Ever since that iconic Peloton commercial, I feel like I have heard about stationary cycling and spin class even more so than usual. But whether you like to mount an actual bike and hit the road, or you like going to the gym for a spin class, you may be injuring yourself.
Cycling is one of the most repetitive motion sports/exercises out there. And when you find yourself doing the exact same motion over and over again thousands of times, the smallest problem in form can have a huge overall impact on your body.
Think of knocking on a door. Knock once or twice and it won’t bother your knuckle at all. But knock for an hour or two, and at the least, your knuckles will be very inflamed and bruised.
So, there are a few things to watch for when you mount that bike. Here are my 3 pitfalls to avoid and how to fix them:
1. Overactive Hip Flexors:
There are two ways to pedal when you are sitting on a bike. You can either push one foot down onto the pedal with enough force and it pushes the other leg upward, or you can lift a leg/foot to pull the pedal up and subsequently push the other leg down. Many cyclers have a tendency of overusing their hip flexor and pulling their knee upward. This is overworking your muscles and giving you an uneven leg workout. It is best to use the push method. Active your glute and hamstrings while pushing on the pedal. This force will push your other leg up and you will not need to pull your knee upward with your hip flexor.
If you’re having a hard time activating your hamstring or building that kind of strength in the back of your leg, try our heel slides exercise below.
2. Back Bending:
If you do not have enough hip flexion, you will find that your back has a slight bend every time your knee lifts. It is micromovements like this in your lower back that can cause long term damage. Repetitive bending in your back in this way can lead to disc problems, sciatica, or muscle spasms.
To fix this, you can try our hip hinging exercise. It will teach you to utilize your hips as you are lifting your leg instead of bending at your back. Do your best to keep a neutral spine while cycling!
3. Improper Seat Setup:
There are three main components to setting up your seat. The first is the height. When you stand next to your bike, the seat should align with your hip bone. So either raise or lower your seat accordingly.
The next component is how close your seat should be to the handlebars. To determine the right distance for you, sit on the bike seat and push the pedals so that they are at an even height. This will send one knee forward and the other knee back. Look at your front knee and if you were to draw a straight line to the floor, your knee should track right to the center of your foot. Adjust your seat forward or backward to align your knee with the center of your foot.
Last but not least is the actual position of your body on the seat and pedals. Make sure you are sitting back on your seat so that your sit bones are comfortably on the wider section of the seat. Also, your feet should be placed on the pedals so that the ball of your foot is what is doing the pushing, not your arch.
Viola! Follow three simple tips and you will be cycling at the Tour de France in no time. Ok, maybe not the Tour de France, but give these couple of tricks a try the next time you hop on your bike or go to your favorite spin class and let us know what you thought!
Dr. Joey Luo