How to achieve the optimal pedaling posture

One of the big things that separates me from most other cycling coaches is that I look at the bike-rider equation differently. Most coaches look at it from the outside in, considering first how the bike works best and then trying to shape and manipulate the rider to fit that vision. I look first at what I know about the rider (a.k.a. the human being) and then apply what I know about strong, efficient movement to the bike. Only when I know that we have to compromise based on the nature of the bike, not because of a dysfunction in the rider, will I break a movement principle.

This is a bit off subject but this is why I don’t understand the use of bike fits for riders with glaring movement issues – if you have a rider who can’t touch his toes or has some other glaring mobility problem then why on earth would you redo his position instead of telling him that his bike is fine, he needs to gain more mobility so he can get into a better position? Anyways, back to my point…

This idea that the bike is a foreign thing to our bodies and that we should just throw all lessons about functional movement and optimal posture out the window is ludicrous, yet this is  what has led to the army of cyclists with the most horrid posture you will find among “athletes”. At the heart of this is your posture when pedaling your bike, both in the seated and the standing position. While seated and standing pedaling are different and require slightly different postures, the principles remain the same.

In this video I will show you the lost part of the posture equation and explain how to use it to gain a stronger, more efficient pedal stroke in both the seated and standing position. I also explain how to modify your posture when standing to get into an even more powerful and efficient posture which is vital when trying to stand more when riding.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Jeff says:

    Great advice! I have found this to be true as well. Correcting posture off the bike first, then applying it to my riding position did take some work. In my situation a chiropractor was required to correct a lifetime of poor posture. While I worked to correct my structure/alignment, I also applied James’ mobility techniques to loosen up those muscles and joints. Once normality was re-established, it cleared the way for me to add core strength back into my training using James’ DB workouts. It is a ground up approach that really transformed my body and the way I excersise. At age 41 I am feeling great and riding strong. Thank you James!

    Reply • March 10 at 8:06 am
  2. JoeH says:

    A flat back on the bike is one of the first things taught in regards to fit and position. Good info, but not a groundbreaking discovery.

    Reply • March 10 at 9:06 am
    • bikejames says:

      I agree that it is nothing “new” but I have two issues with the “flat back” talked about by most coaches/ bike fits. First, I include the upper back position as well as the lower back position. Letting the lats disengage and the shoulders round forward and up is not good spinal alignment. I see a lot of riders with flat lower backs and rounded upper backs/ caved in chests which is still not correct.

      Second, how are you achieving the flat back position? Are you manipulating the bike or are you addressing the movement dysfunctions of the rider? Most fits will add spacers under the stem, lengthen the stem or add more rise to the stem or handlebars. This achieves the flat back but at the expense of some balance and control on the trail. I say to fix the movement issues first before you even think of making drastic changes to the cockpit.

      Proper posture on the bike isn’t anything new, however tying the lats into it and addressing the posture of the rider off the bike is.

      Reply • March 10 at 9:57 am
  3. Josh says:


    So what you are saying is use to use the lats as a stabilizer muscle, right?

    Then this has two primary benefits:

    1. Allows the upper body to become more rigid, strengthening your anchor points (?) and removing unnecessary upper body movements thereby improving efficiency.

    2. Counteracts the pectorals (somewhat) putting us in a body position that allows us to breathe better and giving us better cardiac efficiency (through better posture). It pulls us out of that hunched, bad posture, that we naturally tend to drift towards on the bike.

    That’s what I got out of it. Is that what you are trying to get across?

    And, what would be the best exercise to train the lats to work like this? I always train them as a prime move with pull-ups, and that’s about it.


    Reply • March 10 at 9:35 am
    • bikejames says:

      You are dead on with your analysis of the video, glad my points were somewhat clear. The deadlift, when done right, is the best exercise to train the specific function of tying the lats and hips together. I’ll post a video on the Touch the Wall Deadlift next week that will show you how to really ingrain that into the hip hinge movement.

      Reply • March 10 at 9:52 am
  4. Lance says:

    Hey James,

    Great advice regarding the lats. I always try to stay upright when standing-pedaling, but I never thought about engaging my lats for increased core strength. I was watching your video while sitting in a chair, and even while sitting as soon as I engaged my lats I could immediately tell the benefits. As you said, this can also apply to other activities off the bike.

    One thing…hopefully everyone knows where your lats are, as I don’t think you explained that in the video.

    Still, well done.

    Reply • March 10 at 12:08 pm
  5. max says:

    Following Jame’s program and really working on my hip mobility, as well as increasing my awareness of how to utilize my hips properly through exercises like the deadlift, single leg deadlift, and kettleball swing have helped my cycling and life tremendously.
    I feel like I move and carry myself in a whole other way. My jumping, technical climbing, cornering, and descending are in a whole other category thanks to this. It has been a real gift.
    Here is another great thing to work on and apply, keep them coming! Makes my cycling experience so much more rewarding.

    Reply • March 10 at 3:13 pm
  6. Daniel says:

    It always seemed to me that the “disengaged lats” occurred because the rider is trying to get more air into the lungs and is using secondary muscles (other than the diaphragm) in an attempt to make this happen. If you have ever watched someone is respiratory distress this is a normal posture to take. My question is: How do we reconcile the need to breathe when we are really out of air, and assuming the stronger stance that you recommend? Please don’t take this the wrong way as I’m not disputing with you, just trying to understand the concept more thoroughly.

    Reply • March 11 at 1:59 pm
    • bikejames says:

      It all boils down to training – what you do in training you’ll do on the trail. One of the things that I am becoming more aware of and I am looking forward to at the RKC course is how to improve my breathing technique during training. Making sure that you are breathing into the diaphragm during training and then being aware of it during riding is really the only thing you can do. Going into the chest for your breathe isn’t better and in fact is much less efficient so staying out of that posture and breathing pattern is very important.

      However, I will say that I had never really thought about how the lats tie into the diaphragm until your post and it makes total sense. Thanks for the post…

      Reply • March 12 at 8:12 am
  7. Carl says:

    Another enlightening post James. I’m pretty sure I do that bad posture on my bike and now have a fix. Thanks.

    Reply • January 12 at 2:13 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Glad you liked it, I hope it helps.

      Reply • January 14 at 9:44 am
  8. Lot’s of riders would rather add spacers or a riser bar than do the work.

    Also bike fits are most important maximizing power and efficiency of the seated position. Which is most important on a road bike. While not unimportant on a MTB, other factors such as mobility around the cockpit to handle technical terrain and fore/aft balance has to take some priority.

    Reply • January 24 at 4:45 pm

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