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Decreasing Overuse Injuries While Making You A Faster Cyclist

May 29, 2019

Low back pain and knee pain are two of the most common non-traumatic injuries in cycling. Both injuries can force a cyclist to spend extensive time off the bike to allow for proper recovery. Additionally, because the rider is fixed to the bike, exercise mostly occurs in the sagittal plane which is unique to cycling. As a result, muscle imbalance and muscle weakness are the leading factors contributing to injury.

Several muscles in cyclists have been found to be weak when compared to other lower extremity musculature, such as gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and the hamstrings. These muscles are used in cycling, but muscles like the quadriceps are used to a greater extent. This can create a strength imbalance if the appropriate muscles are not trained outside of cycling. Improper over utilization of the quadriceps coupled with a decrease in gluteal activation can result in patelafemoral maltracking, patella tendonopathy, or femoral tracking dysfunction, which may ultimately lead to knee pain and injury.

The following two videos are my go-to exercises that blend posterior chain and anterior chain strengthening to decrease muscle imbalances that can lead to knee injuries on the bike. 

Another feature that is unique to cycling is the postural endurance and strength that is required of the core musculature—the abdominals and low back. A strong core is the foundation from which all movement is initiated. A strong core will quiet upper-body movement and prevent the hips from rocking, so that the energy you produce is delivered to the pedal stroke.

Several studies have shown that as the legs fatigue, undesirable changes in core muscle movement patterns occur when the back has also become fatigued. Additional research found that cyclists who tended to have increased lumbar flexion on the bike were associated with reduced activity of deep low-back multifidus muscles and as a consequence, were more likely to have low back pain.

To combat fatigue, poor posture, and weakness a core strengthening program is necessary. The next two videos provide cycling specific exercises that will keep the core strong and increase your ability to transfer power into the pedals. 

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