles and more. One more incredible benefit with yoga is the ability to produce more power on the bike.
The goal is to translate as much power originating from the hips and down to the pedals. Many would think a yoga class focused on the quadriceps would create the best outcome for cyclists; however, through opening the hips and taking tension off the low back we are able to unlock some hidden power by simply getting our body out of its own way.
In many cases we are fighting our own tension and lack flexibility. Many riders complain about the phenomenon of feeling their lower back tighten up during a steep climb and experiencing the power vanishing from their legs.
Whether you are tight or flexible in your lower back, imagine if you could free up hips and lower back so much that your legs felt lighter and more powerful!
Here are some great poses to help relax the low back and open the hips to get a power boost:
1) Downward Facing Dog Pose at the wall – Place your hands shoulder width apart on the wall about the same height as your hips. Walk your feet back until your torso is parallel with the floor. Bend your knees. Lift your midsection toward the ceiling, rounding the middle of your back and simultaneously arch your lower back by lifting your sit bones.
2) Eye of the Needle Pose – Lay on your back. Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee. Hug both knees into the chest and hold behind your left thigh. Bring the left thigh into the chest while trying to keep your lower back curved up away from the floor. Repeat to the left.
3) Straight Leg Lunge at the Wall – With your hands on the wall shoulder height or lower, (or on the back of a chair) step your right foot forward and your left foot back. Square your hips and practice lifting your sit bones up to emphasize the natural curve of your lower back. As you square your hips more you’ll feel a nice stretch to the outer hip on your right leg. Repeat to the left side.
YogaGlo teacher Amy Ippoliti teaching a power boost yoga class.
Amy Ippoliti putting the power down climbing up a road below the Flatirons of Boulder, CO.
About Taro Smith, Ph.D
Taro is a physiologist, yoga teacher, and former bike racer. He designs specialty content for YogaGlo to benefit a broad range of yoga practitioners. He is the co-founder of Boulder Cycle Sport, a nationally renowned cycling retailer and 90 Monkeys, a professional yoga school. Connect with Taro on the bike via Strava TSmith and on LinkedIn Taro Smith – See more here.