Dealing with Muscle Imbalance for Cyclists
Humans aren’t built with perfect symmetry, so it’s no wonder that you may develop muscular imbalances in your legs when performing a repetitive motion such as cycling.
For instance, cyclists overdevelop their quadriceps while lacking equal work to the gluteal and hamstring areas.
Quadriceps Versus Hamstrings and Gluteal Muscles
If your quadriceps overpower your hamstrings, they’ll pull your hips forward and down. Unable to offset the pull, your weaker hamstrings tends to affect your posture and diminish your core muscle strength. This may ultimately lead to gluteal and hamstring injuries, among other areas.
You can help correct the imbalance by performing exercises to strengthen you gluteal and hamstring muscles such as legs curls and straight-leg dead lifts.
Leg curls (on an angled bench) – watch video
Lie on your stomach, with the machine adjusted to your height and selected weight on the machine. Make sure the lever is a few inches below your calves. Then, slowly curl your legs up to your buttocks without losing contact with the padded lever. Proceed to gradually return the weight down to the starting position.
Perform 10-12 reps, 3-4 sets.
Grab a bar using an overhand grip (bars vary in weight, so make sure you pick an appropriate weight) and keep your knees locked. Keep your arms locked as well and stand up to lift the weight. Arch your back without rounding it. Please don’t bounce.
Providing you’re using a light weight, perform 15-reps, 3-4 sets. As you get stronger, increase the weight, and lower reps.
Dominate Leg Versus Non-Dominate Leg
Since you a have dominant cycling leg, you’ll have more pedal power on one side versus the other, creating a less efficient stroke, and increasing the possibility of injury.
You can correct the imbalance by working on stationary bike using your non-dominate leg to pedal for 20-30-second spurts at a time. Slowly build up to performing single leg drills to 60-90 seconds.
Inner Versus Outer Things
Many cyclists will experience pain on the front of the knee, commonly referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome. This is due to muscle strength differences in the abductor and adductor muscles. When one group is stronger than the other, it will pull the patella to that side, creating an imbalance in that particular leg.
Depending where the imbalance is (seek a trained sports medicine professional for a diagnosis), performing abductors or adductor exercises on an inner and outer thigh machine is a way to correct the discrepancy.
Dealing with Tight Calves
The constant, repetitive motion of cycling places an inordinate amount of pressure on your calves, causing them to stiffen. It may not sound like a big problem, but it may cause your feet to flatten into a toe-down position, putting extreme stress on your knees, heel cord and plantar fascia, the thick connective tissue (aponeurosis) which supports the arch on the bottom (plantar side) of the foot.
All sorts of injuries may arise because of inflexible calves, including plantar fasciitis and knee bursitis– an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that reduces friction between the tissues surrounding the knee joints.
To help rectify the problem, perform the Standing Wall Calf Stretch – watch video.
Technique: Place your hands, with your arms locked, on a wall or fence, with your legs as far back as possible. Lean into the wall as you unlock your arms while keeping your feet and legs in place. The further your legs are back, the more you’ll feel the stretch in the intended area. Please do not bounce.
Frequency: Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times.
Rounded Shoulders and Tight Upper and Lower Back
The bent over, forward tilting cyclist position places stress on the shoulders and lower back areas, causing those muscles to be overworked while others like the pectoralis muscles are being underworked and shorten.
This often leads to Upper Cross Syndrome—a combination of forward pulling rounded shoulders and a forward head position.
Seated Rows will strengthen the upper and middle back while opening up the pectoral area, and the lying knees-to-chest stretch will loosen up that tight lower back.
September 25th, written by Jerry Del Priore for Bodono.
Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College in 1991. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams.
Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, which encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what!
Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Jerry is also a Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews.
In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments.