Many of us mountain bikers have had hand pain or will have hand pain. We have changed our grips, had a bike fit, changed our suspension, and many many more things. Those items have been talked about and will continue to change for different bikes and for different riding types. Many of those are very specific to you the individual, your hand size, and your local trails. In this article, I’m going to talk about an area that doesn’t get as much press, but can make a big difference in hand pain as well as for other areas of our bodies, including our back and our necks.
When we think about how we are connected to the bike, we know that is through our hands, feet and sometimes our butt if we are sitting down.
So that makes the connection of the hands and feet to the bike very important as well as how those two connect via the body. As you increase weight through your feet, you lighten up the weight on your hands. Another way of taking pressure off your hands is to be more stable through your trunk and your hips.
What… Pressure can be taken off your hands and held with your trunk and hips?
I want you to think about a deadlift. You are lifting your hands up (typically with weights in them) and holding that load through your hips, trunk, and feet.
Now when we place our butt on the saddle then it takes away the ability to load your hips as much and makes the connection between feet to hands more from butt to hands. This then makes your trunk control/stability more important. Note: you don’t want to take all weight off your feet if your butt is on the saddle.
This main idea/concept of your trunk unloading your hands can help you to decrease the pressure and grip strain needed for biking. Now there are definitely times in biking that you will need to have more pressure through your hands, even sustained at times. However, the ability to unweight your hands and give them a bit of a break when you can, is very important.
So I’m going to give you 3 exercises that work on your strength and control of your hips and trunk to understand how to unweight your hands. Therefore, decreasing the pain in them, or letting them have a break during your ride. Another base exercise for this is a deadlift (good morning) adding in different rotational forces for your trunk to hold against them. Doing staggered stances and only holding the weight with one arm are key to challenge your trunk and hip control. ** Now there are always other reasons for hand pain. This is just a focus on an area that isn’t discussed as much, please seek care from medical professional if pain persists**Exercise 1: Sitting and Unweighting HandsObjective
- To understand the concept of how to unweight hands from a sitting position and not move bodyPerform:
- As needed to understand the control aspect to be able to transfer to bikingThings to Note:
- Don’t move trunk
- You will place more weight through feet, but hold some of the weight through trunk not all through feetExercise 2: Tall Kneeling Hip Hinge Hold Objective
- To understand the concept of how to unweight hands using hips and trunkPerform:
- As needed to understand the control aspect to be able to transfer to biking
- Great warm up for deadlifting
- As needed for core exerciseThings to Note:
- Your back shouldn’t be stressed, if it is, then engage/tighten your core more, or straighten back moreExercise 3: Hip Hinge Hold with Arm ExerciseObjective
- To strengthen trunk, hip, and shoulder muscles with rotational stability for bikingPerform:
- Do 10-15 reps 2-3 setsThings to Note:
- Your back shouldn’t be stressed, if it is, then engage/tighten your core more
- Your Pec shouldn’t be working but actually stretching during exercise
- You will be using your shoulder blade muscles About the Author:
Liz Koch, PT, DPT is a physical therapist that knows exactly what it is like to have pain. She has been to many PTs over her life, which directed her to becoming one. She has been a mountain biker since she was a kid and has recently opened up her own clinic in Western North Carolina, Blue Ridge BioMechanics. She wants to share knowledge so you don’t have to be in pain when riding and you can strengthen your body to not get into pain. She has focused this mission to Rad Mountain Biking Ladies on Facebook and through her online business, The Ride Life. Let her know if you have questions.
*If you have pain please consult with a doctor or physical therapist for further evaluation, Liz Koch and companies are without liability if you injure yourself while performing these exercises*