Trainer Position - Is it Bad for My Form?

By Marilyn Trout | 01/04/12
Trainer Position - Is it Bad for My Form?

Naoto Sato, “Cycling trainer” May 3, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a December 2009 question submitted by Voler E-Mail List member Cheryl Cochrane:

Trainer Position: Is it Bad for My Form?

Hi Marilyn,

I've recently become more reliant on my trainer to get in enough cycling time during the week. I often find myself sitting upright in the saddle instead of being in proper position. Is this bad for my form?



Certainly as the weather, amount of daylight, or work schedule changes, we may rely more heavily on the trainer. Sitting upright, on the tops of the bars or even without hands, is quite normal as we "ride on the spot" without the need to steer.

Is this bad for my form? No, however, there are some positive aspects to changing positions.

Consider your neck and upper body "fitness." If your schedule doesn't allow you to get on the road and you're sitting more on your trainer, then it would be advisable to include some time on the hoods or in the drops. By doing this, your neck, shoulders and lower back will maintain a certain amount of "fitness" so the transition to the road and longer rides will be much more enjoyable and productive. Taking this one step further, I'd recommend a simple strength training routine, Pilates or Yoga, that targets core and upper body. Not only will your cycling technique improve, especially climbing and getting out of the saddle, but any postural distortion patterns and muscular imbalances will be addressed as well. It's zero fun to battle fatigue of the upper body and to have the ol' pain in the neck during those early season miles.

Add some different training ingredients. A rider once said that he doesn't think of his trainer workouts as "rides." I resonate with that. There is so much more to riding outside then just getting a workout done. Not so with sitting on the trainer. Boredom can creep in and when it does, motivation can take a hit. If you are on the trainer 3-5 times a week, add some variety to the sessions. After a good warm-up, include intervals that develop either pedaling efficiency (single leg), leg speed (cadence drills), tempo or force (simulates climbing). You'll find that this kind of work lends itself to having more of a "road" position with elbows bent, hands resting on the hoods or lightly gripping the bars and relaxed upper body. By adding these training ingredients, different scenery, the focus shifts from "duration of ride" to specificity of training session. A real plus for your "form" this coming season.


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