Imbalance is a natural part of life. Much of our lives are spent trying to help balance work, kids, pets, and exercise to help make each day easier and more enjoyable. The same goes with fitness and sport, especially when maximizing performance is your goal. In endurance sports, any overworked area (whether it be one activity or a particular muscle group), can result in big discrepancies and potential injuries when that imbalance takes place over hundreds of hours.
1. Discover Your Discrepancies
Sometimes the imbalances in our bodies don’t manifest until much later because the regularity of your activity just feels natural. You may not know you are catering to one side of your body over the other.
I went out on a casual mountain bike ride on a snowy day here in Salt Lake City, and just cruising along in my comfortable, upright mountain bike position, I could feel the soreness from the core workout I did the day prior. I also felt the muscles I had activated by performing single leg squats and single leg deadlifts.
Importantly, I noticed that the soreness was not in both legs or both sides of my abdomen. My left hamstrings were incredibly sore, along with my lower leg muscles on my left side. My right leg wasn’t sore on the bike (it’s obviously stronger), but my right obliques were noticeably more sore than my left. I started reflecting on in-season aches and pains on my ride. The muscles beneath my left shoulder blade and the insertions of my right psoas and hip flexors were often inflamed, and my left knee would become sore in bouts of long hours of training.
2. Avoid Setbacks by Targeting Areas of Weakness
All of these are telltale signs that during the many hours I spend on my bike, I’m subtly but constantly overworking several areas of muscles. Before any on-the-bike gains are going to be made this winter, I plan to target the things that have potential to hold me back. Along with the strength gains and building type II muscle that comes with being in the weight room, an off-season resistance program is imperative for efficiency and injury prevention when the race season rolls around.
3. Build Strength Before Hitting the Big Training Weeks
Correcting for these imbalances is difficult when your muscles are constantly working. There’s not enough time to build strength between long hours of riding. During the off-season, backing off the hours is healthy for a competitive athlete. Introducing activities that focus on introducing stress in isolated muscle groups will help to test the imbalances of your body and counteract the nasty repercussions of strength imbalance that can occur later on down the road of training and racing.
4. Add an Injury Prevention Routine
Here is a great example of a workout that targets the core while using functional strength in each leg. It will show you where your discrepancies lie (if you don’t already know it), and can help to balance strength and fluidity throughout your pedal or run stride to bring you into the season strong, efficient, and injury free!
- 15 to 20 minutes spinning on bike, rowing, or on the treadmill keeping heart rate in Zones 1 through 2
- 3 X 10 Step up to box. Activate glutes by stepping solid through your heel. Slow and controlled step back with same foot to a lunge. Actively press through toe to activate glutes on return motion.
- 3 X 10 Single Leg Dead Lift 10 to 25 pound dumb bell in opposite hand. Begin exercise with dumb bell on ground. Reach out and down to grasp then engage core to lift off with hips remaining squared.
- 3 X 10 Pistol Squat Prep: Stand from seated position with one foot crossed on top of opposite shoe. Lower to seated position slowly and controlled.
- 3 X 20 Prone low back extension without added weight
- 3 X 1 minute plank
- 3 X 30 seconds forearm side plank (each side)
- 3 X 1 minute forearm spiderman plank (alternate bringing knees to elbows)
- 30 seconds child’s pose followed by downward facing dog