Yes, I’m talking to you – unless you are currently seated on some form of public transport (in which case you are excused).
While standing, pay attention to how your hips & knees feel? How straight are your legs? Are your hips &/or knees bent slightly?
Now straighten your legs & lock your knees straight. Notice how your body changed. Do you feel straighter? How, & in which direction, did your hips & knees move?
[Stay with me. I’m almost done]
Now relax & soften your knees so that you are standing in your normal position & notice what happens to your body. If you are like most people, when you relaxed your stance
& stood ‘normally’ you would have noticed either:
– your knees bent a noticeable amount & /or
– you felt your hips shift backwards so that you feel slightly “bent over” at the waist.
If you didn’t, try the experiment again.
What you observed when you relaxed your knees & stood ‘normally” is simply your body compensating & trying to overcome the ways that it is out of alignment.
[Ok, you can sit down now. Thanks for playing 🙂 ]
Everyday life requires us to perform repeated movements. From the way you sleep, sit & stand to the way you answer the phone or carry a bag, these repeated movements make some muscles stronger than others, creating muscle imbalances which can put load & stress on joints, muscles & tendons in undesirable ways. Repeated movement patterns in our sports can also reinforce existing lifestyle-caused muscles imbalances or even create new ones.
Whether you have a desk job, commute to work by car or public transport, watch television or spend time on the computer at night, most of us spend a large part of our waking hours seated. Time you spend riding a bike is in addition to this (already largely seated) lifestyle.
How do muscle imbalances affect your speed & power on the bike?
If you spend a lot of time seated, all the muscles in the front of your body – from your neck & chest all the way down to your shins & the top of your feet – become shortened & tight.
Meanwhile all the muscles which run from your scull, down the back of your body to the base of your foot become stretched & lengthened.
Look around & you will see the result; people whose shoulders are “hunched” forward who may look like they aren’t standing up straight.
Having muscles which are short & tight or alternatively over-stretched is not:
– a natural position for your body; nor is it
– optimal for sports performance.
Your muscles cannot work efficiently in either position so your ability to produce power is (significantly) limited.
The body is a highly integrated unit which is designed to work in a co-ordinated manner. Inefficiencies in some muscles will affect others. For example, if your hip flexors are too tight (which is likely if you spend lots of time seated), your glutes can cease to function properly, severely limiting your power production on the bike or the run.
Addressing these muscle imbalances & bringing your body back to a more ‘natural’
position will improve the power & speed you are able to produce on the bike (even before you consider whether your bike fit is appropriate).
How can I become faster on the bike?
There are numerous ways you can improve the alignment of your body so that it is in an optimal condition to produce more power & become faster on the bike. These include –
(1) Use a foam roller, pool noodle or tennis ball to treat your trigger points & the tight spots in your quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes & calf muscles.
Trigger points restrict how much your muscles can stretch. Your muscles work like an
elastic band. An elastic band only creates energy or power when it is stretched. If you can’t stretch your muscles fully, then your ability to produce power is reduced.
(2) Stretch one side of your chest & the opposite hip flexor at the same time. You can do this by doing the normal kneeling hip flexor stretch adjacent to a wall. These muscles are connected & work in conjunction with each other so the best results will come from stretching them together.
(3) Use a hip mobiliser to stretch & “open up” the front of your hip. Hips get ‘stuck’ in a ‘flexed’ (bent over) position when we sit for too long (which most, if not all of us, do). This mobiliser will help to open up the front of your hip, improving your ability to extend your leg behind you (when you ride or run).
(4) Activate your back – the muscles in your glute work in conjunction with the muscles in the opposite shoulder. Remind them of this by doing exercises such as a lunge with an opposite arm row or a step up with an opposite hand shoulder press. Make sure you choose strength exercises which work both one shoulder with the opposite glute at the same time.
There are many other techniques & exercises you can use. Which of the one(s) listed are you going to use? What difference do you notice to your posture & your performance?
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If you would like to find out how I can help you to address your muscles imbalances & improve your power on the bike, please do not hesitate to contact me via email.(c) Kim Kohen