Your Body on a Mountain Bike

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Mountain biking: more than just legs
Mountain biking: More than just legs!

Get ready for the adventure of your body on a mountain bike. It’s time to hit the trails—enjoy the great outdoors, fresh air, trees, and dirt. Sounds fun huh?!

If you are an avid, average or a beginning cyclist, Yoga Tune Up® practices might be the way to take your cycling to another, higher level. Strength, neuromuscular education, and body balance, along with YTU Therapy Balls will help you feel more confident, relaxed in the saddle, hone your ability to stay focused on rough terrain, support you with inclines and declines, thereby improving every phase of your riding.

This is what you’ll need besides your bike, helmet, and water—a whole lot of your body!  So you don’t leave out anything essential here’s your packing list of specific areas to train for cycling enjoyment.

It is a misconception that the leg muscles are the main essential contributors and the most significant in your mechanics of riding. There is so much more because descents, ascents, and rugged terrain, all use different muscles.

Starting with your feet, since you apply force through your feet with each pedal stroke poor placement, for example pronation or supination, will travel up through the entire kinetic chain, causing stress or discomfort in the knees and hips.

Ankle and foot mobility is needed to balance the rest of your body on a bike
Ankle and foot mobility is needed to balance the rest of your body on a bike.

And yes the legs are super important and a necessary part of your whole experience. Once you are conscious of proper foot stroke placement, notice the knees, and maintain proper alignment over the centers of your feet, not rolling in toward your bike frame or bowing out beyond your pinky toes.  Move on up to the thighs,  quadriceps get tighter as they get stronger,  the rectus femoris functions to both flex your hip and extend the knee, whereas the vastus medialis assists straightening your knee in the down stroke. Gluteus maximus is used extensively when lifting and lowering our thighs, the semi tendinosis (a hamstring) works in conjunction to flex your knee, all these are major players in the pumping actions producing the pedal revolution.

The psoas works extensively as hip flexion is the majority of your cycling stance. Even when having a properly fitted bike your leg will never go into a full extension. At bottom range both your knee and hip maintain a slight degree of flexion. If you are a regular rider and have not had a professional fit your bike to your body dimensions, do it. This aspect is so very important for your pleasure and safety.

We’re getting to the good stuff! One of the most important aspects to incorporate in your cycling training program is core strength. The rectus is heavily used going uphill, both internal and external oblique muscles, transversus, quadratus lumborum, and paraspinals, help as you pull on the handle bars, and contract to incorporate as much axial strength possible inching your way along, maybe you will stand up and these very muscles become what will keep you safe while pedaling elevated, out of the saddle, stabilizing you and adding to success while maneuvering up hills, around rocks and maintaining a calm confidence in tricky territory.

Your very core, the diaphragm is the essential muscle facilitating proper breathing. Another place where I notice riders go unconscious is in the breath, they’re breathing, and will defiantly say they are breathing fully, but the posture that riders often default to (especially road riders) is spinal flexion. Shoulders become rounded forward, straining upper and middle thoracic spine. Thus leaving a limited space to be available for fullest diaphragmatic extension and contraction.

Give your diaphragm and ribs room to expand for better breathing on your bike
Give your diaphragm and ribs room to expand, and breathe better on your bike.

Also note, when you round your spine forward, the back edges of the vertebrae move apart, the front edges toward one another, and the disc gets wedged in the posterior direction.  This can be a potential problem if the discs begin to bulge into this space, because right behind the back of the vertebrae runs a very important and sensitive structure: your spinal cord.  That’s right, all the bundled nerves that pass between your brain and the rest of your body, in this case your lower body, pass down just behind the discs. So besides limiting the amount of space you have to fully inflate your lungs, doesn’t it make sense that with a rounded spine you’d be cutting off some of the potential energy production available for the legs?

Another important note is BALANCE!—body English, your ability to adapt to changing terrain, and surfaces. Rocks, mud, dust, roots, hills, narrow trails, and drop offs, and even other riders (though they may be few).

Stay tuned for my next post (coming in a couple of weeks), further exploring the anatomy we discussed with a practice that will help us strengthen and mobilize for our next ride.

Liked this article? Read Therapy Balls in Motorsports

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