Abi Carver designs yoga routines for mountain bikers looking to eliminate muscular aches and pains, gain an edge in competition and unlock razor sharp mental focus, for next level performance. Her aim is to make yoga more accessible to action sports athletes so that they can do the activities they are passionate about for longer, with less pain and with more skill. Follow her @yoga15app
for more yoga tips and tutorials.
This month, I’ve put together a routine for you to practice at home, designed to loosen up tight hips. Tight hips are the second most common complaint I hear from mountain bikers after low back pain, and the two are closely related. What causes tight hips?Overuse.
The repetitive motion of pedalling overworks your hip flexors, causing them to tighten over time.Weak glutes.
As the hip flexors tighten, the opposing muscles–the glutes–respond by relaxing and deactivating. This process, known as reciprocal inhibition, is designed to protect the activated muscle–the hip flexors in this instance–from tearing. Limited range of motion.
When you’re on the bike, your hip flexors are constantly in the shortened position and never go into full extension. Also, your joints only move in one direction–extension and flexion–there is no lateral or rotational movement. Over time, this restricts mobility at the joints and decreases your range of motion.Frequency.
If you sit at work, while you’re travelling or relaxing at home, this can exacerbate the problem as your hip flexors remain in the shortened position for most of the day.Use it or lose it
|The way physiology works is that it adapts to what you do most frequently, not what you do with the best of intentions. - Katy Bowman, Biomechanist|
Unless you counterbalance your riding with flexibility and mobility training, your range of motion, especially at your hips, will continue to decrease, which will negatively affect your performance.How do tight hips affect your riding?Pain
When the muscles and connective tissue around the hip joints get tight and short, they pull the pelvis out of alignment, causing an anterior pelvic tilt and excessive arch of the lumbar spine. This can cause compression pain in the low back as well as pain further up the spine between the shoulder blades. Tight hips and weak glutes can also cause knee and foot pain, as other muscles, including the IT Band, have to compensate, putting excessive stress on joints, ligaments and tendons down the kinetic chain.Performance
Weak glutes and inadequate hip mobility prevent you from putting maximum force into each pedal stroke and this reduction in power output will massively affect your speed. Also, tight hips restrict your control of the bike, especially on technical downhill sections, as you are not able to transfer your weight as smoothly and efficiently.Benefits of unlocking your hips
– relief from pain at the low back, knees and between the shoulder blades
– increased power through the pedals
– faster speeds
– greater agility on the bike
– improved movement efficiency
– increased stamina and endurance
– more comfortable long rides
– reduced risk of injury
– you’ll feel 10 years younger!15-Minute RoutineList of poses:
– Downward Dog
– One-Legged Downward Dog
– Runners Lunge
– Low Lunge
– Wide-Knee Child’s Pose
– Cross-Legged Forward Folds
– Seated Spinal Twist
– Dead PigeonTiming and Frequency
The timing of your flexibility training is important. It’s not advisable to hold static stretches of this length right before you ride or when your muscles are cold, ie. first thing in the morning, as you increase your risk of injury. This also applies to the Low Back Pain
I recommend you practice one of the flexibility routines every day if you need to or a minimum of once every 2-3 days. You can stretch out after a ride, on your recovery day–if you have warmed up with some dynamic exercises, or in the evening before bed which should also help you sleep.
If you consistently practice flexibility training, you'll start to correct muscular imbalances, reduce your recovery time, eliminate aches and pains, release tension in tight muscles, massively improve your riding performance and generally feel more calm and relaxed. And even if you’re not experiencing pain or stiffness now, be proactive and integrate flexibility training into your program before it’s too late and you start to notice a decline in your performance. Tips
Practicing this routine should not be painful but it may not be all that comfortable at first. If you’re new to yoga, be patient as your muscles may be too tight to get into some of the poses I demonstrate first time through. Stop and start the video as you need to until you feel more confident with the routine. And when you feel tension or resistance in a stretch, deepen your breath and try to relax into it. Bear in mind that for a lot of athletes, flexibility is even harder to develop than strength, so go easy on yourself.
You can download this routine and a more advanced hip opening sequence here
. And if you need more motivation and tips to relieve pain and level up your performance, follow me on Instagram @yoga15abi
Please let me know how you get on in the comments below. And share this article with anyone you think could do with some yoga inspiration.
Previous Yoga with Abi
:15-Minute Yoga Routine To Build Core StrengthShort Yoga Routine To Help With Lower Back Pain in Bikers15-Minute Yoga Routine To Enhance Balance and Agilityl15-Minute Post-Ride Yoga Routine8 Quick Yoga Stretches To Do At Work