A broken posture is having an excessive localized bend in the back. It is somewhat acceptable to have a slight bend in your upper thoracic back, but the lower back should be rock solid to provide a good support for hard pedaling and preventing lower back pain. If you have excessive tightness in the hamstrings it isn’t going to allow you to roll your hips forward to flatten your back. Instead your hips will stay relatively upright and it will force your back to flex at some point to allow you to reach the handlebars. In a lot of cyclists this happens at the lower back resulting in either lower power output, or pain in the lower back. Neither will make you very fast.
Beyond the hamstrings, the other most common shortened muscles in the body are the hip flexors. In
So once you have determined what is tight and needs to be worked on, how do you do it? The first thing I recommend is to get on a foam roller. The sheering force of the roller improves the ability of the muscles to slide over each other and reduces tension within the muscle. Without the adhesions in the layers of muscle and connective tissue you can then go to work on stretching the tissues with either static stretching or PNF stretching (propriecptive neuromuscular facilitation). PNF stretching is a combination of static stretching and isometric contractions that allows the body to avoid the myostatic stretch reflex which will contract a muscle when it is being lengthened. Basically, you start by doing a traditional stretch then you contract the muscle being stretched for around 5 – 6 seconds before relaxing and going deeper into the stretch. I have found the PNF stretching to be much more effective with the hamstrings, and traditional static stretching to more effect for the hip flexors. With all stretching you should feel tension on the tissue being stretched but not intense pain. If you ever feel intense pain or numbness while stretching, STOP!
Here is how I how I would recommend stretching the hamstrings:
- Warm-up the muscles with some light activity (spinning, body weight squats, light running).
- Lie on your back and use a rolled up towel under your foot to raise your leg up (you can also have an awesome friend help and lift your leg up as well)
- Gently pull the towel up till you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings. Stay there for about 10 seconds.
- Then contract your hamstrings for about 5 – 10 seconds, trying to bring your foot back to the floor while holding the towel to prevent it from moving.
- Then relax the leg and use the towel to pull it back to the point where you feel the gentle stretch again.
- Repeat 5+ times until you your gaining more range of motion.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Grab that foam roller I know you have (if you don’t, stop reading now and go get one!) and lie across it so that your sacrum, or upper hips, is contacting the roller.
- Using both arms, pull your left knee to your chest as far as you can.
- At the same time extend the right leg, locking the knee and the pushing the right heel forward. That leg should just be hanging. Hold for 60 – 90 seconds letting the weight of the leg do the stretching.
- At the end of the stretch DO NOT suddenly let go. Slowly release your left leg and lower it till your right heel touches the ground.
- Repeat on the other side.