Push-ups. . . For Cyclists? 🤷🏼‍♂️

“Can you actually do a single, quality, push-up?”

I know sounds silly, but you’d be surprised that the majority of higher level cyclists can eek out. . . maybe. . 5–10 quality reps… but many would fail even before then.

All about the legs baby! But. . . What about the upper body?
Keep those elbows ‘loose’ and able to absorb the terrain, especially downhill! BRAAP

Let’s unpack the basic Push -Up: [Fig A below}

  1. Begin face-down with hands wider than shoulders — shoulders angled at about 45deg (abduction) from your body.
  2. Try to ‘stiffen’ the core- this means pretty much everything from your shoulders down: trunk, legs, and your toes are tucked under, getting ready for the push up.
  3. Press upwards through your arms until your elbows are straight and your trunk is in-line- the key is to keep the entire lower body and trunk completely still throughout the movement, placing the work on to the chest, shoulders and triceps
  4. Return to starting position, and repeat until fatigue. General goal is 20reps (or more) without stopping!
Fig A: The basic push up, head on. Avoid elbows pinned to your side, or in a complete ‘T’ — Roughly 45deg shoulder abduction, and keep elbows vertical
Can also add a ‘hand lift’ at the start of the push up to activate some scapular muscles and increase shoulder flexibility and mobility.

Cycling-Specific Benefits of the ‘Push Up’ Exercise:

  1. Core Stability: Your core is your ‘chassis’ on which the motor runs- the more stable the better, and ultimately more efficient in producing power — a tight core during push-up works both your abs and lower back muscles to hold your trunk ‘stiff as a log’ throughout the entire movement, from start to finish.
  2. Strength: Shoulders, chest, triceps: The challenge alone on the chest, shoulders and triceps — the main ‘shock-absorber’ muscles that support us on a variety terrain and surfaces (gravel, anyone?). The stronger these muscles are, the better equipped at absorbing road chatter (or over rocks, holes in the ground, debris. etc) thus saving your neck and back on those epic, challenging rides and long days in the saddle!
  3. Upper Body Mobility/Flexibility — The push-up allow you extend the shoulders and hips to be ‘balanced’ and reverses the prolonged flexed spine riding position. When we move and stretching in opposing ways from prolonged postures, it helps to nourish tissues and lubricate the joints, providing an active ‘refresh’, and prevents prolonged tissue stretch from leading to eventual injury on and off the bike.



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Kevin Schmidt

Kevin Schmidt

Owner/Founder of Pedal PT. Passionate Cyclist, Physical Therapist, Clinical Bike Fitter, Dad, and Entrepreneur, living the #BikeLife in Portland, Oregon.