This is the second installment on how to improve both your health and performance on the bike. As we stated in the first post, spending long amounts of time on the bike can create several muscular imbalances that can lead to decreased performance and, in the worst-case scenario, injury.
Once upon a time I fell in love with riding my bike. It didn't take long for me to start pushing myself to be faster and ride farther. Within a year I couldn't fit into any of my "skinny jeans" but that didn't matter because my muscles were stronger and I was much more fit. I was in love with the endurance race scene and spent as much time as I could on my bike.
It all came to a sudden halt during a local 12-hour race. One minute I was feeling great and a few hours later my knee started to feel sore. By the end of the race I could barely pedal across the finish line. It took a few days before I could walk pain free and even worse was the worry that I wasn't going to be able to do what I love most, ride my bike.
My doctor sent me to an orthopedic surgeon who spent about 15 minutes with me. He told me that my IT band was inflamed and I should just stop riding for a while. Needless to say I went home in tears. The thought of not being able to ride my bike made me incredibly sad and disappointed as I was going to miss out on several races I had been training hard for.
Then I was introduced to Dr. Jason Ross, a local chiropractor and strength coach from Train Out Pain. While he was able to provide instant relief with ART therapy (Active Release Technique), it was clearly obvious that there was an underlying issue that needed to be solved. I was quad dominant from riding my bike ALL OF THE TIME, but a lot of my other muscles were underdeveloped. As a result my hips would fatigue and I couldn't stabilize well. Some muscles were too tight, others were doing all the work, and my arm muscles were practically non-existent. In summary, I was a mess.
From that point on I've been lucky to have Jason as my strength coach. I still get ART therapy on a regular basis, but over the last couple of years I've been doing exercises to help build my overall strength. Having a balanced/strong body means more muscles working in harmony and less chance of developing an overuse injury. During the next few months I'll be sharing ten different exercises that I do with Jason on a regular basis. The best part about them is that most can be done with a few simple weights and in your own home.
Lack Of Hip Strength
One of the potential roadblocks to success is a lack of hip strength. This can lead to pelvic rocking or too much frontal plane motion in the knee. Lack of strength in the hips can be a direct cause of lower back and knee pain.
The first exercise is called a Diagonal Sit. With one elbow on the ground, the bottom leg is brought into 90-degrees of flexion and the upper leg is held in a neutral position. Both knees are kept bent at 90-degrees. The emphasis is on driving the bottom knee down into the ground to raise your lower hip up off the ground.
Once you’ve lifted your hip off the ground, keep driving the knee into the ground, thereby bringing your lower hip upward and forward. Your lower leg position will change in relation to your body while your hip rises, eventually joining the upper leg in the neutral position.
After a few repetitions you should really feel your side hip muscles (hip abductors) working. On the descent, work on controlling the motion back to the starting position. This will help build up your eccentric strength.
Following the Diagonal Sit, a Kettlebell Swing is an excellent choice. It is a hip dominant exercise that can build up some hip extension strength.
Drive the hip forward to bring the kettlebell up. On the backswing, the bell should be positioned between your knees, not lower. This helps protect your lower back. Limit the amount of knee bend. Your hips should move backward, instead of squatting down, on the backswing. Your forearms should hit the inside of your thighs on the backswing.
Accelerate your forward swing by ‘popping’ your hips forward. Let your body relax a bit at the top of the swing.
If you want a solid workout that will improve the function of your hips, try doing five sets of each exercise. Each set should consist of five reps per side on the Diagonal Sit, followed immediately by 10 to 20 Kettlebell Swings. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.
Keep your eye on the Salsa Culture blog for more exercises that will benefit your cycling in the coming months.
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These are a few of my favorite things: Mountain biking, good coffee, good food, and hanging out with my husband, family and adopted greyhound. It really doesn't take much to make me happy. Of course, winning a race every now and then is good too! www.daniellemusto.blogspot.com