Non-traumatic cycling injuries can be broken down into two primary categories: injuries caused by asymmetries and weak links in the athlete, and injuries caused by an improper bike fit. Although cycling is a low impact activity, it has very unique flexibility, endurance, and strength/power requirements that vary with the different cycling disciplines. Spine, shoulder, and knee joint mobility is necessary to maintain a cycling position, and soft tissue flexibility in the shoulders, spine, and legs are necessary to perform an efficient pedal stroke.
More commonly overlooked areas important to cyclists include shoulder blade and spinal muscular stability and endurance, which allow the shoulders and pelvis to stay still on the bike while the hip and knee muscles generate force and power. Poor control and endurance of the lumbar and pelvic muscles prevent the powerful leg muscles from efficiently transferring force into the pedals during the pedal stroke. It can also lead to shifting and rotating on the saddle, leading to saddle pain, skin breakdown, and numbness. A lack of scapular and spinal muscular stability can lead to excessive shoulder “hiking” toward the ears, neck pain, headaches, and hand numbness.
Once the foundational components of mobility, flexibility, and muscular stability/endurance have been addressed, strength training is the next step to optimizing cycling performance. We spend time teaching proper weightlifting technique, then progress to high resistance strength training. High resistance strength training has been found to improve the cyclist’s ability to maintain their cadence, improve cycling economy and power on the bike without increasing body mass. Moreover, measurable improvements in strength have been found as early at 3-4 weeks after initiating a specific strength training program.
At One on One Physical Therapy we understand the unique demands that are placed on cyclists, and make sure that the athlete is not only physically prepared to meet those demands, but has an appropriate bike fit. One of our cycling specialists, Chloe Murdock, is also a FIST certified bike fitter at Podium Multisport in Atlanta, GA.