Muscle imbalance, painful lower back – what solution?

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  • Muscle imbalance, painful lower back – what solution?
  • I get the feeling my leg muscles are a bit more developed that my lower back muscles. Normally the only thing stopping me climbing faster for longer is the pain in my lower back.
    What options do I have for improving my situation.
    current thoughts are:
    Gym – gentle weights and other exercises
    Home exercises – simple exercises that can be done at home – like what?
    Pilates/Yoga – which and dedicated classes or ones at the local gym?

    Anyone else on here do pilates/yoga for bike related reasons?


    I would do core exercise at home, if you look on you tube there is plenty of vids the various versons of the plank work well . Also make sure you stretch i had really bad hamstrings just felt like they wanted to cramp all the time. Stretching and core training has done me a world of good . Hope this helps


    What tony said, and I would do some yoga as well.


    Check your saddle isn’t to high. Rolling your hips causes all sorts of back problems. Had it for years, spent a good bit on treatment. Then got fitted to the bikes properly and the back hasn’t complained since. Remember though, back problems take time to settle down if this is the issue.

    See a physio – they’ll give you the correct stretches to do, might save you a lot of time and or doing extra damage to your back!

    Premier Icon Shandy

    There are loads of cycling-specific and general back exercises on

    I have found the following good for lower back strength.

    Balance boards like an indo board. Great fun. Stand in front of telly of an evening wobbling around.
    Paddleboarding… Same reason but helps if you live by the sea.

    And I always turn to swimming for almost every injury. It’s even helped wrist injuries this summer. The wriggling up and down a pool works muscles in your back that you otherwise would rarely work. Just good all round.

    Or get off and push. There is no shame in pushing a bike.


    As above, it’s core exercises you need to be looking at.


    + 1 See a physio – they’ll give you the correct stretches to do, might save you a lot of time and or doing extra damage to your back!

    Back pain can be any number of problems, and not always what you think is causing it will be causing it.

    Having said that I always used to get back pain climbing riding my old bike, now I get none on my new one…. having said that I now also do more back stretches having been to see a physio.

    Premier Icon 40mpg

    I’m seeing a physio for similar at the moment. Got a set of exercises to do, including wiggling on a balance ball and some floor exercises.

    I was surprised that most of them only require very small controlled movements – this works the inner muscles which are used for stability, won’t give me a six-pack though!

    Best advice is see a physio, may cost you £30 but you’ll get the right exercises for your needs which won’t do you more harm.


    best advice I can give is become a full time stay at home dad..

    as your newborn child grows so will your back muscles with all the rocking and lifting in and out of cars and cots and then as they reach toddler size all the wrestling etc..

    my back made me cry daily for the first six months but it’s as strong as an ox 2 years later..

    not the cheapest or least stressful option perhaps, but definitely one of the most holistic and thorough.. 😀

    Premier Icon Clover

    +1 for physio

    I went with tight calves, shoulders and sore lower back to be told that my quads weren’t doing their fair share of the work. Now I have exercises to get them going before riding and it has changed even after only a couple of weeks.

    Not what I expected – thought I’d get stomach muscle exercises and a massage and that my quads were mighty fine.

    Also, she doesn’t expect to see me back unless I do something stupid- one session seemed well worth it.


    +1 for physio

    what you may think is wrong with you might not be the cause of the problem and it’s really only a physio who’ll be able to figure that out

    Premier Icon jameso

    I had this problem on my road bike. It fitted well, was set up well, but after 4-5 hours steep climbs caused a lower back pain that made long rides uncomfortable.

    I spoke to a triathlete / timetrialler about ride positioning. She said the steep seat angle on the bikes helps you get low and reduces the angle between hip, leg and body – this is significant as most cyclists have short hamstrings and an imbalance of core strength to leg power. Short hamstrings pull on the pelvis which in turn can cause lower back pain apparently.

    So I put an inline post on my road bike, about a degree steeper on the seat anle. Didn’t touch anything else. Bingo… century + rides with no pain, literaly cured it from one ride to another. Stretching helps too, but the post / position thing did the trick. Did a 3-day / 400 mile ride in the Alps this summer, all the big cols on the way, no back pain, relative comfort.

    Worth a try…

    Also as mentioned before, check your saddle height – inside leg x 0.883 is a reliable guide. Feels a bit low to some but is very efficient and helps you get more comfortable.


    Hi Dirtbiker,

    Some sound advice. You will almost certainly help stabilise yourself with a good set of core-stability exercises. Try to avoid the classic crunches and back raises and go for balance/proprioceptive stuff as suggested by Charlie. Almost always, the larger abdominals and lumbar muscles are big and powerful enough, it is the deeper, smaller muscles acting to stabilise the hips and spine which get tired easily (especially as we tend to send them to sleep by sitting at desks and spending time in cars). Work on these and you’ll eradicate the small movements and instability which is a popular cause for lower back pain.

    Jameso: glad to hear that your problem was helped by the inline seatpost, although the reasoning is good, I wanted to help just explain what is really happening:

    The steeper seattube angle brings the saddle further over the bottom bracket. This in itself doesn’t allow you to get lower. What it does do is allow your pelvis to rotate slightly under you, thus shortening the distance your hamstrings are stretched over and taking some of the strain off them. Be careful however and make sure you keep stretching as eventually the hamstring tightness will catch up to the new position and you could be back to square one. Also make sure that your knee is nut pushed too far over the front of the pedal axle as this will put extra strain through the knee joint as you put the power down.

    I’m not suggesting that your solution has not been a good one for yourself, just wanted to give you a bit more info so you don’t lead yourself into different troubles in the future.

    Find a good physio that understands how things work when you ride your bike.If you are based anywhere near Manchester, give me a shout (details all on website and I’d be glad to take a look.

    All the best,


    heres a website i use for running problems and has some good advice.

    Premier Icon jameso

    Hi Richard – useful, thanks.

    So you’re suggesting rather than the otherwise / short-term comfortable position causing the pain, it’s the change itself that made my back pain go away and in time it can return in this new position?

    I didn’t make the change to help me lower my ride position, only to reduce the pelvis angle as you say; I left my bars where they were. If the pain returns I know it’s purely down to hamstring tightness and I need to stretch more? I ride a few different bikes for that amount of time and all still seems to be well, maybe the road bike is now closer to a position I can maintain for that distance, a position teh other bikes already have.

    Always good to understand these things from other angles – typically I see everything in terms of bike fit + geometry only.

    Sorry OP – no hijack intended.

    wow lots of replies and no worries jameso!
    looking at picking one of these up for the indoboard style core strength?
    will try to arrange a visit to a physio too.

    DickieS – careful of how you word your adverts up there sports rehab qualified people are not physios and do not carry out physiotherapy.

    Know it’s been said above but core exercises do make a huge difference. I have been struggling on an off with lower back pain and shoulder pain, started doing two core strengthening work outs a week, managed a 4 and a half hour, pretty hard road ride (the road bike makes it worse than the MTB) on sunday, with only the very smallest amount of pain right towards the end. For a few weeks of work it’s pretty amazing, although some of the exercises are pretty humbling when you conceder yourself fairly high up the fit scale and you find yourself sweating profusely, just trying to do 15 or so reps!

    Know this is a little bit of topic but be very careful of altering position to cater for an injury you could end up with no end of problems. Think my back problems came about partly from doing more cycling but less other exercises/sports but also from setting my saddle to far forward and having the bars to high. Sure it suits some and not for a second saying it’s not the right position for some, just not me in the slightest.
    Know it’s pretty obvious but what works for one doesn’t work for all, the high and short position is often touted as a solution for back problems but as the bike fit guys told me, “yes, thats works as a rule for those who are riding to shops and back e.c.t but not as a rule for a more performance orientated bike for going up and downhill” and in my case it was causing a lot of my problems. I ended up being much more comfortable being longer and lower. Not to say that would work for you but just as a warning that high and short is not the answer to everything.
    Sorry I wrote a lot!

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