The following is an article provided by HumanLab Sports Ltd. They are a company of sports specialists and scientists who have addressed the biomechanical problems experienced by top sports people, including cyclists. The solution is a Diagnostic CD that runs you through several computer generated and animated 'moves' to ascertain your range of movement and the possible causes of discomfort in your back. The result is a set of exercises designed to build up to strength work rather than plunge you into the deep end of stretching and core strength exercises. It's very clever and simple to use, here's the background story from the developers at HumanLab Sports.
The HumanLab Sports Cycling Program has been designed by experts to help you improve your cycling performance and help you improve your power from Top Dead Centre (TDC), reduce unwanted movement in the saddle and reduce the risk of injury. The programme achieves this by using advanced assessment and training techniques to help improve your flexibility, muscle performance and joint stability. Make no mistake, although these principles are used to help elite cyclists, this program takes a very simple form and is easy to follow. You just have to install it and follow the onscreen prompts to turn your cycling around.
Have you ever wondered how the elite cyclists can ride so smoothly and effortlessly, while still generating the power to cover the ground very quickly?
Clearly their technique is better than ours and we know that it’s important to see a qualified coach to ensure that you’re working on the right technique for your personal cycling peculiarities. Often though your technique is compromised by poor biomechanics, which includes lack of flexibility and inadequate strength, often from inadequacies that you don’t know that you have and your coach is not qualified or able to identify or help. Cyclists are often left thinking: “I understand what I’m being told to do, but my body just won’t do it".
For example, one top coach talked to us about an Olympic cyclist who had an abnormal knee rotation pattern just after TDC. Not only was this causing knee pain, but also it was very inefficient when turning on the power. He had tried to coach the problem out of the cyclist with little success. Once his biomechanics had been checked, it became apparent that the leg was 1cm longer. This caused the body to want to compensate and shorten the leg, which is the body’s natural thing to want to do to take the load off the pelvis and spine.
Unfortunately because the distance between the hip and ankle are fixed within the confines of the crank shaft length while cycling, the only way of compensating for this is at the knee and by laterally moving the hip. This is what was causing the abnormal knee movement. The assessment established that this was due to a pelvic rotation and that certain exercises would help eradicate the problem. Three weeks later the length discrepancy was no longer apparent and the knee pain reducing as well as the coach being happier with the look of the knee drive from TDC.
The mechanical problems that can interfere with the mechanics of your cycling technique include – one leg being longer than the other, tight nerves in your legs, poor ‘core’ (abdominal) muscle control, poor flexibility, inflexible pelvis and incorrect positioning of the pelvis. These mechanical issues can not only compromise the way you ride, as you have to compensate for them, they can also set you up for injuries in the structures that are compensating.
So although technique is important, you have to have the right tools to ensure you can perform the tasks the coach is recommending. In sports so far it has been left more to luck than knowledge, but as technology improves, so we can offer cyclists more information than ever before to improve their technique by providing their body’s with the building blocks for the correct movements. In addition to improving your ability to perform the correct mechanics to cycle, improving your mechanics will help prevent (and in some cases cure) injury. The very mechanical problems that you can have with your pelvis and spine which compromise the way you ride, will also cause problems with the joints and muscles that compensate.
People often say, “Why can I ride smoothly and without ‘niggles’ or stiffness one day and the very next day, I can’t?" The reason invariably is because you have a series of compensations for mechanical issues that exist, and your body and brain adapts to those compensations – in other words it learns how to move with them. Then something happens to change either the problem, or the compensation and the body and brain then have to learn a completely different way of moving to deal with the change, and that takes time to learn. For example, if one group of joints in your spine are stiff and tight, you typically get compensations in the opposite side of your pelvis and the opposite shoulder. Then you cycle with your body having adapted to these set of conditions.
Over night you may sleep awkwardly, perhaps your pillow is not positioned correctly, and you can wake up with a different set of conditions for your body to compensate for. Sometimes you can be aware of some more extreme stiffness in the mornings, but more often they are imperceptible and your body adjusts without you even knowing. But although this adjustment is immediate, it usually takes the body and brain some time to adapt. If you ride before you’ve fully adapted, then the easy, niggle-free’ ride that applied yesterday, will no longer apply today.
The system that has been developed for HumanLab Sports accounts for and helps with all these issues, and it comes in a very simple CD format that you install on to your computer.
RoadcyclingUK.com are testing the programme and early reports are very positive. There is also a stretching CD available with animated stretches to show you how to get the most from a stretching routine... We'll let you know how we get on.
The full CD costs £28.99 and the stretching one is £13.99
Both of these CDs are available direct from their website www.humanlabsports.com