Whether you’re participating in one of our three Flywheel Challenges or you’re a regular in the stadium or at the barre, one thing is always the same. Proper form is essential for maximum performance. Here, Challenge coaches Emily Sferra and Adam Wasserman offer their recommendations and tips on proper form and setup that will make a great impact on your efficiency throughout class. Maintaining a positive mindset is half the battle when it comes to reaching your fitness goals, and proper form will get you all the way there!
FORM: AT THE BARRE
Proper form is a major focus for FlyBarre instructors and something that they are always thinking about when they lead you through class. The correct positions will help you achieve the results you’re working so hard to achieve. The more often you hit the mat, the more you’ll understand where your body is supposed to be. Give yourself time and be patient. The best thing you can do is LISTEN and LOOK. Throughout class, your FlyBarre instructor will explain exactly where your body is supposed to be and demonstrate each move with their own body as a visual aide. FlyBarre instructors are generous with hands-on adjustments, and if you don’t understand something or you are struggling to maintain the position they are asking for, feel free to stay after class to address any questions.
Here are a few form tips. Keep in mind these are general themes that can be applied throughout most of the class. However, some exercises require variations on what is discussed here. Your instructor will always guide you through each move:
- Elongated Spinal/Back Alignment: Imagine your spine (tailbone to base of the skull) has a string attached to either end. Whether you’re upright, on your back, or on your hands and knees, picture someone pulling both ends of those strings across the length of the room. Keep reaching for spinal length as you move through your extremities. If you feel or see your back begin to arch or start to experience lower back pain while holding a certain position, the first thing you should do it reengage your abdomen so that it pushes the lower back into length again; sneaky, but oh-so crucial.
- Sustained Abdominal Engagement: As we work the glutes, thighs or arms in class, you should constantly focus on drawing in your stomach (think about tightening a drawstring around your waist) and engaging your abs. Forgetting to keep the abs engaged is a common mistake, but it’s a game changer once you’re able to keep tabs on it. Think of it like this – music on, abs on.
- External Rotation vs Parallel: Knowing the difference between external rotation and parallel stance is a crucial part of successful form. Anytime your instructor asks you to stand in parallel position, imagine you’re wearing really long skis; you never want your skis to cross over one another, so your toes will always be directed in front of your heels. External rotation is holding the leg(s) in a turned out position: so if you’re standing, that’s toes and knees open about 45 degrees out. If you have a lifted leg that is externally rotated (seatwork), think about the kneecap and top section of the thigh turning to the SIDE so that it is not facing the floor.
- Do Less –> Feel More If you find yourself in class exerting what feels like uncontrolled movements that rely heavily on momentum, do yourself a favor and stop. Instead of trying to do the most, the highest, or the extreme version, go back to the root of the work and FEEL the challenge inside your body. A perfect example is a crunch; this move isn’t about just lifting your head neck and shoulders off the ground as high as they can go. The crunch is about connecting to your abs, pressing them down so that the energy of that engagement sends your upper body off the ground slightly. You should always be thinking about the root of the movement.
- Hip Alignment You’ll hear instructors talk about the hips a lot. Here are the most common cues you’ll hear, and what they mean. For this one, imagine two separate laser beams, one coming out of each hip:
- STACKED One hip is directly on top of the other. It’s common for the top hip to either tilt/lean back, or roll forward as you move the corresponding leg. Instead, think of a deadbolt lock running through the hips; they can’t move, only the leg can.
- SQUARE This means that your hip bones and the corresponding spot in the room that is directly in front of them create the four corners of a square. Another way of thinking about this is that your hips are level. One side is no higher than the other.
- TILTED This is neither stacked nor square, but rather halfway between them. One hip will be higher than the other, on a diagonal line. Think of your hips as one side of an X-shape.
FORM: IN THE STADIUM
Maintaining good form on the bike is crucial to building core strength and maximizing efficiency during high-intensity intervals. It’s also critically important when it comes to avoiding injury.
Think of the bike as your partner during the ride. Finding the proper bike settings makes the bike a better partner. If your settings are even slightly off, the bike goes from being your partner to being your adversary. The three examples below are just a few of the things we cover in the Flywheel Form & Technique Workshop that is offered through the Flywheel Challenge. We encourage you to attend that workshop and learn how to really maximize your experience to take your indoor cycling to the next level!
- Seat Height: Seat height affects our leg extensions. If we’re too low, we lose the full power-potential that an almost-full leg extension gives us. Keeping in mind we never want a straight leg with locked knees. A 5 to 10-degree bend in the knee – at most – is what we should aim for when one leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
- Saddle Position: The saddle moves forward and back so that we can optimize our work when riding in first position. With the pedals held evenly across from one another, we want our forward knee to line up directly above the ball of that same foot. Why? That’s another power position for our downstroke and upstroke. We will lose power when we don’t have a strong, downward driving force. That happens when the saddle is too far back or forward. In addition, proper alignment between the knee and the ball of the foot assures that no pressure is placed on the knee joint.
- Core Engagement: Maintaining an awareness of your core is important for all three positions on the bike. Engaging the core helps to stabilize and protect your spine, particularly the thoracic, lumbar and sacral regions (mid-lower back).There is power in stillness, and there is plenty of fun to still be had if you want to bop your head along to the beat. Just stay mindful to excessive twisting and swaying as that can have the potential to disturb your natural alignment. Remember that by engaging the core, the muscles are almost hugging the spine to ensure it stays protected.
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