By: Laura Wenger, PT, DPT
As we wind closer toward Memorial Day and the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, cycling is on a lot of people’s minds. In respect to preventing injury while you’re training for this race (or even if you’re not!), I came across some interesting information related to resistance training and seat height, and their effects on cycling performance and injury.
One hot topic in cycling is resistance training and whether or not it can help or hinder your cycling performance. A review from 2010 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to look at the effects of resistance training on the performance of elite cyclists, and they were able to assess results from five articles.1 A summary of the findings indicated that “well-designed resistance training programs” can lessen the reduction of type I muscle fibers and connective tissue, which can ultimately help to reduce injury.1 The review notes that, although the evidence is limited, a cyclist would benefit most from a resistance training program that involved “explosive” movements at 30-40% of a person’s one rep max, as these movements might be more sport-specific to cycling.1 Exercises that would fit in this category would be plyometrics, heavier load/low repetition, or Olympic style lifts with the goals of increasing force production and improving performance.1 If you are a cyclist that wants to add resistance training into your current “off-bike” training program, it would be best to consider these types of explosive resistance exercises for making this year’s Iron Horse your best.
Another popular discussion in the world of cycling is what the ideal seat height is for each person. Another recent review from 2011 sought to find out what the effects of seat height were on knee injury risk and cycling performance, as there is much disagreement from scientific and coaching communities regarding this topic.2 Without going into the fine details, the main conclusion of the review was that, with the limited evidence they were able to find, the optimal range of knee flexion (or bending) when you have your leg in the “bottom dead center” position while seated on the saddle is 25 to 30 degrees.2 This range of knee flexion has been related to lowering the knee joint load and improving your cycling economy (or efficiency) in previous studies.2 There are other factors at play when it comes to seat height and proper ergonomics on a bike, and it is prudent to get evaluated by a therapist in order to make sure you are using the most appropriate position for your body.
To all of those folks out there who will be competing in the upcoming Iron Horse Bicycle Classic: good luck and have fun! If we don’t see you in the clinic before the race to make sure that you are doing your best to prevent injury during your training and racing, we will see you on the other side in Silverton!
- Yamamoto LM, Klau JF et al. The effects of resistance training on road cycling performance among highly trained cyclists: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24(2): 560-566.
- Bini R, Hume PA, Croft JL. Effects of Bicycle Saddle Height on Knee Injury Risk and Cycling Performance. Sports Med. 2011; 41(6):463-476.