6 Exercises to Build a Strong Back for Cycling

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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6 Exercises to Build a Strong Back for Cycling

Keeping your back strong can improve your performance and help you avoid pain or discomfort from aggressive road cycling positions. Counter the flexed position of the lumbar spine and rolled shoulders that are common problems of cyclists with these six back exercises that strengthen your posterior chain, reduce fatigue and improve your posture on the bike.



Kettlebell swings build strength in the lumbar extensors in addition to the glutes and hamstrings. Weak lumbar extensors and posterior chain can lead to lower-back pain on and off the bike.

The move: Grab the kettlebell with both hands and stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulder blades back and tighten your core. With a slight bend in your knees, shift your weight toward your heels. Drop your butt and bend your knees while keeping your lower back flat, hinge at the hips with a neutral spine, and let the kettlebell swing in between your legs. Explode through the hips for power and swing the kettlebell upward, aiming to reach chest height. Let the weight fall naturally in between your legs before repeating the movement. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.



This exercise helps to balance the hunched-over position cyclists spend the majority of their time in while riding.

The move: Lie on the floor face down with your arms extended forward above your head. At the same time, raise your arms, chest and legs off the ground. Hold this position for 2 seconds, focusing on contracting the muscles in your lower back and glutes. Lower back to the starting position slowly. Complete 2 sets of 10 repetitions.



Deadlifts are a great exercise to strengthen the lower back and core. This modified deadlift with dumbbells instead of a bar makes it easier to maintain proper form and places less stress on the lower back. It also a good replication for the biomechanics of pedaling.

The move: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Lower your hips while keeping your head and chin tucked into your body with your lower back flat. Your upper body, from your head to your butt, should form a straight line. Your chest should be lifted. Lower the weights until they reach mid-shin. As you stand, place your weight into your heels, using your hips and legs for power. Your back and arms should stay straight as you return to the starting position. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.



The aggressive position of a road bike can place stress on the shoulders and upper back due to reaching for the bars for long periods of time. Rows strengthen the upper back and the muscles that attach to the scapula to prevent pain and fatigue.

The move: With your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent, hinge forward at the hip so your chest is almost parallel to the ground. Your back should be flat and you should aim to keep your shoulders pulled back. Holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or other weighted-item in one hand, pull the weight toward your chest, keeping it close to your body. Slowly lower your arm as you return to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions before switching to the opposite arm. Complete 3 sets per side.



Along with strength, you’ll need to be able to have great balance and hip stability to generate power on the bike. This lower-back exercise helps.

The move: Lie with a stability ball directly under your stomach and hips. Place your hands on the ground, keeping them directly beneath your shoulders. Your legs should be behind you with your toes on the ground, similar to a pushup position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift both legs off the floor. Raise your legs higher than parallel and avoid bending the knees. Lower your feet slowly back to the ground. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.



Planks work the entire core. Alternating lifting each leg makes the exercise slightly more difficult and helps build more strength in the lower back.

The move: Start in a plank position (or forearm plank with your elbows on the ground directly beneath your shoulders) and your legs extended straight behind you. Your head, shoulders and ankles should be properly aligned while you tighten your core. Slowly raise one leg 4–6 inches off the ground and hold for 3–5 seconds. Lower to the ground and repeat with the opposite leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions. As these get easier, hold for longer periods and decrease the number of repetitions.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.


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