The Gluteals and Cycling – By Lucas Owen – Part One
Lucas Owen discusses how the gluteus maximus and quadriceps muscles are important in cycling and provides some exercises to ensure that they are activated and strengthen to give you the maximum amount of power on the bike.
During cycling the gluteus maximus and quadriceps muscles are the largest contributors to power production. As the intensity of effort increases, the gluteus maximus contributes an increasing proportion of the power compared to the quadriceps.
However, as described in a previous article, tightness or adaptive shortening of the hip flexors can result in weakening or inhibition of the hip extensors, especially gluteus maximus.
The most common indicators of hip extensor weakness or inhibition are:
- The gluteus maximus contracts after the hamstrings when attempting to raise the leg whilst lying face-down (see images below)
- The quadriceps become heavily fatigued before any of the other leg muscles during cycling, especially during high intensity efforts or when cycling uphill
- The hamstrings and adductor (inner thigh) muscles become prone to cramping during sustained high intensity cycling
Once the inhibitory influence of tight hip flexors has been addressed, the gluteus maximus can be reactivated with the following exercise:
Fig 1. It is essential to initiate an isolated contraction of the gluteus maximus before lifting the leg placing one of your hands on the buttock region can help you to feel the muscle activating.
Fig 2. Maintain a strong contraction of the gluteus maximus as you raise the thigh slightly, but keep the front of the pelvis in contact with the ground.
Fig 3. A progression of this exercise is to raise the thigh with the knee bent, and to then straighten the knee before lowering the leg, again ensuring that gluteus maximus remains strongly activated at all times.
Be aware that most people with weak or inhibited hip extensors will have one side that is more difficult to reactivate, but it is important to always strengthen both sides. Once you have mastered this reactivation exercise, you can then progress to more pure strengthening exercises such as half-squats, lunges or leg press.