Breathing is often taken for granted and we may assume we do it properly during both daily activities and exercise. However, faulty breathing can have a significant effect on health and performance. During cycling, breathing seems simple enough; take in as much air as you can and you’ll perform better. However, the mechanics of breathing can be improved through a little Postural Restoration.
Typically, most people tend to breath by expanding their anterior (front) chest wall. In the cycling position this can
be more difficult due to the bent-over riding position. To address the limited expansion available anteriorly, cyclists need to breathe through the back chest wall. To allow more posterior expansion the rider needs to have adequate back flexibility. If the flexibility is not available, the rider is likely to ride with a more flat back. This posture is undesirable for a cyclist seeking a lower, more aerodynamic position. A more rounded back also is desired to utilize hip and hamstring muscles and not low back muscles. Furthermore, proper ribcage expansion allows proper use of the primary breathing muscles; the diaphragm and abdominals. When the primary breathing muscles are not used fully, secondary muscles become active in the neck and upper shoulder. This would lead to neck and shoulder pain and tension and possible headaches.
Stretch the Back to Breathe Better
Try two exercises to expand your back on the bike.
Stand as shown keeping your low back against the wall at all times. Also keep knees in and heels down. Begin by inhaling deeply and the stretch arms forward and downward as you exhale fully. Remember to keep low back on wall. Maintain this position and keep arms long as you inhale deeply feeling your back expand. Repeat 2 more breaths then relax. Do 3-5 sets.