Pre-Ride Activation Routine

Hey All,

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve started doing a pre-ride activation routine aimed at getting my core, glutes, and related stabilizing muscles activated before trainer rides.

Since starting this routine, I’ve felt AWFUL on the bike. I was having no trouble with workouts before this, and now the entire time it feels like I’ve been pedaling through sand. I’ve “failed” several workouts since starting this routine.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Is it just because the formerly underutilized muscles are now working and fatiguing quickly? Should I stick with it and hope for a benefit in the long term, or should I abandon the routine and focus on current performance? Appreciate the advice in advance!

What’s your routine?

Probably a useful detail!

I use the exercises from this article:

Low lunge with twist, supine heel tap, and banded glute bridge.

Did you add the pre ride routine because you felt you weren’t warmed up enough or out of a vague hope they might give you some improvement? I’ve always kept my core/flexibility sessions completely separate from riding (and rowing back when I used to do crew) for a similar reason to what you’ve described. I have been finding since I started TR that the warmups in the sessions are more than enough for me. Personally I’d listen to your body if you think the activation plan is hindering workouts, but I’m not well versed in sports science

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No expert but how much of this type of core or strength training work do/did you do prior to using these exercises as a warmup routine?

If you’ve never done them before prior to trying them out then it definitely would be affecting your bike trainer sessions. Think of it this way, when I used to primarily do strength training as my weapon of choice for exercise I’d do active warmups prior to the main sets. So chest days I’d start with about 5 push-ups first. Then to the actual exercise with a few 5 rep sets of small to increasing weights before the first main set. Kind of how like the workouts here the warmups do a ramp up, then rest then onto the main sets.

Anyways, if you are so out shape that 5 push-ups is super taxing to near impossible then you sure as hell are going to have a hard time doing some sort of bench press or dumbbell press exercise immediately afterwards.

At least that’s what I’ve found anyways for me. These days if I feel really tight before a trainer session, bike ride outdoors or a run I’ll hit the rollers (I’ve got one of those roll recovery r8 rollers) beforehand to loosen things up and to get blood flowing. Nothing too long but a little extra focus on tight spots help (maybe 5 minutes or so total). I’ve had some really great success on runs doing this prior to a run where earlierI felt like I couldn’t get through the distance and pace on my plan. I didn’t feel like I had to get my legs to wake up the first mile of the run.

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@loxx0050 That theory makes sense, but I’d say probably isn’t exactly the cause of my problems. None of these activation exercises are challenging in the slightest.

I started doing this routine because I spend the majority of my time on the trainer, and I noticed that I wasn’t engaging my glutes/core/stabilizing muscles as much as I should have been. When I would ride hard outside, I didn’t feel particularly solid on the bike.

Appreciate the responses thus far everyone!

Back in the dim mists of time I was a coach in a different sport. Then we had static stretching to precede actual training sessions. That sport was highly explosive. The standards now are to use dynamic stretching which is what the bicycling session looks like. However two points: The first may not be relevant. Although they were static we kept our stretches relevant and orientated as per the training. Two of those warm ups are on the back. Just saying… (I was never a fan of any work lying on the back. the spine is not supposed to work that way…seems daft to use it that way). Second point why not do some core work to wrap up your session rather than to start it. That way you will be ‘warmed up’ for the core session. I did see an interesting session on Bicycling that was core and all standing that looked quite good recently.

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Despite the massive amount of chatter in the fitness world about it and their popularity as buzzwords, the concept of “muscle activation” via specific “prehab” or “motor control” exercises is essentially useless and meaningless. It has basically no scientific support in any reputable trial.

The best way to “activate” your muscles for an activity is to simply do the activity you’re warming up for at a slightly lower intensity working up to your desired intensity. Your body will use whatever muscles it needs at the intensity it needs them during the exercise (this is motor unit recruitment and is well supported in the scientific literature). It won’t preferentially recruit muscles during a workout just because you somehow “activated” them before the workout.

That being said, there is anecdotal evidence that some things (myofascial release, foam rolling, etc.) have a positive placebo effect on people. So if something works for you, do it. If it doesn’t, which seems to be the case for you, then don’t do it. There’s no evidence it helps so you’re not missing out on anything.

There’s a good discussion of it in the context of what constitutes an effective warm-up on this podcast. They chatter for a while at the point this link kicks in but the seriously relevant information starts around the 29:30 mark.

Tangentially, this article is mostly focused on mental activation cues in strength applications but the takeaway is relevant: “activation” happens from using the muscle in the course of the desired application not from internal cueing.

You folks are all awesome, this has been super helpful!