Training Smaller Muscle Groups

Every human body is a beautifully complex vehicle which has a rather significant weakness – its driver! All too often I see an athlete who has been focusing on major muscle groups and completely neglecting the little guys. Training on the bike and working those lovely big quadriceps and getting into the hamstrings and calves is all great but in your off-bike time why work the same muscles? To make them stronger? The reality then is that you are basically upgrading the engine without upgrading the chassis. While more engine is always welcome, you need to put in some work into making sure all that extra power can make it into the pedals. It’s all about mechanical efficiency. If your quads can produce 400 watts of power (peak not FTP) and your hips are dropping or your knees are collapsing inward, your mechanical ability has been compromised and while you will still be able to cycle well, you are looking at a decrease in final power output of up to 30%. Not only that, but lower back involvement and medial forces in the knee joint increase. All this means your new output is 280 watts and cycling has lost its zero impact label for you.
There are tell tail signs that your efficiency is lacking. Cycling is a zero impact sport, besides muscle stiffness after a good session you should not be experiencing any other discomforts; if you are, you may already be in an advanced stage of ‘chassis failure’ and it’s time for some reinforcement.
The good news is there are a few things you can do to get things rolling again. Core stability, hip stability, knee stability and neuromuscular training can give you massive increases in your performance for comparatively little effort. Starting from today, try to include some simple bridging/planking into your routine, just the act of getting into a position which requires you to maintain stability has great benefits to your hip stability which will help keep your lower back in check and limit some of the power loss. As you progress you can then move into plyometrics, but don’t jump the gun! In addition a completely neglected system is the neuromuscular system and the neurological benefits which can be obtained from a few simple exercises are absolutely vast, and and a topic of their own (refer to a previous blog I wrote www.cyclezone.co.za/blog).

If you want to get more specific about the correct techniques and learn some more about your biomechanical efficiency, pop into one of the off-bike classes run from CycleZone. As with the existing Ride Packs you can also buy Conditioning Packs and book online. If specificity is your thing you can also come for a functional movement screening and determine exactly which muscles are strong/weak, long/short.

Andrew Elliot

Andrew Elliot is a Biokineticist with Exercise Solutions specialising in strength & conditioning for cyclists and triathletes.

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