As mentioned last week, cycling is an ever increasing sport and mode of transportation, growing in popularity across North America. Since North Vancouver has always been a hot spot and desired destination for cyclists and mountain bikers, we will continue to explore a few more exercises and stretches to maximise peak performance.
Gluteus Muscle Group and Piriformis (Hip External Rotators)
The posterior (back) hip region can become overworked, tight, or weak, all of which can result in pain. Tightening of the posterior hip is most common, due to the chronic seated posture of North American culture. Tightness, if left untreated, can result in conditions such as: arthritis, chronic pelvic pain, nerve entrapments (sciatica), and low back pain.
Modified Seated Pigeon Pose: Stretching the piriformis and the other deep rotators can be done in a modified pigeon pose while sitting, standing, or on the ground. A modified pigeon pose will spare the knees by reducing stress on the joints. Cross the right ankle onto the left thigh, just above the knee. Let the right knee fall toward the floor. Keeping low back straight, tilt the pelvis forward and bend through the hips, bringing the same sided shoulder to the same sided foot. A deep stretch should be felt in the posterior hip. Hold for 12-15 seconds and perform 3 repetitions on each side.
*(If it does not strain the knees, asimilar stretch can be performed while lying on the back or in the traditional pose.)
Hip adductors, also be referred to as groin muscles, are located on the inner thigh, originate from the pelvis, and insert along the femur (thigh bone), knee, and even tibia (shin bone). Tightness here is often mistaken for quads and/or hamstring tightness. Adductor tightness can be very common with excessive hip extension, such as when cycling, squatting, or dead lifting.
Frog: Stretching the “short” adductors – the ones that do not cross the knee – can be done with this stretch. Starting on all fours, hands and knees, spread the knees outward away from each other, so that the inner thighs square to the ground. Sit back towards the heels and be mindful to prevent forward flexion of the back. the stretch is felt in the inner thigh, move side to side to increase the stretch. Hold for 12-15 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Adductor Stretch:The “long” adductors – the ones that cross the knee – can be stretched from a standing position. Start with both feet together and bend the left knee while stepping the right foot out about three feet. Sit into the stretch further by bending the left knee (ensure that the knee does not go past the ankle). Feel for tight spots and hold for at least 10 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions on both sides.
The hip flexors are the muscles of the anterior hip, composed of the rectus femoris, psoas, and iliacus. They are muscles used by cyclists for both core stability and the power production of the pull phase when the knee is pulling towards the abdomen. Hip flexor tightness also arises from sitting for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, on long bike rides, hip flexor fatigue can double down with the muscle use during the pull phase and the sitting position, resulting in short and tight hip flexors. Tightness of the anterior hip can often result in reciprocal low back pain due to a muscle imbalance of the pelvis.
Hip Flexor Lunge: Start with the left foot forward in a lunge position, right foot back, with the right knee just above or resting on the ground. Keep the pelvis in a neutral position (square the hips toward the front wall and stabilize the weight of the spine on the sacrum/pelvis) and increase tension in the hip flexor by bending the left knee into a further lunge. When the tension is a good amount, hold the stretch for 15 seconds and complete 3 repetitions on each hip.
Quadricep Femoris (Quads)
The quadriceps are a muscle group of the anterior thigh, consisting of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. The rectus femoris originates on the pelvis, crosses the hip joint, and, therefore, has to be stretched in a slightly different manner. The other three quad muscles originate on the femur. All four of the muscles insert onto the patella (the knee cap) through the quadriceps tendon (also referred to as the patellar tendon). The quads are a powerful muscle group used in cycling through the push phase and are necessary to address in stretching and soft tissue treatment.
Heel to Buttock: To stretch the three quad muscles that do not cross the hip joint, simply grab the right foot behind the buttocks with the right hand. Stand upright with good posture in the upper back and pelvic region and bend the knee until the anterior thigh begins to tighten and tension is felt. Hold for 10 seconds and perform 3 repetitions.
To stretch the rectus femoris, a lunge stretch is necessary to increase tension across the hip joint. In the same fashion as stretching the hip flexors, lunge forward by bending the left knee. This time, increase thigh tension by grabbing the right foot and bending the knee into flexion in the same way as the other three quad muscles were stretched.
Chiropractic and Cycling
Seeking treatment from a chiropractor who has specialty training in soft tissue therapies, such as myofascial release, instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation (gua sha), or Active Release Technique can speed up the recovery process and even prevent future injury. As an avid cyclist himself, North Vancouver chiropractor, Dr. Lucas, has a keen interest in helping this population achieve peak performance.