Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Definitions of Scientific Terms

  1. Flexion: includes anteriorly directed sagittal plane rotations of the head, trunk, upper arm, forearm, hand and hip, and posteriorly directed sagittal plane rotation of the lower leg.
  2. Posteriorly: toward the back of the body
  3. Contract: Result of a muscle's characteristic of irritability, extensibility and elasticity. When a muscle contracts it receives stimuls and responds by developing tension, thereby shortening in length.
  4. Gluteus maximus: One of the muscles comprising the hip extensors, it is a massive, powerful muscle that is usually active only when the hip is in flexion, as during stair climbing or cyclying, or when extension at the hip is resisted.
  5. Hip Flexors: A group of muscles crossing at the hip to contribute to its stability. Hip flexors include the gluteus maximus and the three hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus).
  6. Depress: movement of shoulder girdle in an inferior direction.
  7. Scapula: One of two bones comprising the shoulder girdle. It is a flat bone that provides attachment for muscles and ligaments. 
  8. Dorsiflex: motion bringing the top of the foot toward the lower leg.
  9. Motor unit: A single motor neuron and all the fibers it innervates.
  10. Quadriceps: The quadricep muscles consist of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius. The are the extensors of the knee. The recus femoris is the only one that croses the hip joint as well. All four muscles attach distally to the patellar tendon, which inserts on the tibia.
  11. Hamstrings: The hamstrings include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. They derive their name from their prominent tendonds, which can readily be palpated on teh posterior aspect of the knee. These two-joint muscles contribute to both extension at the hip and flexion at teh knee, and are active during standing, walking and running.
  12. Force: a push or pull acting on a body. Each force is characterized by its magnitude, direction, and point of application to a given body. Force equals units of mass multipled by units of acceleration and is measured in Newtons or pounds.
  13. Posterior thoracic and lumbar region muscle groups: The massive erector spinae (sacrospinalis), the semispinalis, and the deep spinal muscles. The erector spinae group  includes the spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis muscles. The semispinalis includes the capitis, cervicis, and thoracis branches. The deep spinal muscles are the multifidi, rotatores, interspinales, intertransversarii, and levatores costarum. The muscles of the erector spinae group are the major extensors and hyperextensors of the trunk. All posterior trunk muscles contribute to extension and hyperextension when contracting bilaterally and to lateral flexion when contracting unilaterally.
  14. Abdominal muscles: The main abdominal muscles are the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, and the internal obliques. Functioning bilaterally, these muscles are the major spinal flexors and also reduce anterior pelvic tilt.
  15. Flexibility (joint): A term representing the relative ranges of motion allowed at a joint.
  16. Prone: applied to body position when lying horizontally, face down.
  17. Pubic bone: part of the bony structure of the hip; the forwardmost of the three bones that fuse together to form each of the hipbones.
  18. Shoulder muscles: The shoulder muscles include the levator scapula, rhomboids, serratus anterior, pectoralis minor and sublavius and the four parts of the trapezius. One of the functions of these muscles is to facilitate movements of the upper extremity by positioning the glenohumeral joint appropriately. Addtionaly shoulder muscles include: the deltoid (anterior, middle, posterior), pectoralis major (clavicular, sternal), supraspinatus, coracobrachialis, latissimus dorsi,  teres major, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, biceps brachii (long head, short head), and triceps brachii (long head).
  19. Radioulnar joint: A pivot joint made up 3 joints: the proximal and distal radioulnar joints and the middle radioulnar joint. Pronation of the forearm occcurs as the radius rolls medially and laterally over the ulna.
  20. Anterior: Toward the front of the body.
  21. Pelvic girdle: The two hip bones plus the sacrum, which can be rotated forward, backward, and laterally to optimize positioning of the hip.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quad Stretch

The benefits of incorporating flexibility training into your spinning plan are immeasurable. Stretching reduces muscle soreness, tension, risk of injury and contributes to overall good health. It is important to always stretch slowly, to the point where you feel mild discomfort. To experience maximum benefits, hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds and breathe deeply through your nose. Avoid bouncing, which can lead to injury. Most importantly, always stretch off the bike! Stretching should be incorporated after every ride!

To stretch your quadriceps which are heavily used in spinning:
1.  Hold onto the bike with one hand, using the bike for balance.
2.  Grasp the top of your foot or ankle with your free hand and bring your heel close to the buttocks. Be sure to keep your knees parallel. Do not pull on your foot/ankle.
3.  As you exhale, contract your abdominals and slightly contract your hip flexors.
4.  To increase the stretch, anteriorly tilt your pelvic girdle.
5.  Hold the stretch and breathe. Switch legs after 30-60 seconds.

"Swimming" Exercise

Spinning students and cyclists can spend extended periods of time with their torsos flexed over the bike. Therefore, strong posterior thoracic and lumbar region muscle groups as well as powerful abdominal muscles are a must for these groups. The swimming exercise strengthens the back, gluteus maximus and hamstrings while lengthening the hip flexors, quadriceps and chest. This exercise can be performed 2-3 times per week along with other core strengthening and flexibility exercises.
To perform the exercise correctly:
1.     Lie prone on the floor and press your pubic bone into the mat.
2.     Pronate radioulnar joint 90 degrees and extend your arms 180 degrees with thumbs pointing toward the ceiling. Depress shoulders (Draw your shoulders down away from your ears).
3.     Inhale as you contract your back extensors and gluteus maximus, lifting your arms, upper body and legs from the mat while keeping your pubic bone against the mat. Hold this position for one complete breath.
4.     Contract your left posterior shoulder muscles and extend your right hip flexors and then switch to the right posterior shoulder muscles and left hip flexors. Continue alternating sides, inhale and exhaling as you do.
5.     Aim for 3–5 repetitions on each side.
Modification: Beginners can keep their heads on the mat, lifting only the opposite arm and leg.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Single Leg Drill

At least once a week, it is important to devote some time to improving pedaling efficiency and skill. When pedaling with both legs, the leg that pulls the foot through the bottom of the stroke, up the back and over the top, gets lazy because the opposite leg is pushing the pedal down, a much more powerful and natural action than pulling the pedal up! If the “lazy” leg does not help bring the pedal up and over the top, it is simply dead weight and increases the resistance your muscles must overcome to move the bike down the road. Learning to complete a 360-degree circle with each leg creates a better, more efficient rider. The key 'feeling' a rider wants during the pedal stroke is a constant pressure on the pedal at all times during the entire circle.

An excellent drill for this purpose is the Single Leg Drill. This exercise helps to refine pedal stroke and promote pedaling efficiency, coordination, and strength. Additional benefits of this drill include: improving ability to sustain a higher overall cadence during rides at a race 'goal speed/pace;' learning how to feel and reference all aspects of the pedal stroke (to more effectively vary  motor unit (muscle) recruitment, specifically the quadriceps and hamstrings, and spread out the workload); improving neuromuscular coordination and strength which eventually will turn into greater power production and efficiency at 'goal speed;' and, learning to 'float' a leg, e.g. shutting one leg off while pedaling so that it can rest, a valuable skill that can be employed in racing situations.

Please note: Although not portrayed in this video, you should ALWAYS include a thorough warm up period prior to beginning this drill. A proper warm up ensures that you will reduce the likelihood of injury while also increasing the potential benefits.

How to Properly Perform the Single Leg Drill

(NOTE: For video purposes, I have unclipped my left leg from the pedal to illustrate engaging only the right leg. During a spinning class, students are instructed to simply let the left leg go “dead” and work only the right leg.  This effort would not be visible on video. Another option, although not feasible in a gym due to space limitations, is to set a chair next to the bike and rest the non-working leg on the chair. This option, does not allow for easy transition between legs.)

After warming up for 10 to 15 minutes, alternate 30 seconds of spinning with your right leg only, 30 seconds of spinning with your left leg only, and one minute with both legs. This is not an aerobic workout, so riders should not focus on elevating heart rate into some particular training zone. Instead, focus should be placed on creating smooth circles with each leg.

When riders first start doing this drill, many find a “dead spot” at the top of the pedal stroke, where the foot seems to stall-out. By practicing this drill, the stall can be eliminated. Riders should slowly work their way up to doing around 10 minutes of Single Leg Drill per leg per training session.

For those new to this drill, gearing and volume should build slowly. It is best to start with an easy gear (for neuromuscular development) and then progress to a very big gear for force development. Riders should start with short repetitions of 30sec and build up to 2-5 minutes per leg. Cadence should also vary. As a general rule, keep cadence below that point when your stroke begins to 'break up.' That cadence is typically around 90rpm and can be calculated by checking cadence for 15 seconds and multiplying by 4. To check cadence, hold hand over one knee and count how many times in a 15 second time period the knee hits the hand; a count of 22-23 is optimal. To avoid constantly hitting dead spots, a rider can slow to a lower cadence and then increase over time he improves.