Two Potential Benefits of being Flexible

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by GIH, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. GIH

    GIH New Member

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    I have read the gyming thread and other threads explaining that flexibility is overemphasized in sports, especially cycling and running, and really isn't that important.

    I can think of two potential benefits of flexibility (and core strength) that were not addressed or debunked in these threads. I was wondering if they are legitimate reasons to work on flexibility or if its still a waste of time that can result in injury.

    Reason number 1 is bike fit and aerodynamics. My knowledge of this subject is based mostly on the writings of Steve Hogg (at cyclingnews.com in the form and fitness Q&A) and my own personal experience. Having measured myself and tried to setup my bike in a way suggested by various fit kits, I get the impression that something limits my ability to have an aggresive bike position. I would assume that this is flexibility, since my flexibility is very limited. This is alluded to by Steve Hogg as well. How do you guys feel about this? Do you feel like the best way to get more comfortable in the drops is to ride in the drops for a long time until it feels more comfortable, or do you stretch to improve your flexibility? I have decided to start a stretching program as a result of thinking about this.

    Another potential benefit has to do with cramping. I think www.ultracycling.com has an explanation of the physiology of cramping (I don't know whether it is accurate or not, this not being my field of expertise) that stresses the importance of flexibility in the prevention of cramps. In the past I have had to deal with cramps constantly (during my tennis playing career). I actually have a couple of medical conditions that increase the likelihood of cramping, but I don't think they can account for the frequency of cramping that I experienced. I am guessing that flexibility might have been a strong factor as well, given that I was decidedly unflexible. What do you guys think about this theory, is it legitimate?

    As always, I appreciate all the information that ya'll are willing to share on this forum.
     
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  2. bikeguy

    bikeguy New Member

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    I don't think flexibility is an issue being able to ride in a low position, since I'm stiff and can get very low. I think suppleness can help being able to ride well in a low position.There are ranges where a muscle operates effectively, if it's stretched too much it can't generate sustained power or peak power as well as it could in another position so there may be a little something to this, and is probably why a rider gets better generating power in a aero position if they train in that position. I think hamstring/glute stretches are probably best for rider with stiff legs who does TT's.

    So yes, I think stretching helps, but only if you are naturally a bit stiff and inflexible.

    -bikeguy
     
  3. GIH

    GIH New Member

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    This makes sense. I don't need to be a contortionist or anything, but I should be flexible enough where the standard range of motion is comfortable and easy. I don't need to be able to do the splits, but I ought to be able to touch my toes comfortably, etc.
     
  4. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    I read many of those studies about how stretching can actually hurt performance... blah, blah, blah... then last winter decided to do some load bearing exercise and run a few times a week without stretch of course, armed with my new found knowledge that stretching is not necessary... only to be incapacitated for 3 months with an excrutiating IT band problem (at the knee) that was only eleviated with icing, ibuprofen (anti-inflamitory) and stretching and that i only keep from coming back though stretching... my knee reminds me every once in a while when fall off the wagon and stop stretching... no amount of studies will convince me that stretching isn't beneficial... complete and utter rubish!! these guys need to go back and redo there studies because they are obviously wrong.. they're missing something, somewhere.
     
  5. Nicolai Foss

    Nicolai Foss New Member

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    I agree totally. Lack of evidence of effect is not evidence of lack of effect. Generally I find it a bit funny when people talk about the excercise studies as though they were the all overning truths. Most of the studies are done on so small populations that they wouldn´t get published in any other field of medicine. Take two times 6 cyclist with out any description of previous issues with positioning etc, let six stretch and compare - no way in hell your gonna find any benefit, your underpowered with a wrong casemix.
     
  6. j.r.hawkins

    j.r.hawkins New Member

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    The reports I've seen asserted that stretching immediately prior to exercise inhibits explosive strength. From my experience with surfing (the wet kind) I think there is probably some truth to this. Nevertheless, I still spend 10-15 minutes stretching prior to entering the water:

    1) Maintenance
    I want to stay flexible as it helps with so many areas, from comfort at work in the office chair, comfort on the bike, to sleeping well without cramped back muscles, to not falling off on the first wave of the session.

    2) Injury prevention
    A wipeout or other unexpected impact or even a flinch to avoid an impact (eg while mountain biking) can lead to significant tearing and damage if you are not flexible enough to absorb it within your range of movement.

    3) Balance
    Stretching works the muscles that oeprate in opposition to the ones you are mostly using. This helps to keep your skeletal alignment in balance and minimise misalignment injuries.

    4) Net benefit
    The gains to the whole body including the spine and neck from flexibility far outweigh the miniscule performance losses.

    For endurance sports like cycling I cannot see there is an issue.
     
  7. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    Agree stretching is beneficial to injury prevention and keeping us in the game over the long haul, particularly for older cyclists. Short term studies on fit 20-30 yr olds don't mean much to me either.

    Our club recently had a talk from an MD who specializes in physical therapy and rehab, addressing how riders over 50 can minimize the effects of aging and stay in cycling into old age. He endorsed both stretching and some strength training for older cyclists. He recommended daily stretching, but not right before or immediately after the bike ride.
     
  8. GIH

    GIH New Member

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    Everyone should remember that stretching, if done improperly, can cause injury. especially static stretching. I've started stretching immediately afterwards. Hopefully it will help me get more comfortable on my bike.

    Here is a related question. I herad the benefits of dynamic stretching touted again and again in various books and on different websites. But I rarely see any dynamic stretches described. How are dynamic stretches different from getting on a bike and riding?
     
  9. GIH

    GIH New Member

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    Also, I should note that I don't believe extra flexibility increases sustainable power. I think this is what most studies focus on, i.e. specific aspects of performance. So I think if you are already comfortable on your bike and you can maintain an aerodynamic position for hours on end, upgrading your flexibility to gymnast level will likely do you no benefit, and may potentially be harmful.

    Does anyone have any insight into the cramping side of the question?
     
  10. mikesbytes

    mikesbytes New Member

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    Hi GIH, I'm an ex-runner and have suffered cramping problems all of my life. Last year I did my first race and suffered considerable cramping problems. Since then I have considerably upped the amount of stretching I do, predominently in Yoga or Pilaties classes and I have to say that at the same time the amount of cramping I get has reduced considerably. Because of the stretching or for some other reason, I don't know.

    If you have a look in my training log, you can see that I do a variety of exercises, I could be considered a cross trainer. Does some component of this cross training prevent cramps, or was it some other factor such as a diet change, or simply due improved fitness?
     
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