Poor biomechanics can compromise cycling technique

Are your biomechanics causing you knee pain?

Have you ever wondered how the elite cyclists can ride so smoothly and effortlessly, while still generating the power to cover the ground very quickly?

Clearly their cycling technique is better than amateurs and we know that it’s important that they see a qualified coach to ensure that they’re working on the right technique for their personal cycling peculiarities.  Often though their cycling technique is compromised by poor biomechanics, which includes lack of flexibility and poor strength, often from inadequacies that they don’t know that they have.  Cyclists are often left thinking: “I understand what I’m being told to do, but my body just won’t do it”.

 For example, one top coach talked to us about an Olympic cyclist who had an abnormal knee rotation pattern just after Top Dead Centre (TDC).  Not only was this causing knee pain, but also it was very inefficient when turning on the power.  He had tried to coach the problem out of the cyclist with little success and changing the bike had little impact either.  Once his biomechanics had been checked, it became apparent that the leg was 1cm longer. This caused the body to want to compensate and shorten the leg, which is the body’s natural tendency to take the load off the pelvis and spine.  Unfortunately because the distance between the hip and ankle are fixed within the confines of the crank shaft length and seat height while cycling, the only way of compensating for this is at the knee and by laterally moving the hip.  This is what was causing the abnormal knee movement.  The biomechanical screening established that this leg length discrepancy was due to a pelvic rotation and so it was correctable.  Exercises to reduce the sub-acute muscle spasm (which he didn’t even know he had), allowed the pelvis to de-rotate. Three weeks later the length discrepancy had disappeared and the knee pain had gone as well as the coach being happier with the look of the knee drive from TDC.

The mechanical problems that can interfere with the biomechanics of the cycling technique include – one leg being longer than the other, tight nerves in your legs, poor ‘core’ (abdominal) muscle control, poor flexibility, inflexible pelvis and incorrect positioning of the pelvis.  These biomechanical issues can not only compromise the way your cyclists ride, as they have to compensate for them, they can also set them up for injuries in the structures that are compensating.

So although technique is important, they have to have the right tools to ensure they can perform the tasks you are recommending as their coach.  In sports so far it has been left more to luck than judgment, but as technology improves, so we can offer cyclists more information than ever before to improve their technique by providing their body’s with the building blocks for the correct movements.

In addition to improving their ability to perform the correct mechanics to cycle, improving their mechanics will help prevent (and in some cases cure) injury. The very mechanical problems that they can have with their pelvis and spine which compromise the way they ride, will also cause problems with the joints and muscles that compensate.  Cyclists often say, “Why can I ride smoothly and without ‘niggles’ or stiffness one day and the very next day, I can’t?”  The reason invariably is because you have a series of compensations for mechanical issues that exist, and your body and brain adapts to those compensations – in other words it learns how to move with them.  Then something happens to change either the problem, or the compensation, and the body and brain then have to learn a completely different way of moving to deal with the change, and that takes time to learn.

For example, if one group of joints in your spine is stiff and tight, you typically get compensations in the opposite side of your pelvis and the opposite shoulder.  Then you cycle with your body having adapted to these set of conditions.  Overnight you may sleep awkwardly, perhaps your pillow is not positioned correctly, and you can wake up with a different set of conditions for your body to compensate for.  Sometimes you can be aware of some more extreme stiffness in the mornings, but more often they are imperceptible and your body adjusts without you even knowing.  But although this adjustment is immediate, it usually takes the body and brain some time to adapt. If you ride before you’ve fully adapted, then the easy, ‘niggle-free’ ride that applied yesterday, will no longer apply today.

The Mobilis Performance™ Biomechanics Screening Courses for Coaches have been designed by experts to help your cyclists improve their cycling performance and help them improve their power from Top Dead Centre (TDC), reduce unwanted movement in the saddle and reduce the risk of injury.  The program achieves this by using advanced screening and training techniques to help improve their flexibility, muscle performance and joint stability. Make no mistake, although these principles are used to help elite cyclists, these courses take a very simple form and is easy to follow.

The Courses that have been developed by Martin Haines at Mobilis Performance teaches coaches how to screen their cyclists, which helps them identify any biomechanical weaknesses.  Moreover, coaches re then taught the best exercises to ensure these issues are dealt with in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

Martin Haines DipRGRT MCSP
Head of Mobilis Performance
The Intelligent Training™ Company

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