The Core of the Matter pt 2:
In the previous Fitness Friday article, core training was addressed and we looked at the midsection of the core (deep abdominals like the transverse abdominus and the more superficial muscles of the obliques). In this article we are going to address the hip muscles that contribute to core stabilisation as well as exercises that train them.
Hip stabilisation during cycling is not as important to overall training as the muscles involved aren’t really required, because we are elevated off the ground when sitting on our bike. The main hip stabiliser muscle, Glute Medius, fires when we are in single leg standing/motion e.g jogging. The muscle’s main function is to keep the pelvis level/aligned during our gait. Improper firing of these muscles would encourage a drop in hip level creating an unstable platform for our legs to work from. Very often, knee related injuries such as ITB and runners knee stem from weak a Glute Medius. As we can see, the hip stabilisers are vital during running (single leg stability) sports but their importance during cycling won’t be seen as essential. However, this does not mean we should neglect them and avoid training them. Strength training exercises can be tailored to include activating the hip stabiliser so that they are trained indirectly and not as the primary muscle. For example, a conventional squat movement can be modified into a single leg squat which will include the hip stabilisers. So not only are we training our quad and glute muscles which are pivotal in cycling performance, we can recruit the Glute Medius muscle as well as challenging our nervous system to a greater extent as single leg training is far more taxing then standard double leg movements. This is what we call a “bang for our buck” exercise!
The other hip stabilising muscles which have more involvement during our pedal stroke are the adductor muscles (inner thigh/groin). These muscles’ main function is to bring the upper limb (thigh) back to the centre once it has been moved away from the midline of the body E.g. When doing a jumping jacks/star jumps; you bring your legs back to the middle. Additionally the adductor muscles assist in hip extension which occurs during the downward stroke (push) of cycling. So not only do they assist in pedal performance but they also contribute to hip stabilisation, thus they need to be incorporated into your training regime. The adductor muscles will also be trained during the single leg squat but another exercise you can use is the lateral lunge. Not only will it target the adductor muscles but the quads and glutes are also involved when performed correctly.
In both pictures, the demonstrator gets their thigh as close to parallel to the floor so as to optimize the full range of motion of the joint and muscles surrounding it. This end position is very similar to top of your pedal stroke before you start to push down. Therefore to ensure your strength exercises have maximum carry over to your cycling, go through the full range of motion. Partial squats or half squats will only give you half performance on race day.
|Single Leg Squat|
Perform each exercise twice a week at 3-4 sets x 15-20 reps per leg. Start with just body weight and ensure correct technique (neutral posture, avoid too much knee over toes and keep a strong chest). Once that becomes too easy, begin to add weight to ensure progression and prevent muscle staleness.