Love getting out and about on your bike? When the sun is just right with a cool whisper of atmosphere you’re ready to get the wheels spinning. You don’t want to feel knee pain, you don’t want tight hips and you would love your back to feel absolutely fine the days and weeks after.
Either you are keen to prevent pain, you are feeling a few niggles or these niggles have started to get worse. Read on to find out more about your body and how to keep it strong.
The short of it: Your hip flexors are a prominent mover that contribute to cycling motion; they work to drive your legs up and along side your quads to flex your knee before you drive your feet down to push on the pedals. This repeated motion leads to tight hips leading to back, knee and hip pain. This often manifests as conditions such as sciatica, ITB syndrome etc. This is not meant to sound scary, these issues are totally preventable and there is every reason to keep enjoying your regular spin classes and bikes rides.
Keeping the right muscles active and doing regular stretch and release work on other muscles will go a long way to keeping you pain free. The key is simple things done consistently, there is no need to overthink or over complicate.
Activate and Build Glutes
Your glutes (along with your hamstrings) are hip extensors (as apposed to hip flexors) so regular activation and exercise of these will prevent a lot of pain and ensure optimal lower body function. The below exercises are perfect for beginners and can be done from home to be integrated into your weekly exercise routine. Scroll to the bottom for options to find more advanced exercises.
Clams – progress by using a resistance band
- Start by lying sideline with a neutral back and your head supported. Flex both knees and think about glutes as you use them to send your leg straight up, hold a second’s pause at the top, lower and repeat. Start with 2 sets of ten raises on each side.
Hip bridge– Progress by placing a weight safely over your hips
- Start by lying on the floor with your legs bent in front of you. Your feet should be just outside shoulder width apart with your 2nd toe pointing forward.
- Drive your pelvis up, keeping your core braced and turn your heels in slightly as you squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, lower back down with control and repeat. Beginners can start with 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
As for your core…
- From a quadruped position (on all fours) reach your right leg and left arm long. Be careful not to kick your leg up to high to excessively arch your lower back.
2. Squeeze your core to bring your knee and elbow in to meet each other. Repeat 8 times on each side for two sets and progress with more reps from there.
- Lying on your back, draw your ribs in and down and brace (imagine a ball is flying at your stomach and you need to squeeze your core.)
- Lift your legs and bend at 90 degrees, reach your arms straight overhead. With your core braced, send your right arm long behind you with your left leg long in front of you simultaneously. Alternate sides going for 12 reps to start for 2 sets.
These done a few times a week and progressed can help you build a strong core to prevent the take over of other muscles that get tight and lead to pain. A strong core is also a phenomenal force for good against back pain and injury. We love abs and, importantly, we love living pain free.
Stretch and release hip flexors (specifically your TFL)
TFL (one of your hip flexors, the tensor fasciae latae )stretch
- let your left leg out long and relaxed on the mat and plant your right foot just over the left knee, rotate in towards you right bent knee and hooking your arm in if you can to gentle pull the knee in to the middle of your body till you feel a mild stretch in your upper outer thigh. Hold for 30-120 seconds, breathing evenly through your nose and trying to relax as much as you can.
- Repeat on the other side.
Low lunge hip flexor stretch
- Arrange yourself in a low lunge position and rather than thinking about driving your pelvis forward, find a neutral pelvis position and then ‘tuck tail under’ that is, you want to feel as though you are tilting your hips up to encourage a lengthening of the hip flexors and to feel a stretch from the top of your hip down your thigh. Hold for 30-120 seconds, breathing evenly through your nose.
- Repeat on the other side.
These are a great way to end your evening and prepare for sleep. Stretching either side of exercise is great but right before bed is fantastic as it is during sleep when our muscles are primed to make changes.
The above exercises and stretches will go a super long way if done consistently to helping you stay functional, active and pain free. If you found this article helpful and you would like a bit more direction and support with your training I can work with you to get you pain free and in prime condition.
- For customised programs
- Personal Training
- Guided & assisted stretch sessions
- Reach out so we can get started and unlock your body’s potential!