If you suffer from chronic back pain or have a spine injury, you don’t have to give up your gym membership. Exercise can actually help with your back pain, as long as you are focusing on the correct muscles and using the right equipment.

If back pain is a concern, try out these types of equipment at the gym. Remember, if any type of exercise causes more back pain, stop doing that exercise immediately.


Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical machines are great for people with back pain or joint pain because they put very little stress on the back and other joints. Elliptical machines offer low-impact cardio workouts. Most elliptical machines also allow you to adjust the incline and resistance settings, so you can work on different muscle groups as well. However, you should still incorporate some weight-bearing exercises into your routine if you use an elliptical trainer.

Stationary Bikes

The benefit of stationary bikes is that there are two types to choose from, so you can select the type that is most comfortable for you. People with conditions like osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis often find that upright exercise bikes are more comfortable because they allow the user to lean forward, which may provide relief from back pain caused by these conditions. Recumbent exercise bikes may be more comfortable for people with lower back pain or degenerative disc disease because they have a backrest that provides more support than an upright bike.

Stationary bikes provide a great aerobic workout and strengthen the lower body with little to no impact. However, because stationary bikes do not involve the upper body, you’ll want to make sure you also do exercises that work the upper body as well.


The treadmill can be good for people who are just getting back into exercising or are out of shape. You can change the settings like speed and incline to meet your needs and gradually work your way up to a more challenging workout. Treadmills provide a low-impact form of aerobic activity, and they may be easier to navigate than walking on a track or sidewalk, because you don’t have to worry about an uneven surface.

Weight Machines

Weight machines can be very helpful with upper body exercises, especially if you are using a stationary bike or other types of equipment that only work the lower body. Weight machines allow you to easily adjust the weight you are lifting. They also don’t require you to bend to lift the weight, as most free weights would, so it may be easier on your back.

Avoid These Machines

These machines can do more harm than good if you have back problems, so it’s best to avoid them.

Lying Leg Press

Although this machine is meant to work your legs, your lower back takes on a lot of the stress from lifting the weight. This causes the lower back to flex, which could put you at risk for a herniated disc or exacerbate other lower back problems.

Hip Abductor

Hip abductors can strain the spine as you work to squeeze them together or pull them apart while using the machine. If you want to work on your legs, you’re much better off using an elliptical machine, stationary bike, or treadmill.

Loaded Standing Calf Raise

This machine is intended to work your calves, but the weight rests on your shoulders during the workout. While it may make regular calf raises more challenging, having all of that weight on your shoulders puts too much stress on your spine.

When in doubt about an exercise machine, always check with your doctor first. If one type of machine doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged–there are plenty of others to try. Once you find the right exercise, you should benefit with less back pain.

Most of the body workouts are meant to improve our health conditions and fitness. Contrary to this, some people have pointed out the exercise bike as the cause of their back pain. On the other hand, some people are aware of the benefits of using an exercise bike. They have learned how much an exercise bike can do. So, can an exercise bike cause back pain?

The back pain

Back pain encompasses several forms of medical conditions. Such includes pain in the upper, middle and the lower part of the back. Patients with lower back pain may also suffer from sciatica. Additionally, back pain can be as a result of arthritis, nerve problems or degenerative disc disease.

Understanding the exercise bike and back pain relations

Many people suffering from back pain find it hard finding the right form of aerobic exercise. Most of the aerobic exercises are not gentle enough for a paining back. In fact, aerobic exercises aid in muscle strengthening. Moreso, they keep the spinal structures fit and healthy. Research shows that exercise bike workouts change the perception of chronic back pain. Intensive workouts often discourage patients suffering from back pain. Others avoid exercise altogether for the fear that it will exacerbate their conditions. The solution is to find an exercise that is comfortable. That helps to reduce the back pain.

An exercise bike is ideal equipment in aerobic exercises. It is one of the favored methods of training by people with back pain. Also, the following are the reasons why biking is ideal for back pain

Biking is less disturbing to the spine compared to another form of exercises. Recumbent bikes, in particular, are very gentle to the spine. Stationary biking provides vigorous workouts with minimal stress to the spine.

The forward leaning position is ideal for a person with the back pain condition. It is particular best suited for people suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis.

Individuals with lumbar degenerative disc disease often feel better in a reclaiming position. A recumbent bike is, therefore, an appropriate workout for them.

Biking can cause back pain in the following circumstances

First, if less conditioning is provided by cycling. Also, if the lumber spine is pulled up, it can cause straining to the lower back. With the neck arching back due to a wrong position on the bike, it can cause neck pain and back pain. This situation happens mostly when the bike one equips the bike with aerodynamic bars. Also, steep terrains increase jarring to the spine this can lead to back pain.

How to safely use an exercise bike to prevent back pain

Choose the bike that fits your purpose. Bikes that allow a more upright posture is ideal for mountain biking. A proper form of biking is needed to avoid back pain. Besides, you should adjust the bike properly to fit your body’s anatomy. While pedaling, you should periodically lower and raise your head to avoid spine injury. Most importantly you should use shock-absorbing accessories such as seat cushions to avoid straining the spine.

The best exercise bike for people with back pain

Depending on the type of back pain, on would need an exercise bike that provides an excellent comfort. Two main types of exercise bikes: a recumbent and an upright bike. Selection is a matter of personal preference. However for back pain patients it is quite another case. It depends on the comfort while in leaning, upright or a reclining position. Different bikes are ideal for various positions. Choosing the right exercise bike is the key. An upright bike gives more room for some movements. You can opt to ride while standing. This kind of biking allows more muscles to be engaged. Alternatively, forward leaning position is ideal for patients suffering from spinal stenosis. People suffering from osteoarthritis also find the forward leaning position more comfortable. On the other hand, recumbent bikes are also very useful. Back pain patients find them very worthy. Patients suffering from mechanical low back pain enjoy using the recumbent bikes.

An exercise bike is an ideal way to deal with lower back pain

Patients suffering from back pain find themselves in a great struggle. Using an exercise bike provides relief. It provides a way to stretch and exercise the body muscles. These include the back muscles also. In this way, pain and misery are alleviated. Using a stationary bike improves the muscle flexibility. Also, it blocks the pain in your body and ultimately reduces the back pain. Apart from back pain patients, exercise bikes also provide mitigation measure for back pain problems. People who have the tendency of using bike exercises regularly have a healthy future. Good future in the sense that there will be no back pain.

Exercise bike helps in strengthening your core

Core areas refer to the key groups of muscles in the body that helps in maintaining a good posture and stability. Abdomen, pelvis, backside and lower back all make up the core of your body. Performing different styles using a recumbent or an upright bike results in a stronger core. Having a strong core implies that you are less vulnerable to having back pain.

Proper set up of an exercise bike is vital to avoid injuries

The versatility of an exercise bike makes it ideal exercise equipment. As we can see, it is ideal for patients with different back problems due to the different comfort levels. Patients with back pain problem should learn to maintain a correct posture while riding. Depending on the kind of the problem two positions are available. They can choose to tilt the seat a bit back. They should ensure that they don’t hyperextend and strain the muscle. Alternatively, they can opt to pedal while leaning forward or in an upright-seated position.


While in back pain, there is a temptation to quit or skip doing exercises. But doing exercises can improve the quality of life by reducing the pain. You don’t have to run a marathon. You also don’t have to lift heavy weights so as to reduce the back pain. An exercise bike is all that you need to get back to the usual business of life. It only calls for doing the exercise in the right way. Understanding your pain and the cause is imperative. This occurrence is because different types of back pains require certain biking activities. Also, doing it in the right way will determine the quality of your results. When you have a recumbent bike or an upright bike back pain is not a limitation anymore. So, when you use an exercise bike rightly, it reduces the back pain. But, if you use it wrongly, it can cause back pain.

The Best Exercises for Low Back Pain

Why Exercise When You Have Low Back Pain?

Most people know regular exercise will improve their appearance and general health, but few realize the positive effects that good physical conditioning can have on their low back pain. Many studies show dramatic improvements of low back pain in individuals who are physically fit.

In addition, the person in good physical shape is much less likely than the average person to injure their back during work or daily activities.

The benefit of exercise for your low back depends on 3 key principles:

  • First, you must attain satisfactory aerobic fitness.
  • Second, you should focus part of your workout on the muscle groups that support your back.
  • Third, you must avoid exercises that place excessive stresses on your back.

The person in good physical shape is much less likely than the average person to injure their back during work or daily activities. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Ideal Aerobic Exercise for Lower Back Pain

The ideal aerobic exercise involves the large muscle groups of your body (arms and legs) in a smooth, cyclical fashion.

Recommended exercises for people with low back pain include:

  • swimming
  • fast walking
  • cycling
  • using a ski machine or elliptical exerciser.

You should achieve the appropriate heart rate (dependent on your age) for 30 minutes at 3 three times per week.

  • Of course, you should consult your doctor and review your aerobic program before getting started. He or she can give you the appropriate target for your heart rate during aerobic exercise. It is always optimal to approach your aerobic goals slowly, especially if you have not exercised recently.

Strengthening and Stretching: Essential When You Have Low Back Pain

Part of your workout routine should include stretching and strengthening the muscles of your low back, abdomen, pelvis, and thighs. Flexibility in these areas will greatly decrease the chance of further injury to the back.

By strengthening these muscle groups, the body’s weight distribution and posture are improved, resulting in less stress on the low back. It is best to perform these exercises after a good warm up, such as your aerobic routine.

Ask your health club staff or physical therapist for instructions on specific stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent back pain.

Avoid These Exercises

While the merits of good conditioning cannot be overstated, the wrong type of exercise may actually make your low back pain worse.

  • Activities that impart excessive stress on the back—such as lifting heavy weights, squatting, and climbing—are not advised.
  • In addition, high-impact exercises such as running, jumping, and step aerobics can aggravate a low back condition.

When walking, wear well-cushioned shoes with good arch supports and use a treadmill or a track made for athletics. Cycling on a recumbent stationary bike can relieve stress on the back.

Watch Low Back Pain Exercise Videos on SpineUniverse

With the help of a physical therapist, SpineUniverse created a video series of exercises and stretches you can do every day to help keep a healthy back (and to try to prevent or reduce lower back pain).

  • Watch our back pain exercise videos—but please remember that before starting any exercise program, you should check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe and right for you.

With the help of your doctor, physical therapist, and health club staff, you can achieve proper physical fitness and reduce or prevent lower back pain.

SpineUniverse Editorial Board Commentary
In this article, Dr. Kolettis nicely summaries the important issues involved in the question: Can Exercises Control Back Pain? This question has been studied in various scientific articles, often with mixed results. It can sometimes be quite difficult to scientifically “prove” that one form of exercise will fully treat a variety of low back problems. The scientific evidence, biomechanical principles, and sometimes common sense can be helpful to both the clinician and the patient.

Dr. Kolettis combines this knowledge in his article. It appears that the combination of proper aerobic exercise, stretching and strengthening will yield the best benefit. While weight-lifting, squatting and other high-demand activities might be avoided in the deconditioned patient or one with significant pain, the goal is to return to full activities. The worse thing for back pain is inactivity, especially prolonged sitting. We should be encouraging our patients to be as active as possible, combining aerobic exercise, stretching and strengthening exercises, which can help in controlling back pain.
—Gerard Malanga, MD

How to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Cycling

Doesn’t everybody wish that they had access to a personal coach for their questions about training and fitness?

Road Bike Action recently caught up with Johnathan Edwards, M.D. Dr. Edwards is a practicing sports doctor and anesthesiologist in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been a sports doctor for American cyclists as well as in Europe. He is a USA Cycling certified level 3 coach and has worked with athletes during the Paris Dakar rally. As a former professional motocross racer and current Cat 2 road racer, he understands the health and training needs of cyclists of all levels.

Cycling and Lower Back Pain

I am 25 years old and often get lower back pain while cycling. What can I do?

This is a common problem in cycling that is seldom discussed. There are many causes of back pain in young cyclists.

To answer the question, lower back pain in a young cyclist without any other problems or history of back pain is often due to mechanical factors (versus intrinsic problems inside your body). The most common is bike fit, then bike fit and then bike fit.

In my experience, many cyclists are riding bikes that are too big for them and many cyclists lack proper flexibility and/or their core strength is lacking. Take the time and have your bike fitted to your body. Back pain can also arise from anatomical causes like leg length discrepancy or misalignment of your spine.

So much of what cyclists do is hunching forward—working on computers, riding bicycles and eating at dinner tables all contribute to bad spinal health. Poor spinal health is common in young cyclists and often due to bad posture (on and off the bike) and injury. If you favor one side of your body or the other due to injury or poor posture, your back eventually takes the strain. An imbalance in the spine will cause overuse of the lower back.

Ready to ride? Search for a cycling event.

Lower back pain is a common complaint amongst cyclists but what causes it and how should you go about curing it?

Not one cause

Assuming no prior injury issues, there are a number of factors that can contribute to riders suffering from lower back pain. These include incorrect bike fit, limited mobility or flexibility and insufficient levels of conditioning or fitness. More often than not, it is a combination of all of these factors and possibly others also.

Bike fit issues

Everything from saddle height to cleat set-up can be responsible. There are some common candidates but bike fit is complex and very personal. Trying to identify an issue yourself by trial and error can be a lengthy, frustrating and often fruitless process. If lower back pain is having a negative impact on your riding, a physiotherapist led bike fit could, in the long run, save you time and discomfort.
For amateur riders, who try to emulate the pros by slamming their stems and adopting extremely aggressive positions, this excessive saddle to bars drop can be stressful on the lower back. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to sustain such a position and has to be adapted to gradually.
Excessive reach, the horizontal distance between the saddle and bars, can also lead to lower back discomfort. Conversely a too upright or cramped position can also cause lower back pain.
Pain on one side of your lower back only could be indicative of an imbalance or leg length discrepancy.
These are just a few potential causes and are by no means exhaustive. Even a physio led bike fit isn’t a guaranteed magic bullet but is definitely a step in the right direction on the road to finding your optimal pain free riding position.

It’s rarely as simple as a tightness or imbalance

You will often read articles that will point the finger of blame straight away at the hamstrings or the hip flexors but it is rarely that simple. These areas are often tight in cyclists but the body has to be looked at as a whole. A general all over mobility routine and dedicated off the bike strength work should be part of all riders’ training plans whether they have lower back issues or not.

If you’re able to ride, it’s probably not your “core”

So called “core exercises”, which usually involve very small and precise movements to target a small muscle group in isolation, are often a waste of time and ineffective for many riders. They are really rehabilitation exercises and, if you can ride a bike and function normally in day to day life, aren’t really relevant to you. They will do absolutely nothing to alleviate back pain that develops 2-3 hours into a bike ride. Some riders do credit an improvement in lower back discomfort to such exercises but it’s often no more than a coincidence. Rest and time are far more likely to be the significant healers. Good trunk strength and stability is important in preventing and alleviating low back pain but this is more effectively developed with multi joint exercises and movements.

Lower back fatigue and pain can improve as you get fitter

The muscles of your lower back and trunk fatigue just like any other muscles. As you tire during a ride, your postural muscles can begin to struggle to hold your position. Additionally, they may be forced to take on additional load to compensate for your flagging legs. Many riders will find lower back issues improve as they build fitness and develop pacing strategies appropriate to their ability.

Don’t pop pills

Taking anti-inflammatories can have a role in managing back pain through your GP or doctor, but really shouldn’t be self-prescribed for the prevention of low back pain when cycling. They tend to end up masking the real cause or issue and there is evidence that their use during endurance activities can be harmful.

Other tips for preventing back pain on the bike

Even on flat rides, get into the habit of standing out of the saddle regularly to stretch your back off a bit. Ask your ride mates to check if you are rocking excessively from side to side as you pedal as this can be indicative of a bike fit issue. Most of all though, be proactive and seek professional advice. Off bike conditioning work has been shown to not only make you a stronger rider but also to be beneficial for preventing injuries and can help some cases of lower back pain. The exercises within the British Cycling Mobilisation Routine – upper body and back and lower body would be an ideal starting point.

How To Stop Back Pain When Mountain Biking

Back pain when mountain biking has become the most common “nontraumatic” injury experienced by riders and it quite simply doesn’t need to be that way. A few basic steps can get it sorted and stop you groaning when you have to reach down to tie your laces. Phil Mack at Peebles Physiotherapy in Scotland, is qualified and experienced to the max and has agreed to share some insider knowledge with us.

It’s probably safe to assume we have all had back pain at some point.

“Being a mountain biker myself, and a Sports Physiotherapist in Peebles, Scotland – arguably the most popular mountain bike destination in the UK , I regularly see riders with a variety of injuries – and our injury statistics clearly supports the view that back pain in mountain biking is on the increase”

What is the main cause of back pain when mountain biking?

There are a number of causes of back pain developing from mountain biking, but the primary cause is the heavy backpacks seen these days – and they seem to be getting even heavier!

When venturing out for a long day in the mountains or local trails, often to very isolated areas, it is essential to carry as much safety gear as possible to cater for bike repairs and weather changes, as well as carry sufficient food, hydration, first aid and even sometimes an emergency shelter. This can all add up to a backpack often weighing in excess of 10 kilos!

Backpack position is a big factor in managing back pain.

If you also consider the position of a backpack on your back when riding. Most of the backpack load is through the thoracic region (mid-back), with the lower back acting as a suspension between the strong and stable pelvis and hips, and the backpack. Therefore, the lower back has to work incredibly hard to maintain a neutral position, and the surrounding soft tissue structures (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) become very quickly overloaded, causing pain.

It’s very common to experience back pain after a long ride but if you are finding the pain doesn’t go away after a couple of days or you are riding with constant back pain – then it is time to do something about it! Some people advocate for chiropractors, others osteopaths, many people buy kratom from here for all kinds of pain and the list continues. These are just some examples of where to start, exactly what you end up doing to treat yourself is not important, what’s important is that you try and find what’s best for you.

Other causes of back pain when mountain biking

Weak core muscles. This is a very common cause of lower back pain. Your back, when riding a bike, is like a suspension bridge with the shoulders and pelvis acting as the columns or piers. The middle back is supported by the rib cage, leaving the lower back as the vulnerable weak point. Now add a heavy bag to the equation, and it is easy to understand why we see so many riders suffering with back pain! Having strong core muscles will help to protect the lower back and make it easier to maintain a strong stable position.

A strong core is one of the best weapons against back pain!

Poor hip mobility. Some riders have tight hip muscles, mainly the hip flexors, gluteal and piriformis muscles. If these muscles are constantly tight it will lead to increased lateral pelvic movement, which will make the lower back work harder to compensate and result in back pain. Poor hip mobility can also cause other injuries like Iliotibial band syndrome and knee pain. If you happen to experience it, For-Knees
will provide you with some tips to improve joint health.

Incorrect bike position. Incorrect bike size (especially a frame too large – causing over-reaching) and saddle height are two common errors that can lead to back pain as well as other injuries like hip pain. Less obvious errors like stem and crank length and saddle horizontal position can also contribute towards the development of back pain.

Proper bike fit is important, if you are not sure, seek professional guidance.

How to prevent back pain when mountain biking

Rethink your backpack strategy.
Find ways to reduce the overall weight of the pack. For example, the weight of water is 1kg per litre. Therefore, if you have bottle cages carry two full 750ml bottles (for example) which can either be used direct or transferred later in the ride to your water bladder, thus reducing your pack weight potentially by 1.5kg.

Using a bottle cage can remove significant weight from your back.

Backpacks with hip/waist pockets can help reduce the load off your back, even a waist pack like the Source Hipster Hydration Belt or the EVOC Hip Pack Race keep the weight centered lower and will help you out. Consider a small saddle bag for your bike tools and spares which will help reduce the weight on your back.
Bike manufacturers like Specialized are starting to come up with ingenious ways to store more items on the bike rather than on the back which can only be a good thing.

There are a host of new products that allow you to carry the essentials without a pack.

Road style tops with back pockets may not look cool on a mountain bike, but with the pockets being lower than a backpack, using these can help spread the load. There are now also specific storage vests like the RaceFace Tank that allow you to carry the essentials without a pack.

Adjust your climbing technique.
Many of us were taught to stay seated in the saddle when climbing on a mountain bike. If you are carrying a heavy bag as well, this put increased strain on the lower back. Regular standing will help reduce the stress on the lower back as the spine will be in a more neutral position. Also, keeping in a slightly easier gear and therefore higher cadence will also help reduce the strain on your lower back.

Give you back a break every now and again on long climbs by standing to pedal.

Improve your core strength.
Having strong core muscles will help you to protect your back when you are riding by keeping it in a neutral (or natural) position. It will also help to strengthen the “bridge” between the thoracic spine and pelvis where the majority of back pain usually develops. 3 exercises which help strengthen your core are the Plank, Shoulder Bridge, and Side Bridge Star. However, performing the correct technique is essential to gaining good core strength so it’s well worth getting an experienced Sports Physio, PT or Pilates teacher to show you how to perform the exercises correctly:

Improve hip mobility.
Improving your hip mobility can increase your performance as well as reduce the risk of injuries. The following exercises are great for hip mobility: Deep supported squats, Lunges, Glute stretching, Hip flexor stretch and Piriformis stretch.

Keeping flexible is key, be sure to visit a professional to help you maintain your fitness.

Review your bike position.
This is a no brainer. Making sure your bike fits you correctly is essential for both maximising performance and for injury avoidance. Source a good bike shop that is experienced with mountain bike fitting. Make sure you only make small adjustments at any one time and get used to these before making further changes.

Physiotherapy, myofascial release, and massage.
When things don’t go quite to plan and you’re unable to manage or shrug off back pain or other injuries, then an experienced Sports Physiotherapist can assess and diagnose the root of your pain or injury. They can apply hands-on treatment like myofacial release, mobilisation or deep massage which will help you to regain normal pain-free function. They will also teach you how to self-manage your back pain or provide exercise plans to help with general stiffness or niggles. Regular sports massage will also help to prevent back pain and improve recovery.

Sometimes you have to call in the professionals. If your backpain will not shift its time to seek help.

My final piece of advice is don’t accept back pain as the norm when mountain biking. Practically every rider we have seen with back pain at our clinics has recovered and is now free of pain. Some take longer to resolve and may be more complicated by a combination of causes, but none the less it’s resolvable. You just need the right advice and treatment and to be smart about the use of a backpack!

About Phil Mack

Phil Mack is a rider himself and knows only too well the physical demands of cycling.

Phil has over 17 years of physiotherapy and sports science experience working with professional and international athletes and teams throughout the UK, Australia and South Africa, including the South African Springboks, Leicester Tigers and Ulster Rugby, as well as the South African Triathlon Team. Personally, he has represented both South Africa and Great Britain in Triathlon and Duathlon and is passionate about mountain biking and climbing. He can be contacted via his website, and Phil is only too happy to chat about any concerns that you may have.

Words: Phil Mack Photos: Catherine Smith and Trev Worsey

Does lower back pain spoil your cycling? Here’s how to prevent and treat it

Firstly, before you get out of bed, do some easy range of movement exercises.

Bring your knees to your chest, pull them in until you feel a stretch, then gently rock in and out of the stretched position for 20-30 seconds. Now put your feet back on the mattress but with knees bent. Drop your knees as far as possible to one side, hold the stretched position for 20-30 seconds, then do the same for the other side. Do this every day. Seriously.

OK, now on to more proactive exercises.

  1. Enhance the flexibility of your hip flexor muscles.
  2. Enhance the flexibility of your hamstring muscles.
  3. Strengthen the muscles that form the main support for the pelvic area and lower back.

You can do this simply by protecting your genitals and head from an imaginary electric fence and then swinging a big heavy ball. What?

Two exercises, around 5 minutes a day – got to be worth trying?

Imagine an electric fence just under crotch height and pretend to step over it one leg at a time, lifting your feet high and rotating as you move. Then duck under another wire at belly button height, then turn around and back to the starting point leading with the other leg. High swing of the leg, low duck back under.

If you feel really stupid doing this in a dark room with no one watching you’ll probably be doing it right. Do 12 in total, rest for a minute, then 12 more.

Demonstrations here, and here.

Kettlebell Swing

Now for the big weight thing. The Kettlebell Swing is an excellent way to develop core strength and it will also add power to your pedalling. Find a kettlebell. Or fill a dry bag with sand. Or put a watermelon in a carrier bag (don’t do this really!). Then swing it.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes straight ahead like your riding position, crouched with knees slightly bent, looking straight ahead. Hold the kettlebell between your legs using a two-handed grip.

Keeping the arch in your lower back, bend your hips back until the kettlebell is between and behind your legs, then squeeze your glutes and snap your hips forward to extend your hips and swing the weight up. Don’t raise it with your arms, keep them straight and let the hips swing it up.

Then, control the swing back down with your arms, still keeping them straight, let the weight swing back between your legs as you bend your hips and slightly bend your knees, then hit it again.

Try 25 swings, rest, then 25 more. When you can do 75 in one set, up the weight. A good starting point tends to be 8kg for women and 12 kg for men.

There’s a good demonstration here.

And that’s it! Try these two exercises three times a week for a few weeks and see if you notice a reduction in low back pain.

Exercises and tips for avoiding back pain when cycling

“Without you realising, it can cause the pelvis to become twisted and make your legs different lengths; issues which create muscle imbalances and put huge pressure on your lumbar spine as you twist your abdomen for power. Always, always get a professional once-over after any crash. Leave it too late and it can result in months of pain.”

And the one muscle cyclists ignore at their peril? The gluteus medius

As with neck pain, focus on your bike set up. “If your saddle’s too high, you’ll rock side to side causing the muscles between your pelvis and lower back to spasm,” she says. “Put your heel on the pedal at the six o’clock position and sit on the saddle — your leg should be almost straight and you shouldn’t have to rock your hips to reach down.”

Pelvic position is paramount, she says. “Tight quads will tilt the pelvis forward, while tight hamstrings will tilt it back; in both cases, your lower back will over-arch and start to take the strain when it should be your much bigger muscles in the core.”

Pushing bigger gears or overdoing your hill sets can overly fatigue the glutes and hamstrings, again leading to pain. “The key message is you need to strengthen your core away from the bike before your back takes the strain, and focus on stretching to maintain pelvic position even when you’re dog-tired,” says Potts.

And the one muscle cyclists ignore at their peril? The gluteus medius. On the outside of the buttocks, it’s a muscle we never use when we walk, but when cycling the demand on it increases by a factor of eight.

“It literally holds your pelvis in place so you get an efficient transfer of power in the lumbar region,” says Paul Massey, physio with the British Olympic Association. “Three sets of 10 side leg raises twice a week is sufficient to build and maintain strength here as well as in your transverse abdominals .”


“You need to incorporate core stability, flexibility and conditioning drills into your training to make your time in the saddle more comfortable, less likely to develop muscle imbalances, and improve performance and speed,” says Paula Coates, author of Back Pain: Exercise Yourself to Health. “Mix and match the following exercises and stretches in a simple 20-minute workout twice a week and in just a month you will see noticeable improvements.”

Walking lunges

Walking Lunges Paul Smith

Targets: Quads, core and hip flexors

3 x 15-20 reps

1. Step forward into a lunge position, bending the front knee and ankle to 90 degrees, which will help you keep your knee behind your toes. Keep your weight on your back leg and clench your buttocks.

2. Dig your front heel into the floor and step the other leg forward into the lunge position. Keep your steps wider than your pelvis as this will increase your base of support and stability.

The cat stretch

Targets: Spine and core

Unlimited — repeat little and often

1. Kneel on all fours with your knees a hip distance apart and your hands a shoulder width apart. This can also be done sitting on your bike.

Cat Stretch 1 Paul Smith

2. Imagining your pelvis is a bucket filled with water, tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards for one to two minutes as if you were tipping water out of the front and back of the bucket.

Cat Stretch 2 Paul Smith

The Bug

Targets: Core

3 x 10 breaths

1. Lie on your back with your arms reaching up towards the ceiling and your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. If this feels too difficult, you can support your legs on a gym ball or on the arm of your sofa.

The Bug stretch Paul Smith

2. Making sure your spine is flattened gently against the floor and your pelvic floor is lifted, hold this position as you gently breathe in and out. Repeat three times for 10 breaths, resting between each set.

> You should feel this in the tummy not the back; if you have back pain, wait until you’re stronger or reduce the time you hold the position.

Variation 1: Arm floats: As you breathe out, slowly raise your left arm over your head, then breathe in and return your arm to the start position. Repeat with your right arm and alternate each arm for 30 seconds, increasing to one minute as you become stronger.

Arm floats

Variation 2: Leg floats: As you breathe out, slowly lower your left foot towards the floor, but only as far as you can while keeping a neutral spine. Breathe in and return the hip to the start position. Repeat with your right foot. Alternate legs for 30 seconds, increasing to one minute as you become stronger.

Leg floats Paul Smith

Crucifix stretch

Targets: Lumbar spine and hips, buttocks, back muscles and hamstrings

2 x 10-15 reps

1. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out at right angles to your sides and both your legs straight, as if you’re on a crucifix. Keep your arms in contact with the floor at all times.

Crucifix stretch Paul Smith

2. Lift your right leg 2 inches off the floor and swing your leg over and across your left leg so the toes on your right foot are sliding towards your left hand. Only swing your leg as far as you can comfortably.

3. Return your right leg to the starting position and repeat with the left leg. Do two sets of 10–15 repetitions.

> If your flexibility is poor or you’ve had a flare up of low back pain, bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor, and roll your knees from side to side.

Dynamic hamstring stretches

Targets: Hamstrings, piriformis, tensor fasciae latae and calf

10-20 reps in each position after every ride

1. Standing with your feet together, take three small steps (heel to toe) so you stop with one foot in front of the other.

Dynamic hamstring stretch Paul Smith

2. Lean forward and slide your hands down your leg to your ankle. The forward movement should come from your lower back and your hips.

Dynamic hamstring stretch Paul Smith

3. Take three more small steps so your opposite foot is in front, and again reach your hands down to your ankle. Repeat 10-20 times.

4. The next stretch starts in the same way — take three small steps but turn the toes of your front foot out with the outer side of your heel level with the big toe on the back foot. Repeat 10-20 times.

5. The final stretch starts in the same way with three small steps, but this time turn the front foot in, keeping the inside of your heel level with the big toe on the back foot.

Thoracic extension stretch

Targets: Spine and chest

Daily 15-20 minutes

1. Use an exercise ball, or roll up a small bath towel so it has a diameter of 10-15cm and secure with rubber bands.

2. Lie on the ball or, if using a towel, a bed with the towel lengthways down your spine, from the base of your neck to the middle of your back.

Thoracic extension stretch Paul Smith Advertisement

3. Raise your arms to either side of your head and let them hang or rest on the bed. If this is too much of a stretch, support or rest your arms on pillows to reduce the pull across your chest.

Why You Have Lower-Back Pain After Spin Class (Plus How to Fix It)

Photo: andresr/Getty Images

Pushing through the burn is part of a good, sweaty spin class. But there’s a big difference between that ‘hurts so good’ feeling and real pain. So if you’ve ever left the studio with a killer workout on the books, but an achy lower back to show for it, here’s how to stop the pain ASAP, and why it happens in the first place.

What’s causing your back pain?

While everybody and every “body” is different, low back pain during or after spin class happens for many reasons, and sometimes multiple things are at play. “Lower-back pain from cycling can be related to several different factors including improper bike setup, poor form, the muscles used in the workout itself, overuse, or a combination of these factors,” says Aylon Pesso, a Boston-based orthopedic fitness trainer.

In part, blame the standard cycling position-strapped in and leaned forward-itself. It innately stresses your lumbar spine (lower back), especially if you’re already injured, says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., a New York-based sports physical therapist. Because you’re not outdoors on the road or the trails and using your core to turn, steer, or coordinate the bike, you can wind up putting even more pressure on your discs in class, he says. Also, if you’re vying for that top spot on the leaderboard in every class, you are probably working dominate muscles past the point of fatigue, which can cause other muscles to overcompensate, straining your lower back, says Pesso. (P.S. Here’s an Ancient Trick for Beating Back Pain)

Adding insult to injury, since most people spend their days sitting, your hip flexors are already predisposed to shortening and tightening, says Pesso. Then think about the actual workout, which includes a form of sitting as you bring your knees up and down. “While we may not be actively engaging the hip flexors throughout the movement, they are still shortening and contracting,” he says. These tight hip flexors? Yep, you guessed it. They, too, can contribute to that lower-back pain.

How to fix the pain and prevent it later

You don’t need to hop off the saddle for good. Sidestepping pain comes down to mastering good form-the fundamental aspect of which is a straight spine, says Weiss. “As we push through a hard class, we have a tendency to slump and crunch down,” says Pesso. But bend your lower back, and you’ll feel it in your lower back, he says. Pretty straightforward. This is why instructors urge you push your chest forward, pull your shoulders back, and keep your arms long and straight, he says. Feel free to readjust if you need to. “Lift your butt off the seat for a second, and tilt your hips forward to keep a straight line from your hips to your head.”

A proper bike setup also sets you up for pain-free success in the studio, says Weiss. What to check for? Make sure your knees aren’t coming up too high and aim for a 90 percent extension in your leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke, suggests Jess Bashelor, owner of The Handle Bar Indoor Cycling Studios in Boston, MA. As for the bike itself? “The handle bars should be a few inches higher than the saddle, but ultimately the height should be based on comfort and posture,” she says. (Whatever will get you to a straight spine.) How far forward or behind you are from the peddles is also crucial. “When you’re at the front of your pedal stroke, your knee should be positioned pretty much directly above the ball of your foot.”

A lot of the stretches your instructor already does at the end of class-like a Stork Stretch for your quads and a Figure Four for your hip flexors-can help mitigate pain, but flexibility is the key to longevity in cycling, says Weiss. So consider tacking on these three stretches to your cool-down routine. (The right kind of cross training can make sure you’re as strong and flexible off the bike, as you are on it. Check out These Cross-Training Workouts That Were Made for Each Other.)

Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch

Kneel on right knee, with toes down, and place left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent and aligned with ankle. Place hands on left thigh. Press hips forward until you feel tension in the front of your right thigh. Extend arms overhead, with elbows close to head and palms facing each other, and slightly arch your back while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Doorway Stretch

Stand slightly in front of a doorway and place arms on either side of doorway or adjacent wall. Bend elbows at 90 degrees, keeping upper arm parallel to the floor. Lean forward and hold this position for 30 seconds.

Modified Lizard Pose with Quad Stretch

Begin in lizard pose. Come up off forearms and onto hands. Turn left foot out at a forty-five-degree angle and roll onto the outer edge of the foot. Use left hand to push against inner left thigh, opening up hip. Hold for a few breaths. Bend right knee and catch the pinky toe edge of the right foot with the left hand. Pull to stretch the quad. (The Best Yoga Poses to Open Your Hips may also help.)

One more thing: If you have a physioball on hand, hang over it with your stomach to the sky for a full supine stretch, suggests Weiss.

Are recumbent bikes really better for your back?

There is quite a variety of different manufacturers of recumbents on the market. So obviously, I can´t possibly speak for all of them. However, most recumbents probably share similar seating concepts. The recumbent I ride is a FLUX S800. As you can see from the photo in the above link, the seat shell is literally following the shape of the human spine. I keep saying, my recumbent is actually more comfortable than many sofas I have sat on! Also, your body´s weight is distributed over a very large area of comfortably cushioned space, compared to diamond frame bikes (= “regular” bikes), where almost your entire weight is packed on an area hardly much bigger than the size of a palm.

Those two factors alone provide a huge advantage and benefit to your back (and your bum). Additional to that, many “regular” bikes force you to sit on them in a very “rolled up” pasture: Both on racing bikes as well as on mountain bikes, you have to hump your back to hold on to the handle bars. Dutch bicycles, where you sit very upright, as well as Pedersen-bikes are slightly better in that regard, but even there, you are still sitting on a very small saddle. With my recumbent, I can sit on it for many hours without even the tiniest pain on my butt! On a regular bike, my butt would hurt already after one hour!

Last year, I went on a very long bike tour from Hamburg to Munich (760 kilometers, two weeks). Neither my butt, nor my back hurt on even one single day of my journey – even though before that tour, I had hardly done any other bike tour whatsoever, i.e. was not really very well-trained. Quality recumbents (like for instance the FLUX) are INSANELY comfortable – and one thing you will notice once you ride them is that you have SO MUCH MORE of an overview over the nice landscapes you are driving through, than you would have on diamond framed bicycles.

Of course, aside from the brand you chose, a proper adjustment of the frame and seat to your body-size, as well as the use of clipless pedals are basic requirements so that you will enjoy your recumbent. To get an overview over the types and brands of recumbents available on the market, you may have a look at . By the way riding a recumbent is easy if you know how to ride a “regular” bike – you just may need two or three days of “warming up with it”, and you are all set. If you have a recumbent dealer in your vicinity, the best thing you could do is just to take one or two different models for a spin, and try them out for yourself. Enjoy! 🙂

Does Stationary Bike help prevent Hernia and Back Pain?

Back pain, sciatica, herniated disc… More than 70% of the people suffer from back problems. This may be due to a herniated disc (hernia) that is characterized by an intense pain in the lower back, buttocks and sometimes along the leg. In this case, is it advisable to do sports? Does stationary bike riding help prevent back pain and hernia?

1. What is exactly a hernia or a herniated disc?

Hernia usually appears between 30 and 50. It is estimated that 3% of women and 5% of men suffer from herniated disc. The most common symptom of hernia is sciatica, which is an intense pain in the lower back, buttocks and along the leg, sometimes causing difficulties in walking.

What is the cause of hernia? The intervertebral discs, which are like small “cushions” located between the vertebrae of the spine, act as shock absorbers and aim to protect the spine from shocks. With age, because of an abrupt effort in a bad position or the wearing of a heavy load, or in case of obesity, these discs can be damaged and cause pain, that is what a hernia or a herniated disc is.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW. 70% of the people have back problems. About 3% of women and 5% of men over the age of 35 have had sciatica.

Hernia is not a fatality! It is possible and even strongly recommended to act against it. Indeed, if you suffer from a herniated disc and do not change your (bad) habits, which are often the cause of your back problems, your back pain will very likely reappear sooner or later. So what should you do to prevent hernia and back pain?

2. What to do against hernia, sciatica and back pain? How to prevent it?

Back problems as well as pain caused by hernia (sciatica) can be recurring and come back if nothing is done against it! For this reason, it is important to have a good position of your back in everyday life and to muscle your back in order to relieve your spine in a durable way.

– Avoid bad postures! Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Get used to never bending forward when you bend down. Bend your knees and not your back!

– Do not sit too long. The spine experiences a 40% higher pressure when seating than when we are standing. When sitting, maintain a good posture of your back: well seated in your chair, seat at the correct height, keep your back straight and do not bend forward.

– Once the pain disappears, with the agreement of your doctor, you will be able to resume a physical activity that will strengthen your back, abdominal and leg muscles: swimming (backstroke), active walking and exercise bike. It is important to resume sports smoothly and gradually after suffering from a herniated disc. Regular physical activity allows you to strengthen your muscles (abdominal and back) and is the best sustainable prevention against back problems!

– Finally, losing a few pounds can only be beneficial because overweight is one of the causes of herniated disc.

PREVENTION. After having suffered from a sciatica or herniated disc, do not abandon sports! Once the pain has passed, resume sports smoothly. Sport is the best prevention against back pain!

3. Does stationary bike riding help prevent hernia and sciatica?

Sports that involve identical, controlled and smooth movements, such as the exercise bike, nordic walking or swimming, especially backstroke, are strongly advised and particularly beneficial for the back. The stationary bike is preferable to road biking which involves vibrations and possible jerks.

You should however make sure to have the right position on your exercise bike! Keep your back straight, the saddle at the right level so that your knees are slightly bent when the pedal is at the bottom and hands well resting on the handlebars. Do not bend your back when leaning forward!

CAREFUL! In case of acute pain, immediately stop your training or physical activity. Pain is a kind of warning from your body that something is going wrong!

4. What sports and physical activities should you avoid?

Especially in the first months, when you suffer from a herniated disc, you should avoid collective sports such as tennis or soccer that can cause sudden movements of the back and urge the spine. Also physical activities that require wearing heavy loads such as body building or weightlifting should be avoided.

Is the elliptical bike advisable? The elliptical bike is not recommended because it forces you to bend forward and slightly twist your spine due to the alternate arm movements, which could increase your herniated disc. This is therefore not ideal for your back! Instead, prefer the stationary bike.

In conclusion, sports and physical activity are the best prevention against back pain!

Back problems are often recurrent and tend to increase with age. Back pain is more common among people who do not exercise or have little physical activity and also among those who have to carry heavy objects on a daily basis.

Regular physical activity and sports will strengthen your back muscles and permanently relieve your hernia, sciatica and back pain!

We would recommend the DKN AM-3i stationary bike with a soft saddle and the possibility to adjust the seat horizontally and vertically in order to find the right position for your back.

N.B. The information contained in this article should not be used as a substitute for a medical consultation with a health professional. The problems of back, sciatica and herniated discs are complex and can vary from one individual to another.

Our tips for preventing back pain and hernia
– Walk regularly (30 minutes to 1 hour per day ideally)
– Adopt a good position of your spine and always keep your back straight
– Avoid the sitting position too long and if you cannot avoid it, get up from time to time, walk a little and do some exercises.
– Resume sport as soon as your pain is gone! The exercise bike allows you to muscle legs and glutes, which has a beneficial effect for your back.
– Make sure to sleep in a good position and on a good mattress (not too old)!
– If you have to pick up an object, do not bend, just flex the knees keeping your back straight.

David Anderson, Fitness Writer
David Anderson is a professional writer with 15 years of experience in the sports and fitness industry. He has been writing about fitness and giving workout tips and advice for the Vescape Fitness Shop since 2016.

10 useful tips to choose the right exercise bike

A squeaking stationary bike, an uncomfortable seat, an exercise bike without resistance… follow our advice and avoid bad surprises in the choice of your exercise bike! Read the article

Bicycling and Back Pain

Biking is a popular form of aerobic exercise, and is often a favored form of exercise by people with low back pain conditions. Biking may be a good exercise option for many reasons:

  • Biking is less jarring to the spine than many other forms of aerobic exercise, such as jogging or aerobics class. Stationary bicycling is particularly gentle on the spine, and the variety of spinning classes now available can provide a vigorous aerobic workout with minimal stress to the low back.
    • See Exercise Bikes for a Low Stress Work Out
  • Some people with certain back conditions often feel more comfortable in the forward-leaning position of sitting on a bicycle seat and leaning forward on the handlebars. Lumbar spinal stenosis is an example of a condition in which most people feel better in a forward-leaning position.
  • For those with a low back condition in which a reclining position feels better, a reclining bike, also called a recumbent bike, may be preferable. Lumbar degenerative disc disease is an example of a condition in which many people feel better in a reclining position.

How Biking can Cause Back Pain or Neck Pain

  • Little conditioning is provided to the back muscles by bicycling
  • Back posture on the bicycle can strain the lower back, a result of the lumbar spine flexing or pulling up)
  • Position on the bicycle, with the neck arching back, can strain the neck and upper back, especially when the bicycle is equipped with aerodynamic bars
  • Rough terrain increases jarring and compression to the spine, which can lead to back pain


How to Prevent Back Injuries or Neck Injuries from Biking

  • Select the best bicycle for your purpose. For casual bike riders, a mountain bike with higher, straight handle bars (allow more upright posture), and bigger tires (more shock absorption) may be a better option than a racing style bicycle
  • Adjust the bicycle properly to fit one’s body. If possible, this is best achieved with the assistance of an experienced professional at a bicycle shop
  • Use proper form when biking; distribute some weight to the arms and keep the chest up; shift positions periodically
  • Periodically gently lifting and lowering the head to loosen the neck and avoid neck strain
  • Discuss and review your pedaling technique with a personal trainer or other knowledgeable professional in order to get the most out of the exercise
  • Use shock absorbing bike accessories including seats and seat covers, handlebar covers, gloves, and shock absorbers on the front forks (front shocks or full suspension shocks depending on the type of riding you plan to do and the terrain)


Biking does not specifically strengthen the core body muscles – the abdominals and the back muscles – which various authorities feel are a critical component of preventing and alleviating lower back pain.

Therefore, it is also important to do some back strengthening exercises, and core body exercises in conjunction with your bicycling routine to provide strength and conditioning for the back. There is a wide variety of these types of exercises.

  • See Back Exercises and Abdominal Exercise Recommendations for more information.

5 Fixes for Cycling-Related Lower Back Pain

One of the most common complaints of cyclists on the bike is pain or stiffness in the lower back due to the unnatural, hunched over, forward position. While extreme pain or injury should be addressed with a healthcare professional, there are a few changes you can make to keep this problem from persisting.

These five fixes should help you stay pain-free on the bike so you can enjoy your rides:


Pain on the bike is most often due to a poor bike fit. While getting fit by a professional is recommended, here are a few common fit issues that often cause lower back pain and are relatively simple to fix:

  • A saddle that’s too high will cause your hips to rock side to side when you pedal, leading to lower back pain. To determine if this is the issue, watch yourself in a mirror while pedaling on an indoor trainer. You should have a slight bend in the knee at the bottom dead center of the pedal stroke (6 o’clock). If your leg is completely straight in this position, lower the seat so you have 25–35 degrees of knee flexion.
  • When your handlebar is a bit too far away, it can cause a stretched-out position that puts too much strain on your lumbar vertebrae. Shortening your stem and raising your handlebars with spacers to achieve a more upright position could help.



If you’re constantly mashing big gears, you could be overworking your muscles — including those in the lower back and hips. Once they become fatigued, stiffness and pain could result while you’re on the bike.


While it’ll cause you to change your riding style, using a higher cadence could solve this issue. Instead of riding in the 65–80 rpm (revolutions per minute) range, try riding at 90 rpm or higher. This will tax your cardiovascular system a bit more but allow you to keep your power output the same while placing less stress on your muscles. Try a few high-cadence drills to adapt your body to this style of cycling.

Also make sure you remember to shift whenever the gradient increases and change your position on the bike every so often from sitting to standing to keep your lower back muscles from getting stiff and tight.


During the pedaling motion, the core stabilizes the pelvis, providing a foundation for your legs to push against. The stronger your core, the faster you’ll go. On the flip side, if you have a weak core, you’ll be forced to use your lower back to compensate. This can cause pain as the lower back muscles begin to fatigue and eventually leads to injury.

By strengthening your core, you’ll rely on your lower back for power less, making it easier to tolerate the forward position on the bike as the miles and hours in the saddle pile up. Give these exercises a try to strengthen your core, decrease your pain and improve your speed in the process.


Because of the position, tight hamstrings are a common ailment for cyclists. What you may not realize is tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain, since these muscles attach on the lower part of the pelvis. When your hamstrings are tight they can pull down on the pelvis causing a posterior pelvic tilt, resulting in increased flexion of the lumbar vertebrae.

Make it a habit to foam roll and stretch your hamstrings a few times per day, especially right after you get off the bike. Remember: You’ll get a better stretch and improve your flexibility more when you’re already warmed up, so do so when possible.

Tight quadriceps, hip flexors, piriformis and other muscles that originate at the pelvis can cause back pain as well. Including some of these stretches in your routine improves your overall flexibility and not only helps you avoid lower back pain on the bike, but can also help you achieve a lower, more aerodynamic position.


Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cyclist ramping up for an upcoming race, increasing your mileage too fast could lead to pain or injury out on the road. Like anything else, if your muscles aren’t conditioned to handle the stress of the activity you’ll have to compensate for any areas of weakness — and most of the time your lower back will take the bulk of the punishment.

Allow your body to adapt to the increased time spent riding by increasing your mileage slowly, by no more than 20% per week. It’s also a good idea to use training blocks to prevent overtraining and injury. Follow every three weeks of ramping up your weekly mileage with one week of recovery. Your recovery week should include some cross training, rest days, and a 30–40% decrease in your total weekly mileage.

Biking and Low Back Pain – Smart Exercise Choices for a Healthy Spine

Question about Biking and Low Back Pain:
“I am looking for some pointers on using a spin bike. I am challenged with low back pain, use clip in shoes, and am very conscious of heels straight in line from toes, but need butt and back positions. Thanks for any help you can offer.” Dana

Answer from Aliesa:

In my opinion, spin class and biking is perhaps not the most ideal exercise choice if dealing with low back pain.

If you look at most bikers, the low spine is rounded with the pelvis and hips tucked under, creating a prime opportunity for discs to translate out of place to the back. You sit in this position for an hour or more, and when you get off the bike it may be difficult to stand up straight! Add to this the fact that the head and neck are cranked into extension to see where you’re going, and you’ve got flexion through most of the spine, and hyper-extension in the neck. A healthy spine can put in lots of miles in this position, but if you have low back pain, SI joint problems, or neck and shoulder pain, this body position for cycling may only make things worse.

There is nothing about cycling posture that puts the spine in a healthy neutral position. Riding a bike with higher handlebars in front so you can sit up taller might help some, but it’s not the best choice of activities for developing the strength and mobility needed to keep your back and neck healthy.

Seat height for cycling is also an issue. If the seat is too high your back may feel worse. If it’s too low you can end up with knee pain! When you walk, the hips need to un-level side to side for a healthy stride. But on a bike the pelvis should remain still. If the seat is too high there is more stress on your low back riding because you end up un-leveling the hips to push the pedals.

If it’s possible for you to cycle with a more “neutral” pelvis position, it might help take some of the stress off your lower back. But generally speaking cycling can be aggravating if you already have back or neck issues.

Let’s Look at WHY I Don’t Think Cycling May Be a Smart Exercise Choice for a Healthy Spine:

On the bike all the force and movement is in the lumbar side-to-side, with a flexed/tucked pelvis. The tragedy of this is that when spinning on a bike, the legs aren’t working thru a full ROM for good hip mechanics to strengthen your POS (Posterior Oblique System – X Support system, hamstrings, glutes, low back lats) like you get with walking, which is really what needs to get stronger to reduce or eliminate SI joint pain and low back pain.

Plus cycling also has the spine held in a stable and flexed position, so you lose out on the front X support and oblique work needed for spine rotation. Hold your spine still for an hour or more on a bike and your back is going to get stiffer and tighter, it will be more difficult even if you do try to do other exercises to reinforce your X-systems to keep them strong – you’ll have to do a LOT to un-train and re-train what’s not working well for you when you bike.

IF you decide to keep cycling in your training program, know that if your back hurts cycling may be a contributing factor to why you can’t seem to stabilize the issues.

Still Think You Want to Cycle? Get a Bike Fit!

While I don’t recommend spin class or cycling for clients with back pain, I can say that an important part of cycling and staying healthy is having your bike fit. It’s worth the investment to have your road or mountain bike professionally adjusted to fit your body and ensure optimal body mechanics for cycling. Pedals, seat height, the actual seat, stem height, handlebars…there are lots of things that can be adjusted on a bike to ensure your body will be sitting in the best position possible to spin safely. In a spin class at the gym, you’ll probably never get exactly the same “fit” as a personalized fit on your bike, but knowing what it feels like to be on your bike when it IS fit properly can hopefully help you adjust what you can on a stationary bike at the gym to get the best body mechanics possible.

Outdoor Cycling vs. Riding a Stationary Bike

Please realize that riding a stationary bike is not the same as being outside on the road. Outside the bike moves! It sways side to side and makes adjustments underneath your body, and your body has to make adjustments up top to stay upright. On a stationary bike you lose out on needing to recruit some of the smaller muscle groups that assist with stabilization, balance, and body control. Power muscles get stronger, stabilizers get weaker…

Answer this question:

What needs to be working better for a healthy back?

  1. Large power muscles
  2. Small stabilizing muscles

Still think riding a bike indoors is the best choice for your back? It’s up to you…

Cycling has lots of great benefits, just like every other type of exercise. But not every exercise is appropriate for every person. If you have low back pain, it doesn’t mean that you should avoid exercise altogether! In the long run it’s important to have the right exercises in your daily workouts to improve your strength, stability, and mobility. Making smart exercise choices to improve balanced muscle development and paying attention to improving your healthy movement habits is what will make the biggest difference in helping you alleviate back pain and feel better.

Make Smart Exercise Choices to Eliminate Low Back Pain

The goal is to pick the safest and most appropriate exercises to get your body 100% healthy and avoid exercises or activities that you know may be contributing to your pain. I may be that you avoid certain exercises or activities for weeks, months, or even years! But once your body has had the time it needs to heal, the pain goes away, and you know your back is healthy and stable, there’s a great chance you can do what you want and get back into activities like spinning class or cycling without aggravating your past low back issues.

Make smart, healthy choices, work on improving your functional movement habits, and you’ll be well on your way to eliminating low back pain.


Get started now strengthening the deeper layers of muscle that support better balance and body control with The Daily Dozen – 10 Minute Pulse-Power Workout Plan. Add these quick and easy 12 exercises to your workout program to help strengthen your back and improve whole-body health.

Posted by Aliesa George in Back Pain, Exercise and Fitness and tagged Aliesa George, Biking and Low Back Pain, Body Mechanics and Bicycling, Centerworks, Cycling and Back Pain, Exercise and Low Back Pain, Fitting a Bike to Avoid Back Pain, Spinning and Back Pain.

Copyright: If you reprint a post on this site or re-post it on your own blog or website, you must include the following attribution: © MMVIII-MMXIII, Aliesa George and Centerworks©. Used by Permission. Originally posted on Centerworks.com.

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