Ask the physio

Cy­cling spe­cial­ist Phil Burt has a fix for ev­ery nig­gle

Cycling Weekly - - MY FITNESS CHALLENGE -

I’ve been told by nu­mer­ous phys­ios that my glutes don’t work very well, but no mat­ter how many ex­er­cises I do, I can’t seem to im­prove their ac­tion on the bike. What would you sug­gest?

This is a real bug­bear of mine. An all too easily trot­ted out line from phys­ios and a catch-all for all prob­lems is, “your glutes aren’t work­ing”. Though glute dys­func­tion and re­hab can be the so­lu­tion to many back, pelvic and lower limb issues, it’s too of­ten a lazy rea­son to give for more com­pli­cated issues.

If you’re not see­ing re­sults, con­sider whether your glutes could in­deed con­trib­ute more to your cy­cling. Too low or far back a sad­dle po­si­tion will negate hip ex­ten­sion, which is the main job for the glutes – a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to your op­ti­mal power. If you’re seated in a biome­chan­i­cally in­ef­fi­cient po­si­tion, it doesn’t mat­ter how many glute ex­er­cises you do, your glutes won’t be able to con­trib­ute fully.

I seem to suf­fer from knee pain and nig­gles when switch­ing from MTB to road cy­cling. What’s the most likely rea­son?

Usu­ally this is­sue is caused by the dif­fer­ence in the stance width or ‘Q fac­tor’ between MTB and road bikes. The bot­tom bracket on an MTB (or e-bike) is wider than that of a road bike, and there­fore the stance width is wider. Switch­ing to a nar­rower road bike can cause ITB tight­ness to develop, pulling the patella lat­er­ally, which can cause nig­gles or pain.

The good news that in the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple this passes af­ter a few rides. If it doesn’t, get your ITB mas­saged or use self-re­lease meth­ods with a foam roller. Al­ter­na­tively, you could stan­dard­ise your stance width by us­ing shorter-spin­dle ped­als on a MTB or longer ones on your road bike.

No mat­ter what I do, my ca­dence re­mains ap­par­ently too low and I can’t seem to in­crease it.

Some peo­ple are nat­u­ral ‘grinders’, but I find that too of­ten po­si­tion is in­hibit­ing ca­dence rather than the rider. The most com­mon cause, and an easy one to fix, is crank length. Too long a crank length forces a rider to sit fur­ther back to ac­com­mo­date it, and this closes up the hip, act­ing like a brake over top dead cen­tre of the pedal stroke. De­creas­ing crank length en­ables you to get up and more over the bot­tom bracket and ped­als and open up the hip. Of course, a shorter crank is a smaller cir­cle, so for the same gear the ca­dence will in­crease due to sim­ple physics.

I get neck pain af­ter rid­ing on the road but I’m fine on the turbo – even though I’m on the same bike and po­si­tion. Why?

Rid­ing on the road de­mands that we ex­tend the neck in or­der to look up for a good view of the road ahead. It’s an is­sue of neck ex­ten­sion. As­sum­ing you don’t have a neck pathol­ogy or in­jury, the most com­mon cause is a stiff or in­flex­i­ble tho­racic or mid-spine. Each part of the multi-seg­men­tal spine is meant to do its bit and con­trib­ute to the move­ment. How­ever, the sus­tained flexed pos­ture of cy­cling of­ten leads to a stiff mid-spine, leav­ing the neck to do all the work in terms of ex­ten­sion. A sim­ple so­lu­tion is to im­prove your mid-spine flex­i­bil­ity us­ing a foam roller.

I of­ten get leg numb­ness and loss of power dur­ing TTS or long in­ter­vals, but this dis­ap­pears within min­utes of stop­ping.

A clas­sic pre­sen­ta­tion. This type of is­sue is due to ei­ther neu­ral (nerves) or vas­cu­lar (blood sup­ply) com­pro­mise. It can be very hard to di­ag­nose which one, but in this case, the sud­den re­lief would sug­gest a vas­cu­lar is­sue. If it were neu­ral, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t dis­ap­pear straight away, as nerves once ir­ri­tated stay that way for quite some time.

Once a vas­cu­lar com­pro­mise – a block­age or kink­ing is re­moved – reper­fu­sion to the limb oc­curs im­me­di­ately. Com­mon causes are too closed a hip po­si­tion cut­ting off the blood flow to the leg, which tends to build up as numb­ness and then a burn­ing time pain. Some peo­ple are pre­dis­posed to this is­sue, with their large veins re­turn­ing from the leg be­com­ing kinked in the front of the hip. There is a small chance you may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing il­iac artery end­ofi­bro­sis – Google the symp­toms.

De­crease crank length to in­crease ca­dence

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