Maximize The Strength and Flexibility Needed to Stay Aero

Don’t let achy shoulders and other bits hold you back from bombing in the aero position. Here’s your prescription for staying slippery. 

Two things make you go fast on the bike: power and aerodynamics. To increase your power, you’ve got to train hard. To get aero, you’ve got to bend into and hold a position that lets you slice through the wind—no easy feat. While most of us prioritize training, giving equal attention to the strength and flexibility needed to hold the aero position will help set you up for maximum race-day speed. We tapped tri experts to help solve your biggest aero issues so you can stay superfast.

The symptom: Your legs are strong but your back, shoulders or core give out after a few minutes in race position.

The fix: Tweak your current strength training routine by adding exercises that address common problem areas. Kathryn Taylor, USAT Level 1 coach at Atlanta-based coaching company Energy Lab, recommends focusing on the serratus anterior muscles—the muscles just in front of your lats that attach your ribs to your shoulder blades. Focusing on this muscle group will lead to better overall shoulder movement, posture and stabilization whether you’re cycling or working in an office. “The stronger those muscles are, the more you’ll be able to hold your back and shoulders in the proper position while relieving tension in your shoulders,” Taylor says.

The scapular push-up, wall angel and plank exercises at left will help you strengthen your serratus anterior muscle group.

The symptom: You produce a significantly reduced amount of power in aero position versus sitting up.

The fix: Your body has to maintain a certain level of flexibility to hold an aerodynamic position while still producing as much power as possible. Matt Shechtman, triathlon coach and owner of Atlanta’s Infinity Yoga says, “for your legs, a more aerodynamic position closes hip angles, which requires increased hip flexor mobility.” His top three recommended yoga poses to address this issue are pigeon, lizard and happy baby. Schechtman suggests performing these poses after a ride and holding them for two minutes each.

The symptom: You avoid the aero position during training then have trouble holding the position during race day.

The fix: Just as you train to hold your race pace or power, train to hold the aero position using intervals. It’s OK to start small. Begin by incorporating aero position into the warm-up and cool-down portions of your cycling workouts. Next, increase time in aero during Zone 2 only, gradually increasing the total time spent in aero. Finally, begin to incorporate periods of work at race intensity, being sure to practice both indoors and outdoors.

Aero Strength

Try these three exercises that mimic the demands of cycling in the aero position. Do them three times a week, adding them into your regular strength routine.  

Scapular Push-up
Starting position is holding the top of the push-up position. Keeping the arms straight, pull the shoulder blades together and then apart. Pause for 2–3 seconds at the top and bottom. Your arms should not bend. Do 3 sets of 8–10.

Wall Angels
These are not only a great stretch for the chest after spending time at a computer or in aero, but “they help realign the spine and correct the rounding that can start to develop in our shoulders,” Taylor says. To do them, stand with your back against the wall, feet away from the wall and knees slightly bent. Put your arms against the wall bent like goal posts. Raise your arms as high as possible while keeping them up against the wall. Activate your back muscles to raise and lower your arms. Do 3 sets of 6–8.

Plank (or Body Saw)
A strong core is one of the keys to maintaining the aero position for long periods of time. Try this plank tweak to better mimic your bike position: Get into the elbow plank position with your forearms approximately the same distance apart as they are in your aerobars. Elevate your shins on a foam roller. Slowly rock your body back and forth. Do 3 sets of 10–15.