Cycling Efficiently: Hip Joint Mobility, Stability and Strength
November 30th, 2017
November 30th, 2017
Clinical exercise physiologist, sports scientist and lover of two wheels Annabelle Dougall has teamed up with Bikesoup to show you how science can solve your pedalling problems.
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The difference between a good cyclist and an efficient cyclist isn't always about what they do on the bike. In fact, a lot of the work you should be doing to improve your pedalling performance can be done without two wheels! Now I know what some of you are thinking, I'm not a serious cyclists, so this guide isn't for me. Well think again. Although not everyone is interested in smashing their Strava segments or pushing bigger watts, off-bike training is about much more than just power and pace. Essentially, what you do off the bike has the ability to keep your body injury free and in the best condition possible to do what we love, which is of course, turning those pedals! With this in mind, the following is a basic guide to off-bike training that will take you through techniques to improve your hip joint mobility and lower limb flexibility as well as your stability and strength.
You can have the strongest glutes in the world but without the combination of lexibility, mobility and stability you simply will not be able to access the full potential of your power. In order to improve and maintain cycling related hip mobility and flexibility it is essential to include myofascial release, through foam rolling or trigger balling, and stretching into your off bike-program. Prior to your ride or strength sessions myofascial release will reduce tightness and allow for improved range of motion without over lengthening or weakening the muscle.
Focus on the follow spots for foam rolling or trigger balling:
ITB or Iliotibial Band - This band runs from the hip to the knee and is a primary stabilizer that is stressed heavily during cycling (below).
Hip Flexors and Quadriceps - The front of the thigh just below the hip bone (below).
Tibialis anterior and Peroneus longus - Outside of the shin (below).
Glutes- Backside muscle - (below).
Post cycle, stretching is a must to reduce the risk of injury, muscle soreness or tightness and ensure the hip joint can maintain full range of motion. Focus on the following stretches post cycle.
Glute stretch - Pigeon pose is one of the most effective glute stretches (below).
Hip Flexors - In a half kneeling position push the hips forward and lean back (below)
Hamstring and calf stretch - Place your foot against a wall and drive your hips forward. Lean over towards the tow for more hamstring tension (below).
Priming and Mind to Muscle pathways
Priming our muscles before exercise is not a new concept, and many of you will have your own warm up routines for before you jump on your bike or pick up any weights. However, are these routines really preparing your muscles in the right way? For cyclists the main focus of priming exercises should be creating mindful activation of the hip joint stabilising muscles, which not only allow us to produce optimum power but also avoid injuries when we ride. Essentially we are preparing our smaller stabilising muscles for heavier work and ensuring they are activated prior to exposing them to increased loads and force. In addition to actively stimulating these muscles, priming exercises should focus on strengthening the subconscious pathways that connect our mind to our muscles, by first consciously activating or contracting them. By using the specific muscle activation exercises below we are aiming to strengthen the neurological pathways of these smaller stabilising muscles so that they subconsciously activate during our rides. These movements are best performed with control at a slow tempo for 15-20 repetitions. To prime your muscles and enhance your mind muscle connection try this set of activation exercises:
Glute bridges - focus on flattening the back before each rep (below).
_Resistance band crab walks_ *- keep your feet wide and take small even steps. Aim for stability through the upper body without rocking (below).*
Resistance band push backs - keeping the weight through the planted foot with hands for balance only. Squeeze the glute at the back (below).
Resistance band glute lifts - keeping the weight through the planted foot, make a smooth movement. Think lift not kick (below).
Now that our glutes are primed and hip stabilizing muscle activated we can work on strengthening the cycling agonist muscles such as the hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps. Below is a diagram that represents which muscles activate where throughout your pedal stroke. If you have access to a power analysis tool, such as a watt bike or Garmin, you will be able to identify which muscles are weakest during your pedal stroke by comparing your polar view or efficiency percentage with this muscles activation chart.
For those of you with weak glutes try the following exercises to improve strength and dynamic stability:
- Hip thrusts
- Wide leg squats
- Side lunge
If you’re someone who needs to work on their hamstrings the following exercises are for you:
- Romanian deadlifts
- Single leg hamstring bridge
- Hamstring curl
To strengthen your Quads try out these exercises:
- Split squats
- Weighted step ups
- Goblet squats
Now that you have all the tools to get your hip joint mobile, stable and strong it's time to implement your program! Remember to be consistent and try to make a habit of your new off-bike routine. For more information on off bike training or for personalised training programs feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next up in our Cycling Efficiently series I'm going to share with you a few more off the bike tips and tricks to get your core super strong!