Small Muscles, Big Problems
by Max Martin
With spring quickly approaching mentalities are transitioning from thinking about fresh snow to warm days filled with outdoor adventures. This means Jacksonites are starting to get their bikes tuned up and planning routes they want to run for the dry season. However, as exciting as it is to change sports there are some important things I feel obligated to remind you about.
Running and biking are both very tough on the body. The movement of running is essentially a consistent heavy impact to the joints in the knee and compressive forces moving through the entire body. Biking does not have the same impact on the joints; however, maintain the same stagnant posture through long rides can be tough on the back and not to mention how much overtraining can occur the anterior muscles of the body. Now don’t get me wrong I’m just as excited to rip down some dirt on my bike or run through the peaks and valleys, but there are some steps to take before running or biking cold turkey. The first thing is to acknowledge the muscles that are engaged during sports, starting with running.
Running requires constant pushing, pulling, bending, and extending of the knees and hips. This means that the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors, however possibly the most important muscle group involved are the gluteals. The group is composed of Gluteus Maximus, Minimus, and Medius all found around your butt/hip area. This muscle group is key for your hips to extended and control any rotation from the hip joint. Generally, the gluteus maximus will be trained from natural movements however; the smaller minimus and medius muscles need specific attention. Without trained minimus and medius, there are several adaptations that can occur.
- The thigh is excessively pulled toward the body’s midline and internally rotated
- The knee is placed into valgus positions
- The lower leg bone (tibia) becomes internally rotated compared to the foot
- There are increases in weight transfer to the inside of the foot
These problems result in what is called the Trendelenburg Sign. This is when the pelvis tilts to the side of the leg that is be lifted because the opposite gluteus minimus/medius is not able to keep the pelvis level. This can cause serious damage and overload the lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint (SI joint), and to the knee and hip. In other words, things that you really don’t want to get hurt.
The abdominals play a huge role in running as well. The rectus abdominus (middle abs) and external oblique (side abs) stay contracted the entire time while running to support and stabilize your torso while running. This allows your torso to be held upright and remain balanced while running. Having a trained core allows runners to more economical by being more compact with each step and eliminates any unnecessary stabilization. Having abdominal strength is also critical for biking.
Similar to running, a trained midsection allows for more efficient movements on the bike. When one has a weak core they have a tendency to sway on the bike increasing the need for unnecessary stabilization. These compensations can result in injury to the hips and groin along with developing overuse patterns in the hamstrings and quadriceps. This leads to several health problems.
- Excessive flexion in the lower spine, which can then cause pinched nerves or sciatica.
- Patellar Tendonitis can occur from the quadriceps having to compensate for weak gluteals and abdominals.
- Neck pain can arise from having a tight grip on the handlebar to compensate for a lack of balance on the bicycle.
That being said, these injuries are all things that are easily avoidable with the appropriate training. It is worth the time in the down season to train the neglected muscles that take a beating during running and bike season. If the right training is done, the season will be long and you won’t have to worry about how your back feels after a long ride or take it easy on those long-distance runs. In short, your movements while biking or running will be more efficient and will be ready for the next adventure.