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!


Larry said...

Mark, Thanks much for your thoughtful response. It makes sense. I'll start with groin stretches, and update you in a month or so. I'll also continue favoring fixie rides until I limber up. All the best for a full and fast recovery.

howtostretch said...

Keep at it, you will get results. Persistance and determination above all.