Monday, April 7, 2008

Contraindications Part II

Partial list of Contraindicated movements on an indoor bicycle, regardless of model of bike or philosophy of program. Part II

Upper body movements (side-to-side, 4-corners, figure-8's, "cornering", push-ups, etc). I'll start this one with a story. One of the impetuses (impeti??) for writing the Contraindications workshop came about 7 years ago after I had some students in my class ask why I didn't do a certain movement. My club is attached to a very nice destination hotel in the ski area of Vail, Colorado (voted one of the top 5 hotel clubs in the country by Men's Health magazine) so we get a lot of hotel guests who come to take a Spin class, especially in ski season. (Mind you, we're at 8,100 feet, and they're often coming from sea level...).

This couple showed up for class from California (Dana Point). They were what I call "gym fit". Maybe they were bored with my class, but part way through she commented, "Our instructor makes us do 4-Corners."

Boggled, I asked, "What's 4-Corners??"

She then proceeded to do some sort of gyration on the bike, moving her shoulders from the upper left corner of the handlebars, to the upper-right, to lower-right, lower-left, and back to upper-left, counting to the beat of the music, "1-2-3-4." She was standing throughout this movement, and her hips traveled from way back behind the saddle to almost the the handlebars. I almost fell off my bike. I think I mumbled something like, "uh, I don't want to hurt my back, that's why I don't do that."

She then said they had "advanced" classes where you "take the seat away"... Again, I almost died. I was tempted to challenge her to a real ride on a read road bike and have her ride with no seat....but I wisely bit my tongue. I'll deal with that movement in part 3!

So, about those "Four Corners". My legs are going round and round 70-80-90 even 100 times per minute in a fixed fashion (i.e. attached to the pedals), and you're asking me to twist or turn my upper body, counter to the movement of my legs? There is such a high risk of injuries to the low back, not to mention other body parts, better have your chiropractor's number handy if you plan on doing this move. Same for instructors who pretend to turn a corner by having you quickly lean waaaay out to the side or put both hands on one side and pull. These instructors might argue that it takes skill to learn to do these movements "correctly", and I will argue that there's no correct way to do these while riding a bike, even one that isn't moving. I guess you can also say that it takes some sort of "skill" to do some of those things you see on those "Darwin awards" emails that are passed around, but not a skill many of us would want to master! Benefit of this kind of stuff? Zippo.

Let's talk about pushups while riding; is there any kind of benefit? If you've ever done them on the floor you know that to improve your strength, you need resistance - your body weight against gravity. But doing them on a handlebar just doesn't cut it, there's no resistance. The injury risk is fairly minimal (unless you get into a trance from the music and slam your teeth into the handlebars...) but more than anything, it looks silly and they distract you from what you're supposed to be doing: pedaling efficiently. Imagine doing these outside, betcha wouldn't do them for long.

"Popcorn" jumps: These are very fast jumps, and it's a silly movement. There is no point, no benefit, and a very high risk. They hurt, but people blindly follow. They hinder a good pedal stroke, they risk the knees, back, hips and shoulders. To do them properly, you need enough time to sit all the way down in the saddle every time and come all the way to the correct standing position (the same position as a standing flat); when you jump too quickly, you never quite hit each point. Another similar technique that can cause injuries is when instructors say "don't sit completely in the saddle on the way down." This causes you to decelerate using your back muscles - ouch! Popcorn jumps also can raise the intensity to out of control levels for newer or de-conditioned students, as there is little way to control what you're doing. If your goal is to raise the intensity into anaerobic zones with your jumps, then add a little more resistance, or do the kind of jumps we call "acceleration" jumps, where your leg speed increases for a second or two when you stand up, and then subsides a little when you sit down. These are tough, and can raise the intensity without resorting to jumping too quickly. I guarantee you'll want them to end soon, but not because you're risking injury, but because your legs are burning and your HR!

Proper jumps shouldn't be any faster than about 2 seconds up, and 2 seconds down. It's fine to use the beat of the music to assist in the timing of your jumps, but if it's a very fast song, then just do the jumps on half-time (every-other beat).

Holding your abs in: Cyclists need to breathe, and you should be breathing from the abdomen. Holding the abs tight in the name of "core conditioning" hinders breathing, and hence, 02 transport. It's possible to maintain your core without sucking in the abs. Tour de France cyclists learn to breathe with extended bellies - so should we if we want increase oxygenation!

On that note, however, cyclists do need lots of off-the-bike core training because riding a bike doesn't help us much there. Just don't try to do it on the bike.

Any questions?

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1 comment:

Megan S said...

I know these posts are from 2008 but I just started managing and can't believe what I am seeing. Needless to say I'm working hard to end this stuff at my club!