How many times have you been told to pull your shoulders away from your ears in a studio cycling class? Keeping your shoulders down not only makes your neck feel better, it improves overall efficiency, from your posture to your pedal stroke. While spinning my pedals in a studio cycling class at Equinox, instructor Lisa Horowitz reminded us all that the position of the shoulder affects the rest of the body too. The concept, known as joint centration, means what goes on in one joint affects the joints above and below it — what's happening at the shoulder affects the spine and the hips.
When on a bike, whether indoor or out, many people hunch the shoulders up while leaning over the handlebars, which leads to a rounded spine — not the ideal position for cycling. Pulling the shoulder blades down and back opens up your chest and diaphragm: this makes it easier to breathe and helps put the back in a neutral position, which restores the arch to the lumbar spine and corrects the angle of the pelvis. With the spine and pelvis in correct alignment, the hip flexors can fire effectively, improving your pedal stroke. Correct shoulder positioning also engages the lats and turns on the abs to help support the torso.
Lisa also suggested raising the handlebars on a stationary bike a little higher than usual to see if it helps posture and positioning. Try it and let us know how it goes.