A little while ago, I wrote an article regarding the importance of core and glute strength in elite athletes; thank you very much for making it a big success, be on the watch for it to be published in MetCon (Formerly WodTalk) magazine in the coming months!
I was speaking to a cycling club, and we talked about the common injuries associated with cycling, and a lot of them came back to proper glute and hip control, so we decided to put an easy "how to" together for our Cycling friends. Much of this article can also be directly applied to the Running crowd, as the mechanism of injury is similar, just in a different position. You will see some crossover to our previous article, so don't be surprised, the concepts hold true. This was written more toward the everyday rider or runner as opposed to the elite lifting athletes prior. Hope you enjoy!
In the sports injury world, we see injuries on a daily basis that can be attributed to our favorite activities. Cycling is no different, but many times it may not be coming from the place you think!
A great number of cyclists have back pain or chronic leg injuries that plague them and make rides much less enjoyable, many can be traced back to poor hip strength and mobility. Riding a bike is a great way to build inner glute strength due to the pedal stroke, but did you know it actually lends itself to a major muscle imbalance with the outer glutes? These outer muscles are crucial in stabilizing the hip, powering a good pedal stroke, and controlling knee motion.
Due to the chronic forward flexed position, the hip flexors are never able to fully relax or go through full range of motion. This forward flexion is one of the primary causes of tight backs in bicycle clubs everywhere, but it’s definitely not the only thing!
To start let’s go through a few mobility tips that can make those long rides more enjoyable.
The pigeon stretch is incredibly useful to free up the back side of the hip and lumbar spine after riding and being flexed for an extended period. This will release the glutes, low back, IT band and even upper hamstrings, hold 1 minute each side, twice.
Calves are widely addressed in athletics, but there are 2 different stretches I recommend, the standard foot back, heel down; also foot against the wall and lean forward. Make sure you do both and watch your ankle mobility soar! Hold 30 seconds each side, twice.
After releasing those muscles it’s really important to rebuild strength is the stabilizers of your hips, this is what allows you to have a long and happy riding career. Let’s get to building those powerful hips! Doing 3 sets of 10 3-4 times per week will greatly improve your stability, push power, and help keep injuries at bay!
The Side Lying leg raise has long been a popular choice of Chiropractors and PT’s for a reason, IT WORKS! Lie down on your side, turn your toes down toward the floor and slowly raise and lower the top leg, keeping the toes down.
Bridges are a wonderful way to build strength and stability. So much of a pedal stroke is one sided, but don’t forget your pelvis has to be stable enough to resist those powerful pushes! Start with both legs on the ground and as it gets easier, raise one leg at a time keeping the hips level with the ground.
Planks are an essential part of building core strenth in athletes, being able to hold tight while breathing affects all aspects of a sport. Having a strong core will protect your back which by extension helps the rest of the body. Try starting with 30 seconds tightening your abs and doing normal breaths, as it gets easier progress to 60 and 90 seconds, repeat 3x
Squats are a total body workout, and because of this can be one of the most effective strengthening options for you legs, hips, and low back! These also force you to keep an upright chest which will help reinforce good posture after being on the bike for long periods. Be sure to tighten your core, keep your heels down, and make sure keep that chest up!
Obviously this is not a complete rehab protocol for all injuries, it’s not meant to be, but doing this short list of exercises and stretches can be vital in keeping you on the road and healthy for years to come. If any of these exercise cause pain or your injuries linger, I recommend finding a qualified healthcare provider to help you get back on the bike safely. I hope this can help a few of you improve your hips and make your rides that much more enjoyable! Ride safe everyone!
Dr. Doss is a Chiropractor in Lubbock, TX at Endurance Chiropractic and Sports Therapy. His passion for athletics and sports injuries drive him to help athletes prevent injury first, but also provide care that is fast, affordable, and effective, allowing people to remain in the sports they love. If you have an issue you need evaluated, feel free to call 806-785-7514
In a Chiropractic and Physical Therapy office setting we see the effect of faulty core engagement and bad movement patterns every day. The most interesting of these cases involve high level athletes which by all metrics, are incredibly fit! These amazing athletes have mastered some of the hardest movements that exercise crazies have put out there, but when we test their core stability, they start showing cracks. This is when questions like, “Why does my back keep hurting, why do my knees ache, why can’t I squat 600 lbs (other than the fact that you look like a string bean?)” start showing up.
The answer in so many cases is, you have great abs, but no core! The core is much more like a cube than a tube, or just abs; imagine playing dice, your torso is divided into 6 sides, your abs only being 1 of those. The circular portion of the core is made up of your oblique on 2 sides, lumbar spine stabilizers in the back, and the all-important “Show me muscle” abs up front. About this time, you’re thinking, “wait, didn’t he say 6 sides?). Yes, I did, let’s talk about 2 of the most forgotten areas of the core that can make the biggest difference in your stability, and by extension ability to train effectively reducing injury.
I’d like to introduce the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. Your diaphragm is so much more than just a breathing apparatus, when a heavy load is lifted it creates the top of the ball we talked about before. The lower portion is vital to the health and stabilization of the pelvis, the pelvic floor is usually only talked about at the OB’s, but open your ears guys (These have been linked to bladder control and sexual performance too)! What happens when you have 5 strong sides of muscle and the bottom is weak? Can you imagine a tube of toothpaste? Yuck, not really something any of us want to see in the gym!
So, let’s get to fixing that leaky tube of toothpaste! As this article is written toward a generally fit athlete, some of these may not be appropriate for someone at a lower level of conditioning. I’d recommend finding a great Chiropractor or PT to help you get to the level of being able to handle these exercises, and as always if you have pain in these movements please seek the help of a qualified healthcare provider.
Starting off, the most basic of these exercises is the Kegel, I’d post a picture but you might not like what you see! Kegel’s are a great way to engage the pelvic floor and strengthen the bottom of the core.
The Side Lying Leg Raise has been a long time favorite of PT’s and Chiropractors for a reason, it works!
If you can’t tell already stabilizing the pelvis is a huge part of building a bullet proof core, the next exercise is no different.
For the Standing Heel Touch, you’ll need a step about 6-9 inches tall; I use some old undergrad textbooks that I found soooo useful the first time!
Now the dreaded word everyone has been waiting to hear, PLANKS. Planks have been stuck in core strengthening lore for decades, but they’ve stayed there for good reason! By getting into a plank position and holding your abs, obliques, low back, and pelvic floor tight it gets a true whole body workout. This is also a great way to train your diaphragm while exercising due to the fact you must stay braced and breathe at the same time, too often I see people who can brace, or they can breathe, but can’t come close to doing both. And what happens when you work out and don’t breathe? That’s right, you pass out or let your core go and hurt yourself.
The next group of exercises utilizes weight in the form of a Kettlebell, NO it’s not a kettleBALL, stop saying that, people are laughing… Each of these motions are great at fully engaging all sides of the core. For some instructional help I reached out to one of the best coaches for kettlebell and strength movements I’ve ever met. Jason Marshall is a Master SFG instructor with StrongFirst and Lone Star Kettlebell; he is an expert in weighted movements and not a shabby athlete himself with a 450+ pound squat and 600+ pound deadlift, this guy knows how to move weight. But, moving big weight is only good if you are stable doing it!
First, we will be starting with a Goblet Squat, this motion is building the foundation for a solid weighted squat as you must stabilize weight in front of the body and not spill your cup!
Another great way to train pelvic and core stability is using Asymmetrical Load Carries, these are also known as a farmers carry. The setup is very important and sets the tone for the lift as you will have uneven weight distribution:
It is vitally important that you don’t walk like a weary mom carrying a toddler, pushing that hip out and carrying at an angle will do nothing but cause you pain!
The last and most complete movement is the Get Up, it is crucial for spinal and pelvic stability, and is amazing at helping with shoulder and upper body stability as well.
Ryan Doss DC
Endurance Chiropractic and Sports Therapy in Lubbock, TX