Did you know that the knee is the part of the body where there are the most overuse injuries among cyclists, both recreational and professional?
Several risk factors may be the cause, such as poor equipment adjustment (including saddle height), poor body posture on the bike (particularly the alignment between the hip, knee and ankle), and the factor which we will look at in this article: poor motor control.
The main muscles that allow you to push on the pedals are the thigh muscles (quadriceps) and buttocks muscles (gluteus) . However, if your body does not recruit enough your glutes to generate power, your quadriceps will do all the work. As a result, since the quadriceps tendon attaches to the kneecap, the more you use your quadriceps, the more the compression forces on your knee increase. In the long run, a dynamic like this can create an overuse knee injury.
Now, how do you know if you use your buttocks enough compared to your quadriceps, before you experience the symptoms of an overuse injury,? By consulting a physiotherapist or an athletic therapist. They can use functional tests, such as squatting, to assess your motor recruitment patterns. They can prescribe exercises and give you tips to help you do these exercises more efficiently, in order to strengthen and engage more your buttocks during the movement.
They will also coach you to gradually increase the intensity of your training, especially if you have been less active during the winter season (10% every 2-3 weeks). Slowly, but surely, is the best way to avoid overuse injuries.
Happy cycling season!