Pain or tightness in the upper thigh near the groin is a common ailment among cyclists. Muscle cramps in this location are fairly common too, and it's a sign that your adductor muscles are working too hard.
This is often caused because the glutes, hamstrings and quads aren't firing as well as they should be, which puts a strain on the smaller adductor muscles. By activating these larger muscles first, you'll alleviate the workload of the adductors, which will relax the muscles and reduce cramping.
Use this three-step guide to relax your adductors and activate the large muscle groups in your legs before you ride.
Myofascial release is a type of therapy used to relaxed contracted muscles and improve circulation. A lot of athletes use a foam roller to work on soft tissue muscles, but the adductors are difficult to access with a foam roller. Instead, use a tennis ball.
Lay face down and support your body weight with your arms. Bend one leg (focus on the leg that usually cramps) to a 90-degree angle. Place the tennis ball under the area that cramps. Apply gentle pressure on the area. Rock back-and-forth for 10 to 15 repetitions. Move the ball to the next area of pain and repeat the rocking motion. Instead of trying to roll out your entire adductor complex, focus on the three areas that present the most pain.
Once you've completed your myofascial release, you'll need to get the gluteal muscles working properly. One of my favorite glute activation exercises is the standing scissor stance.
Stand with your right foot six inches in front of your left and your feet at hip-distance apart. Without moving your feet, isometrically pull your left foot back as if you were scraping mud from your shoe. Focus on squeezing your left glute. Hold the squeeze for six seconds, release for six seconds, then squeeze again. Complete six repetitions. Switch the position of your feet and repeat.
Dynamic Warm-up Exercises
Now that your glutes are activated, it's time for a dynamic warm-up movement. A basic hip extension is an easy way to get your legs fired up before a ride.
Place your hands on the back of a chair or table for balance. Come up onto your left toes, then bring your right knee forward to a 90-degree angle. Gently swing your right foot back behind your body while squeezing your right glute. Don't let your lower back hyperextend. Stop the movement when your right foot is one foot off the floor behind your body. Repeat this gentle "donkey kick" motion 10 to 15 times with the right leg. Switch and do another 10 to 15 repetitions with your left leg.
Repeating this pre-workout routine before each ride will help reduce those nagging adductor cramps within a few weeks.
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