No Cycling for 2 weeks - Middle of General Build Phase

Hi guys,

FTP: 3.22 W/kg (206 watts)
Height: 167 cm / 5’6’
Weight: 64kg

First post here. Need some help with regards to training. I started structured training in January and completed the low volume base phase and low volume general build (part 1). However, after going to a physiotherapist (chiropractor and dry needling) to help alleviate pain in my lower back and left thighs I was suggested to be off the bike for 2 weeks since I have been having recurring back pain on the lower left side. I have been supplemented exercises for the next two weeks to strengthen my glutes medius (seems to be weak muscles causing the pain).

I am allowed any other exercises except for cycling. Question is, should I supplement my weight training for the next two weeks with other cardio exercises or should I just stick to weights for the next two weeks? I had an easy recovery week last week and was supposed to start the general build part 2 today with a ramp test. Now I’m just worried I’ll lose my fitness if I dont cycle for 2 weeks (maybe 3 if you include the easy recovery week last week).

FYI, its not a bike fit related issue as I just had a proper retul bike fit back in Nov 2018. I have shims on my left cleats to compensate the weakness in my gluteus medius (which I only found out now).

Any suggestions for training for the next two weeks would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

What makes you think that? Fitting is not some sort of formula where you put in rider and bike dimensions and get magic numbers, like Retul wants you to think. If you don’t know the root cause of the pain, I wouldn’t push it on the bike because you could just set yourself back even more.

You may be right. I understand that bike fits change from time to time as you ride more. I just assumed that since the bike fit was pretty recent, it shouldn’t be a problem. I am pretty sure the root cause of my lower back pain is due to the weak muscle. maybe the cleat shims that are compensating the muscle is what is causing the pain. Ill take note of your advice and go back in for a bike fit after the 2 weeks off as well. Sounds like 2 weeks of rest as well. Thank you.

I too have struggled with lower back pain in all athletic endeavors.

I think if you can practice both strength training and cardio you’ll be in a good spot not to lose too much fitness. Arguably you’ll only be at risk of losing bike specific fitness. But only two weeks while cross trainining you might not even lose any of your FTP.

doctors are always quick to suggest weeks of rest. But for chronic issues it’s more of a bandaid. It’ll get us pain free and then as soon as I hit the intensity for a couple weeks the pain comes roaring back.
Not to say that your physic doesn’t have you on the right path. But if two weeks full rest doesn’t solve your problems with the regime he has you on. It might be worth trying to reduce intensity in response to pain. Finding the type of intensity you can do while still following your PT’s regime.
Less loss of fitness and lots of opportunities for mindful exercise to discover what hurts you and what you can do to reduce pain. (Knees knocking to the side. Abdominals loosey goosy. Excessively curved spine. Hips rolled forward off of your sit bones. Practice perfect posture at low intensity pain free and it might reduce pain at higher intensity as your body learnes better habits.)

I’ve taken weeks and months of prolonged cross training and I’ve always come back to roaring back pain at higher intensities. (If I don’t do lower abdominal activation/stregthening, address muscle imbalances and flexibility)
Hopefully the dry needling and strengthening regime has an even better effect for you

Now, what if your backpain persists.
The routine I’ve been on has been:
lower abdominal activation,
Bird dog,
Pelvic tilts,
Single leg bridges
Piriformis Stretch
Spine Stretch
(Posted some links below that have pictures)

As my PT explained it to me, a lot of lower back pain in cycling comes from our lower abdominals not taking enough of a load off our lower back, which takes up the slack.
Then the stretches hamstring strength, and cross activation (bird dog) help to cover some flexibility and strength imbalance bases

But, just to reiterate. Maybe your PT has you on the best course for you. I just wanted to share what’s worked for me

Now, bike fit.
A word of caution. I’d never assume you have your bike fit where you can’t make improvements.
A bike fit is a extremely precise and personal thing. And it’s unlikely that you’ve optimized it with someone looking at you and talking to you in a single session. It’s well worth your time to experiment with different millimeter adjustments.
I havnt found anything that’s personally fixed things for me. But there have been improvements. Knee pain seems to be affected by cleat position for me.
And Back pain improved by Adjusting my saddle height a millimeter or two, along with sliding it fore/aft a millimeter or two.


Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. Following iracebikes advice, I contacted my bikefitter to ask what he thought of the issue and he recommended that I raise my stem up 1 cm and lower my seat post height by a couple of mm. Admittedly, I have a very aggressive bike set up (-17 degree, 120 mm stem) and will follow his advice accordingly.

As for the advice on riding the bike at a lower intensity, I think Ill do that instead of taking the full 2 weeks off. Maybe a short 30 minutes low intensity (maybe petit workout) to just feel things out tomorrow and see how it goes.

Ill be adding the following workouts to my current recommended PT stretches:
Bird dog,
Pelvic tilts,
Single leg bridges
Piriformis Stretch
Spine Stretch

Thank you for the help. It is very much appreciated. Will update on improvements (or not) when I am back on the bike.

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Btw, did the lower back pain ever go away after incorporating the stretches that you recommended above?

Never fully gone. I’ve had back pain since I was 14. When I stay on top of everything It stops being a limiter on the bike though.
Right now it mainly bothers me when I’m trying to sleep or when I wake.
But doesn’t seem specifically tied to my bike workouts.
For instance I’ve had three weeks of low volume and intensity between a rest week and having the flu, and it’s bothered me just as much as the last six weeks of SSB HV2.
Whereas, used to it’d stop me from pushing myself.
Especially longer sweet spot or threshold intervals it used to slowly tighten up and prematurely end my workout.

Some additional details that occurred to me.

I don’t want to underplay the importance of your strengthening program. That could be the big limiter for you.

For me, I have a job that logs me 18,000+ steps a day on my garmin. Plus lots of time picking up moderately weighted boxes and putting them down. And some times very heavy boxes. Along with lots of lateral movement. Keeping up all the muscles neglected by cycling.

So, that’s a piece I didn’t mention at all because I take it entirely for granted.

Also, I just wanted to share the importance of keeping up physical therapy routines. I recently raced Trans AM over the summer. 4200 mile road race from Astoria Oregon to Yorktown Virginia. I followed my PT program religiously up until the race. Almost No back pain at all (yay!). Got back. Took a month easy. Got into SSB HV. Immediately had issues again. Lower Back would tighten up very painfully after 5 minutes in an interval (boo!). Got back to my PT routine. Pain got better over the course of four weeks, and was able to finish SSB HV 1 &2 with minimal discomfort.

Also on stem height. Probably a good idea raising it a CM. I don’t know what angle I have right now, as I’ve been adjusting it a lot (raised it way up a part way into the summer for other discomfort issues, and have been dropping it back down progressively). Its somewhere around -10 if I had to guess. Used to I have it around 0 and still had pain/tightness in the back. And I can tell you the thing keeping me from dropping it lower isn’t pain now, but instead my diaphragm cramps during super-threshold intervals if I’m lower.
I hope you get to a point soon where you can keep that lower position without pain, because I know how frustrating it is to have discomfort hold you back from “free” speed.

Thanks for your reply. Your back problems seems exactly like mine. The tightness wounds ups every workout up to a point where it becomes unbearable and it affects finishing the workout.

I think stopping weight training / stretching and focusing solely on cycling 3 months ago was a mistake. Couple that with a 9-5 desk job and it seems that its a recipe for disaster. looks like Ill be incorporating at least 2 hours of weights and stretching a week to counter the imbalances of cycling.

Appreciate the response and its good to know that there are steps to mitigate the problem.

Thank you.

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This is an old post but I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents.

I have the same issues with my back. A life time of issues. The two tips I have are

  1. Weight lifting helps big time! I dedicate at least 25% of my work out to back with things like cable rows, etc.
  2. Find stretching that works for you. For me its hip flexors and hamstrings.

I’ve never really solved my Glute Med issues. Rolling with a ball helps a bit, but I am still frustrated on this one.