Cycling is a simple act of turning pedals with your legs, which turn a chain, which turn the wheel, which move you forwards on the road. If when you push your foot down on the pedal you are arching your back or moving your shoulders you are losing the energy expended into your body and not into the pedal, chain and wheel, so losing power forward motion and speed along the track or road.
In order to increase your speed on the bicycle, you need to become stronger – that does not mean stronger in the leg, as in weight training, it means stronger in holding your body in a stable neutral position whilst pushing the power into the pedals and driving the bicycle forwards.
The whole nature of cycling has one slightly arched over the bicycle frame, which is why having a bike fit is essential to avoid being over cramped.
If as you push on the pedal you’re allowing more arch in your back, or not even arch but movement at all there is a high chance you will cause a disk aggravation in your spine in your future due to the pressure on your spine. As explained in a previous blog about neutral spine – if the vertebrae are not laying flat to flat then one ends up pushing on one edge of the spinal column which will cause degeneration eventually. One does not see signs of degeneration until we are generally over 40/45 but rest assured in my experience it will come.
Ideally when cycling your torso must stay still and the legs move up and down like pistons. The pelvis needs to be in a neutral position, in line with the spine, the body will be resting on the front bottom in order to do this. The glutes need to be doing all the work establishing the in and outward position of the legs. The motion comes from pulling up using the hamstring and glutes from behind. it is often useful to do some single leg cycling to achieve this so one is not in the habit of push down only.
Exercises like the plank are great for stabilising the body – progressions to lifting the legs without allowing any movement of the body are the next step and will significantly improve not only cycling technique, but also running, swimming, horse riding etc.