Suzie Says...Strengthen Your Back!
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment. Please seek a professional assessment before undertaking a new exercise program especially if you have any medical conditions, any previous or current injuries or other health / physical concerns. If you undertake any of the exercises within this article you do so at your own risk.
Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only and are not under my control and may change or be removed at any time.
This blog is aimed to be an add-on to the previous blog 'Suzie Says...look after your back'. This time around, in order to offer a slightly different perspective, I have teamed up with a fellow Bristol enduro rider Ben Doran, and his personal trainer friends Vladimir Black (who has previously trained the UK boxing academy) and Lewis Salter. I have also added in a few plank exercises myself in order to provide some alternative core and back strengthening exercises which do not require any equipment.
When you are going off road riding, whether it be short sprints, motocross, enduros or long distance riding, your main focus is on minimising the chance of injury by increasing your strength and prolonging your performance in your desired discipline, on your desired bike. This will in turn aid your ability, comfort while riding and later in your recovery periods, thus increasing the longevity you will have as a rider.
Your training all depends on your level of riding as well as the time you have in your daily schedule to exercise. This advice is based around the assumption that we all have to go to work and have other commitments, and its very basic form means you’ll be in and out your gym in around an hour.
COMPOUND exercises are key, especially for the time conscious.
An ideal back session given the above factors and for general riding would be as follows:
Seated rows - wide grip
Chin ups - wide grip
Rowing machine - high resistance - 15 mins
Before ALL workouts, make sure to warm up sufficiently.
Repetitions and Loads:
Dead lifts - lift four sets of 5-8 reps at a COMFORTABLE weight.
Seated rows - pull for four sets, 80% of your maximum weight until fatigue in each set.
Chin ups - this all depends on your power to weight ratio and if there is an assisted chin up bar in your gym. If there is no assisted bar, do what you can for 2 sets and if you can manage another set or two.
Fifteen minutes rowing on high resistance will aid your cardio AND back strength.
For an exercise which requires no equipment, you can do the plank. There are several versions of planks, so you can tailor the exercise to your level of ability. I would suggest a combination of side planks and standard planks.
Throughout all of these exercises, make sure you breathe steadily and keep your deep core muscles engaged. These should not cause back pain and you should ensure you are not lifting your bottom too high or letting yourself dip down or arch. Keep your body in a nice straight line.
Try and build up to holding your plank for 60 seconds, then longer if possible (120 seconds). DO NOT continue if you feel you cannot hold the position with good form otherwise you can do more harm than good...stop and rest.
Obviously the 'simple' planks are the easiest, then the 'standard' planks and I have then added some progression options at the end. This is not an exhaustive list of options but gives you a few ideas.
Some planking options:
Simple forearm plank
Simple extended plank
Simple side plank
Standard forearm plank
Standard extended plank
Standard side plank
Standard extended side plank
To make the standard forearm or extended plank harder you can do the following:
1. Go from forearm support plank to extended plank and back down again throughout the exercise (see above for images of the forearm plank and extended plank).
2. Lift one leg up and lower, then repeat with the other leg and lower, continuing to do this throughout the exercise.
3. Take one leg out to the side, then the other, then return to the start position, and repeat these movements throughout the exercise.
4. Bend one knee up and out to the side and return to the start position then do the same with the other leg, repeating this throughout the exercise.
There is also the Reverse plank, which is like the standard forearm plank but you have your back to the floor so you are the other way around. Give it a go if you feel you can.
Another heads up:
All of this is wasted effort if your bike is not set up for YOU! The height of your bars, angle of your levers and riding technique all come into play and go hand in hand with your strength and fitness. Also, a kidney belt can increase your longevity in a ride by up to 30% by supporting your lower back, (holding in that gut for the not so swim suit bodied men and women who ride) and not to mention the benefits in kidney protection. So, the long and the short of it, get your bike set up properly for your riding.
Again, please remember that this is the very barest of bones and basically an introduction to further bike related training and to maintain your fitness to ride as much as possible, right now.
Disclaimer : There are limitless ways to train and this information is given based on personal experience as a rider (Ben Doran) and with support from Vladimir Black and Lewis Salter, and plank based exercises by myself, Suzie Bostock.