Part one and part two of this series outlined exercises to improve posture on the bike and increase leg strength. In this last installment, we'll look at two strategies for keeping you healthy over the long haul.
Trigger point work
The tremendous value of soft tissue work -- in the form of massage, rolfing or any of a host of other modalities -- cannot be ignored. For years, we've spent so much time worrying about soft-tissue length (flexibility) that many of us have ignored soft-tissue quality. If muscles have scar tissue, adhesions or trigger points, they won't function optimally and blood flow will be restricted, shortchanging recovery.
While the soft-tissue work I outlined above is great, having a full-time masseuse isn't a reality for most athletes. Thus, other methods should be considered. I'm a huge fan of the foam roller, which works larger muscles/fascia like the quads, IT band and hamstrings.
However, in certain spots, we want a more focal stress -- that's where a lacrosse ball comes in handy. A lacrosse ball will be pretty uncomfortable at first, so many of you will want to start with a tennis ball.
Infraspinatus/posterior shoulder girdle
The infraspinatus -- one of the rotator cuff muscles -- is a very common trigger-point site that can refer pain to the medial border of the scapula, shoulder, upper arm or neck. Find a "hot spot" with the ball, then guide your arm through internal and external rotation while bearing down on the spot.
In most athletes I've seen with anterior or lateral knee pain, the trigger points are in the gluteus medius area (lateral glute). Likewise, the piriformis (upper glute, just short of the lower back) often gets knotted up in a variety of musculoskeletal dysfunctions. Work on both.
To be honest, I don't think I've met a cyclist with good ankle mobility, largely because of all the restrictions in their calves. You'll want to spend time in three spots: laterally and just below the knee [below left]; medially [center]; and at the Achilles tendon tie-in [right].
Hip abduction training
Cycling is obviously a very linear sport; you always pedal in the same plane of motion (sagittal plane). While single-leg exercises such as lunges and step-ups are great movements to address the muscle imbalances created by cycling, movement within the frontal (side-to-side) plane is also very helpful.
My two favorite movements in this regard are slideboard and X-Band walks. These movements directly target the hip abductions -- most notably the gluteus medius -- that are very important for knee and hip health. As you perform these exercises, you want to focus on pushing the knees out and using your butt muscles to propel you (as opposed to the muscles on the outside of your thighs).
Hopefully, this series opened your eyes to just how closely related health and performance are. If you teach your body to move efficiently, you'll be rewarded with a body that stays healthy and performs at a high-level now and in the years to come.