EPIC Mountain bike strength

Posted by Ignatius on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 Under: Performance products

Almost everyone has seen this scene on a early Saturday or Sunday morning in South-Africa, 2 or 4 guys and girls that look like they may have the physiques of office workers fully kitted out on their mountain bikes riding along the side of the road. Every so often you do see guys that look like the typical “skinny” mountain biker as apposed to a typical accountant or IT specialist. This is the very popular sport / recreation activity that is Mountain biking.


It has grown in leaps and bounds and your average Joe has high tech equipment like GPS tracking combined with a heart rate monitor that is linked to a online website that keeps track of every move they make. Some of these guys track more info on themselves than a lot of professional sports people do. They calculate their calories according to the internal cost (Heart rate) of their sessions and monitor weekly, monthly and yearly mileage, how much they climbed in altitude and energy used. They also buy the best gear money can buy and I am not just talking about the bikes that can be in excess of R100’000, also the cycling shorts helmets, camel backs, glasses, power meters, supplements and you name it, and perhaps who knows some may even use the “Armstrong” method and have a medical specialist on retainer ;-)


Looking at all of the above and then looking at the “average” mountain bike enthusiast, it made me think about a few things:

1.    Why spend R100’000 rand on a bike that is maybe 2-3kg’s lighter when you are 20kg’s overweight?

2.    Why track your distance and energy expenditure if you are eating and drinking too much?

3.    Why spend more money on cycling shorts because you are 20kg’s overweight?

4.    Why buy supplements especially energy drinks if you have an unlimited energy reserve from being 20kg overweight?

Now I also assume that if you do mountain biking as your chosen recreation activity that you want to enjoy it and perhaps using all these gadgets is fun for you so you don’t mind spending the money. But I am also assuming you would like to enjoy a good quality of life?

So now I hear you say that even if you are 20kg overweight at least you have a good cardiovascular fitness because you check your heart rate and the time and distance on the bike via your gadgets, so this in turn lowers your risk for cardiovascular heart disease...

This may be true but being overweight even if you do have a good cardiovascular fitness is still higher risk factor for diabetes hip and knee replacements later in life as well as other related problems.

So let’s say your work requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, this puts your body in poor postural position already and it doesn’t matter if you have the latest ERGO-Mac-Blaster chair. I am willing to bet my lunch money on the fact that 9 out of 10 people sit with poor posture of some sort in their work environment.


So you finish work and you go home put on your latest “star trek” bike gear and you cycle with your tjommies (mates) for 2 hours or 1 hour on your mountain bike or perhaps today is your spinning class. Then you go home eat Kentucky or perhaps a healthy low fat chicken & vegetable stir-fry and basmati rice, then also you sit / slouch in front of the TV (worse posture ever!) or perhaps you sit at the table with your family.

Now if you take the scenario above what is the ONE thing that happens almost consistently with regards to your body posture? In not one of the activities that you do, do you open your hips up. Let’s say you sit with perfect posture and your bike set up was done by the world’s foremost expert at the “Lucerne Gestalt Radfahren Anstalt” (Loosely translated = Lucerne Gestalt Cycling Institution, which in case you are wondering is not a real place)

The position you are spending a lot of time in is still one that is where you are bent at the hips. Now I hear you say “SO F****** WHAT!?”

What this will do is cause tight hip flexors and glutes that don’t activate and spinal stiffness among other things.


Now I still hear you say “SO F****** WHAT!?” If you as a weekend MTB warrior with thousands of rands of gadgets have done your homework you would know, that the ideal muscle mechanics for cycling is not just pushing down on the pedal like a postal worker. It is a combination of:

-Pushing with the quads (front thigh)

-Pulling back with the hamstrings (Back of leg muscles )

- Pushing your toes down at the bottom with the gastrocnemius (one of the calve muscles) to pull the pedal back which is called ankling

- Pulling up with hip flexors like the rectus femorus & iliopsoas ( Musles in front of the leg and hips )

All of the above mechanics will be compromised if your glutes (Buttocks) don’t activate seeing as all of the pedal power is initiated form there and wit will also cause your hamstrings to over compensate. Tight hip flexors are also usually prone to cause lower back pain and they also tend to not be strong for the pulling action.

When it comes to quality of life lower back pain and a hip replacement can be a bummer i would say. And I am not even going to go into what this can do for the head & shoulder posture and neck pain.

To counter act this I would suggest the following:

1.    Strengthen the glute muscles and check if they activate

2.    Stretch the hip flexors and also some strengthening on them but make sure stretching is the 1st priority.

3.    Stretching the quads and hamstrings as they do a lot of work.

The three things above is just the absolute minimum

If your glutes activate and are stronger all the rest of the mechanics will be more efficient, in other words the same effort will give you more bang for your buck and better quality of life!

Then weigh up the cost to benefit of spending money on your body instead of the next gadget seeing as your body is the machine! You can do this by starting a well laid out strength training program to improve overall strength and posture.

Once your body is in a good place with regards to posture and all the right muscles activate and right amount of flexibility in the right places you can keep it up by maintaining or pushing for more performance.

In : Performance products 

Tags: mtb "mountain bike" glutes 
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