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Is Sitting The New Smoking??

Dec 13, 2019
 

Strong statement but lack of glute strength caused by too much sitting leads to so many problems!!

There are 2 main causes of hip flexor dominance in cyclists. The first is poor technique and the second is lifestyle. Lets look at these in more detail

For many cyclists their sole focus when pedaling is to see how much power they can generate in the down stroke phase of their pedal stroke, and it is often the hip flexors that do the majority of the work. However, cycling is a hip extension, knee flexion sport and we all know that the glutes and hamstrings are the major hip extensors of the body, so they need to be working optimally in order to get the most out of your pedal stroke. Interestingly, the importance of the glutes and hamstrings to the pedalstroke is something not known by many cyclists. If the rider is not using their glutes, hamstrings and adductors optimally when pedalling, then the quads and hip flexors can become too large and dominant.

As well as poor technique leading to tight hip flexors we need to also look at the behaviour of many cyclists in their day to day lives. Ask yourself this question: What do many cyclists do for hours every day? The answer is that they sit at their desk at work. Then, when they go for a ride they sit for hours on their bikes. What do they do for a large portion of their day - they sit. Sitting by its very nature, places you in a position of hip flexion. So this means that for a large portion of their waking day, the office working cyclist is in a position of hip flexion, which serves to further reinforce the tightening of the hip flexors.

Dominant hip flexors can lead to injury and an inefficient pedal stroke.

Here are some of the injuries that can occur due to muscle imbalance in the leg. If the quads are dominant it can lead to knee pain. If there is a left side right side quad imbalance it can lead to patella tendonopathy and hip problems. Finally, if the hip flexors work too hard, they can recruit the ITB fibres to help do the work - this over work of the ITB can also cause pain for the cyclist.

Overuse of the hip flexors means the glutes and hamstrings are not able to contribute fully to the movement, which results in the cyclist being unable to produce their optimal amount of power. As we have said previouly, it is better to have all of the muscles involved in a movement contribute optimally, than for a couple of muscles to contribute too much.

There is a catch 22 at play here. The tighter a cyclists hip flexors are, the harder it is for the cyclist to engage their glutes. Try this yourself. Kneel down so that your hips are slightly behind your knees. This is the same posture of someone with very tight hip flexors. Now try to engage your butt - it's very hard. Now position yourself correctly, so that the middle of the hip is over the knee. Automatically the hip flexors are lengthened and the glutes engage.

Pilates is fabulous, as it brings muscle balance back to the hip joint. It enables the cyclist to strengthen their glutes, hamstrings and inside thighs and to lengthen their hip flexors. Think about it - any kneeling or standing exercise in pilates requires the middle of the hip to be over the middle of the knee. The exercises we teach are constantly training the body to be in balance. Also, Pilates teaches the cyclist to be aware of the muscles they are engaging and enables the cyclist to practice and refine the pedalling motion in the studio, so that they learn to use the correct muscles in the correct sequence when out riding. The ultimate outcome is that the hip muscles work in a balanced manner, so that the rider can cycle efficiently, producing optimum power with reduced liklihood of injury.

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