Tight lats can make riding your TT or "Tri" bike a bit tougher. The Active Preacher Exercise can help you ride stronger, more powerfully, and breathe better.
Over our hours riding our bikes, especially the time trial (or “tri bike” as triathletes like to call it), our body morphs and adapts to the position in an effort to decrease the amount of work it needs to do to hold us up. This is the biggest reason that a proper professional bike fit should be at the top of your priority list- ESPECIALLY if you’re one who loves riding, but isn’t so keen on racing.
While those racing tend to look for every possible advantage, those of us who aren’t compelled by competition tend to float down the river of fitness, riding as we like or can, leaving small, relatively easily correctable movement and bike fit issues to grow into big problems that can completely derail our riding.
If you’ve been riding longer than 5 years consistently, you have either experienced this yourself, or know someone else who has. Most common are upper back and neck pains, or hip and knee pain. These items tend to begin as one area causing an issue, which if left untreated through physical therapy AND a bike fit, can lead to the injury “moving to another area”, which is really just the body compensating.
Not having pain enough to get you off the bike, but just now are realizing that you have that pain regularly on your tuesday ride? Schedule a bike fit now, with a professional bike fitter. It may cost $250-$350 but it is WELL worth it.
While you’re waiting for your bike fit
Most reputable bike fitters won’t be able to get you in for a few weeks, which means we have some time which we can begin to get you moving better, or at least begin to address one of the most common issues cyclists and triathletes have….
We’ll get into the exercise you can do to help get those lats moving better, and to help you ride stronger in a minute but first let’s take a look at the lats and their role in riding your bike- be it time trial, “tri bike”, road, mountain, or gravel.
What do the lats do in cycling?
The Latissimus Dorsi Muscles are quite unique in the human (and chimpanzee) body, as they attach to numerous points along the spine, unlike the majority of other “mover” muscles in the body, which tend to have 1 insertion and 1 attachment. It’s these very insertions and attachments that allow the muscle to perform their jobs.
The lats are the strongest internal rotator of the shoulder, and thus serve to help hold us up on the bike, steer, as well as to move the bike under us while we sprint or climb. However, most of the time on the bike, our lats are in a relatively static position, or moving very little. Over the many hours we put in on the bike, this leads to the lats getting tight, which affects our abilities to breathe well, move well from the mid and upper back, as well as greatly limit our ability to reach overhead.
Due to how the lats attach and work, you can see they have many effects on the body…Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that tight/short lats can also be a contributing factor to lower back pain!
How to improve the Lats
While many triathletes and cyclists jump on foam rolling and general strength training like pullups and rows to try to improve the lats, there is actually one exercise that can have a far better effect in helping you to improve your posture, position, and resting length.
The Active Preacher Stretch has become one of my personal favorite exercises to cyclin in during my high ride volume times of the year, as it not does it serve as a breathing and mobility exercise, it also allows you to tap into HOW your body is moving in space, especially at the hips and mid back, two important areas for triathletes and cyclists looking to improve their performances!
How to Do The Preacher Stretch
The preacher stretch is a little complex to explain in words or still pictures, so I’ve made a video to help you be able to quickly do it right.
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The lats are an important muscle when it comes to riding and general normal function of the body. While foam rolling and general strength training exercises do help, using the Active Preacher Stretch can help tie together mobility, breathing, as well as strength through a range of motion that we, as cyclists and triathletes, tend to lose due to our long hours in the saddle.