Can you ‘Shoulder’ the pressure of the Tour de France?!!
For those of you who follow your cycling, you will have been watching with great interest, the Tour de France and the various incidents which have befallen the many cyclists involved. For those who haven’t been following it, it’s time to start, things are getting interesting. The Tour de France is up there as one of the most widely watched events in the world. The British riders have been plying their trade in a variety of guises from super domestiques to opportunistic stage winners to GC contenders. Although the start of the tour began well for the majority of the British contingent with Geraint Thomas in Yellow, Froome in Second and Yates steadily moving back up the white Jersey competition, the Manx Missile’ tour has come to a exceedingly painful end.
Now as far as we know from the early reports Cavendish has fractured his shoulder blade (Scapula) he has also had a history of shoulder issues on this side with his Acromioclavicular joint (ACjt).
Cavendish in pain by the side of the road
This led me to think about how important the shoulder is for cycling and how we use it to ride and how we can help your performance by strengthening it and addressing any issues. In this post we’ll concentrate on the ACjt.
So Firstly lets have a look at the basics and the boring bit, the anatomy. Then we’ll work our way to the why and how we can help with comfort on long rides by addressing the shoulder and improve your performance particularly when out on those club rides sprinting for that ever distant lamp post.
So the ACjt is the joint on the diagram that you can see is between the Acromion part of the shoulder blade and the clavicle, simple. A small joint that can’t be that important can it! Well as predictably as ever yes it can you see the shoulder complex and therefore your arm is only attached to you via the clavicle (collarbone) attaching to your sternum. Ok a little poetic licence obviously there are numerous muscles that attach from your thorax, but it does form the only true joint. Now attached to your collarbone are some fairly meaty muscles, Pectoralis, Trapezius and Deltoids being three of the biggest.
So when cycling along on a lovely bumpy British road, all those shocks pulsating through your handlebars are being absorbed by your shoulder, and therefore the shocks are going through your ACjt. Now on top of absorbing those lovely bumps you start sprinting, with all your might swinging the bike left to right, heading for that distant lamp post for the prestige of being first in that club run. Your muscles straining with every sinew against your mates using those (obviously) powerful muscles attached to the clavicle, to be crowned sprint extraordinaire. You can see how, firstly that it could be quite sore having any issues with your ACJ, but also the strength needed around the shoulder girdle that would be potentially lost.
How do we use this to make you guys better and faster cyclists? Firstly, the shock absorption and body positioning. I know everyone also says the same thing but getting your bike set up correctly is the first port of call! Secondly posture on a bike often leads to tight muscles in the front of your shoulder so stretching those out or using a foam roller or ball can elevate any soreness you might experience on the bike. Secondly the muscles at the back of your shoulder often become weakened so strengthening those muscles around your shoulder blade again helps pull your shoulders into a “good posture”. Once your shoulders sit in a good place whilst on a bike the bumps will be absorbed so the roads feel like freshly laid tarmac rather than a farm track and the discomfort often found in the front of the shoulder could be a thing of the past.
Now the important bit beating your mates to the elusive lamp post. When you ride obviously it’s your legs that propel you along and the more steady you are on the bike i.e. not rolling your pelvis about nodding your head rolling your shoulders the less energy you waste, look at when Bradley Wiggins time trialled he’s like a swan swimming along serine up top legs going like the clappers underneath. When you sprint using every muscle to help push that big gear around it’s just as important to maintain the kinetic chain of strength making sure every effort goes to the peddle being weak around the shoulders will break this chain and mean you go more slowly.
So there we go it’s simple do some shoulder exercises and we can all bin the day jobs off and become seasoned professional cyclists at next year’s tour. Ok wishful thinking but just perhaps we can make you sprint a little quicker and be far more comfortable on those long rides through the British summer.
The Move4 Team