Monday, March 31, 2008

A question from Cyberspace

Hi Mark,

I've been seeing your posts for years, and checked out your site
and blog. I'm looking for specific stretching and strengthening advice
for bicyclers, hoping you might point me in a helpful direction.

In brief, I'm 62 and for 20 years have had various lower extremity
issues: hip, knee, foot. Each dealt with separately. Seems likely,
from google searches and a dash of common sense, that they are
actually an inter-related system. My chiropractor says it looks like
I probably pronate, and the inner quad (medial) muscle is probably

weaker than the outer (lateral). He referred me to a personal trainer
and a bike fit guy. They both are entrenched in the 'high-tech
racer' mind set, and I suspect not a good match for me.

I also wonder why riding fixed gear over rolling terrain can actually
help my knee feel improved. Any thoughts will be most appreciated.

Larry F
Marblehead, MA

Larry, good question. Lets go backwards. Fixed gear riding places the work load more evenly amongst the four quads, the hamstrings, and gluteal muscles, for starters. And that's just in the upper leg. Additionally, fixed gear riding engages your lower leg muscles (gastrocnemius, which is the calf, tibialis anterior and posterior, which are the shin muscles) particularly when you are going downhill, and resisting a fast spin with your legs. So since you are basically sharing the resistance training with your muscles above the knee and below, from the front of your leg to the back, you will stabilize those muscles and help your knees. On a geared bike, we
all can avoid this work of knee stabilization by coasting down hills.
Now, I have never met you in person, but I bet you your legs are damn strong. In 25 years of practice as a chiropractor, I have never met a cyclist who had a problem with strength. Now, muscle imbalance is another story. Just from reading your description, I would say your iliotibial muscles are VERY tight. Check out my page on those stretches, tell me if you can get into this stretch.
All the way. Like this:

Bet you can't. If you can't, that is good, you have something to work on to fix your issues. Also, your medial quad and inner thigh muscles are often tight to offset the tension in your IT (iliotibial region). So there is a war going on between the inner leg and the outer leg, and your knee, and eventually your back, is the loser.

Check out page one and two of the IT stretches, and let me know how it goes. Good luck Larry, you can fix this!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What I learned from my accident

In recovering from my broken arm due to a motorcycle accident about two weeks ago, I have learned a few things. We as humans take for granted something called tendon glide. Tendons attach muscles to bones, and they glide in their sheaths as we move our joints. In the case of my tendons in my wrist, I can no longer do this:

Much less this:

In the case of this picture, when I relax my wrist, it barely bends at all right now.

Needless to say, I am hard at work to restore the tendons so I do not have long term issues with my hand. It is really good that I could do all the stretches I could before the accident. There is definitely some body memory. Funny, it will take longer for me to fix the soft tissue damage to my tendons than for the bone to heal.

PS, thanks for all the DVD orders. I am sure there is enough info on it to keep people stretching until the next DVD comes out. The next project will be an in depth class taught by me with many, many more details than on howtostretch. You can order your Posture DVD here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Guest Instructor, Kam Singh

I would like to let all of you know there is a new guest instructor on the howtostretch website. Kam Singh is an accomplished practitioner and teacher of yoga, and sheds some light on a difficult and important stretch.

Also, I apologize to those of you that have sent me questions, I will answer them! two weeks ago, I had an accident on my motorcycle on my way to work. I broke my right arm (I am typing this with my left hand!) and had to have surgery to fix it because the break was pretty bad. Thanks to my years of martial arts training, I know how to roll and fall correctly, and was not hurt worse. I was also wearing proper gear. My break came when my bike hit the ground and the force from the handlebar went into my arm. (just for your info: I was going slow on a side street, someone cut across me, then stopped right in front of me).
For those of you that have ordered my new CD, they have been sent, thanks for your orders. The CD is still available, you can order it here. I really appreciate your orders more than ever at this time, because with a broken right arm I will not be able to work as a chiropractor for a while.
BTW, I did stretch at least 20 mn a day for several days after the mishap on the 12th. Since the surgery on the 19th, I have not stretched, as every time I got on the floor to do so, I would find myself napping. the body needs its energy to heal itself.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I have not had a lot of time to post lately, been busy with personal projects. One of those projects is my new DVD, "Correcting Posture Through Stretching".

This DVD is appx 36 minutes long and covers the essential stretches necessary to correct postural problems that haunt many people today. The introductory cost is $18 plus shipping, US sales only for now. Limited availability, check the website for details.
  • where posture comes from,
  • how postural defects unfold,
  • what habits affect posture, and
  • which stretches can help correct poor posture! The information is clear, direct, and easy to follow. Click here to find out more info.
Many of you have sent me some great questions, they will be answered in the blog because I think a lot of folks have the same issues and would like to learn more. I will only use initials for names to insure privacy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Side to Side balance

Tim asks:
Through the different stretching excercises, can one access any muscle imbalances ? Would that be one side being tighter than another side ? If both sides seem the same during stretches, could one assume they do not have any muscle imbalances ?

I answered:
If both sides seem the same, one could assume that the muscles are balanced. That said,
I am going to add my opinion that most people on the face of the earth of some sort of muscle imbalance. Why? Well, one reason is handedness. Right handed folks are going to be using different muscles than lefthanded folks. As a result, there are numerous imbalances in musculature due little daily activities that we do automatically (open doors, brush teeth, use the mouse, for example).

One person might always use their right foot to go up stairs. Their right side of the lower body is going to be tighter. Someone else might carry their baby on their left side of the hip, and the left side tightens more. I have a friend who is a righty, carried her kid on her left hip so she could do things around the house with her right hand. It has taken years to undo that imbalance.
So keep at it, and note the differences if any. And if one side is tighter, spend a little more time stretching that side.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

All Body Parts are Related

One of the more frequent questions I get is, "how do I stretch the .......... muscle" fill in the blank.
Sometimes I am at a loss to tell folks what to work on. Let's take the groin muscles, commonly tight in most people. Usually from sitting too much, the back muscles tighten, and to take the load off the lumbar spine, the groin can and will tighten to take some pressure off. (for example, the psoas muscle, which attaches to either side of the lumbar spine, and goes through the pelvis inside the medial aspect of your femur, or thigh bone. When it tightens while you are seated, it takes weight off of the low back.)

When I say tighten, I do not mean "spasm". A spasm is a complete and utterly painful contracture of a muscle. A tightening of the muscle is a low grade tension, maybe barely noticable, that over time shortens the muscle. So when you finally try to stretch, you don't know what you did that made you so tight!!

Do several different stretches, and you may find that your tight groin can be released by doing the cobra!
The above is just an example. Next weekend we are filming the second howtostretch workout DVD, where all these ideas are demonstrated, with workarounds and tips!! It will be posted in the blog. This week, the first DVD goes to the printer, more on that later!