Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for January 9, 2007
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Chronic knee pain
Sit bones and scar tissue
Pelvic asymmetry and the bottom bracket
Left foot pedal positioning
Shorter crank for leg length discrepancy?
Chronic knee pain
Steve, I have read with interest your take on optimal positioning, particularly
as it relates to pelvic asymmetry. I'm a practicing podiatrist and avid cyclist
with pain in the right knee of 21 months duration. At this point there may be
something intrinsically wrong with the knee although it was scoped in November
2005 with no evidence of arthritis. My pain is patellofemoral in nature and
localized to the inferolateral aspect of the patella.
Here are findings pertinent to pelvic asymmetry:
1. Right side pelvic and hip drop with resultant valgus knee position on the
downstroke (thigh and knee angle in toward top tube) severe enough to wear away
the right side of the nose of the saddle
2. Chiropractic evaluation confirmed right side pelvic drop with anterior tilt.
Leg length discrepancy as a result of pelvic drop is functional with right leg
functioning longer although this is minimal (1/4 inch)
3. Forefoot varus bilateral and equal
I have made the following changes in setup:
1. Moved cleats back as far as they will go (speedplay zero)
2. Moved seat back about 1cm (I can pass balance test easily)
3. Tilted nose of saddle to the right about 5mm
4. Placed 2mm varus wedges between cleat and shoe (I already have cycling specific
orthotics with 4 degree varus posts)
Any other suggestions at this point? I've been in this new setup for one week
with nothing miraculous in terms of knee pain.
Steve Hogg replies:
A few things occur to me.
1. Cleat position. You imply you have read the cleat positioning posts. How
far away from those recommendations are you?
2. If you can, get hold of an SMP seat. I have been playing with these a bit
lately and for the user it is obviously apparent at any time if they are not
sitting squarely. Much more so than with other seats. For some, this constant
tell-tale leads to self correction on the bike, enough to solve problems similar
to yours. For others not, but it is worth a try.
3. From what you have said, the great likelihood is that the asymmetric seating
and pedaling technique is the source of your knee problem. I assume you are
tackling the causes of these issues off the bike?
4. Your left side will be dragged towards the centre line by the right side
hip drop and rotation. That will probably mean that you need to reduce the varus
compensation in/under the left shoe temporarily and reassess as you square up
on the seat.
5. Consider laterally offsetting the seat to the left. You will almost certainly
still need to point the seat nose off centre to the right. For more info, have
a look at this
The FSA Data Head mentioned in the article will also fit Thomson posts perfectly
if you can get the Data Head separately. If you own a Thomson post or an earlier
two bolt FSA post and can't source Data Head as a separate item, contact me
By offsetting the seat to the left, you will minimise your ability to drop
and rotate the right hip. You will still do it but be less able to, probably
a lot less. The seat can be moved up to 12mm off the centre line in an attempt
to get the pelvis over or more nearly over the centre line of the bike.
Not everyone needs the full 12mm and I don't think you should look at this
a permanent solution unless you have some sort of congenital or injury-caused
permanent issue. What offsetting the seat is likely to do is relieve your knee
of pressure while you work on off bike solutions to achieving greater functional
6. I'm concerned about you being able to pass the balance test easily though,
functioning as asymmetrically as you do. Unless you have superior dynamic core
strength (many can demonstrate static core strength but have it all disappear
when they get on a bike), you may be too far back.
From your self description my experience is that it is very unlikely that you
should be able to "pass the balance test easily" unless your seat
is too far back or noticeably too low.
Its cold and dark where I live right now so Im doing interval training
on my indoor trainer. While doing fairly intense one minute intervals, I find
that after about 45 seconds of pedaling, my shin muscles begin to fatigue and
pretty much give up. No problems with any other muscle groups at all. Any thoughts
on the cause?
Scott Saifer replies:
Most likely you are pulling up with your ankles dorsiflexed (trying to keep
your ankles closer to 90 degrees). The shin muscle or tibialis anterior is a
tiny muscle with virtually zero-ability to deliver power. It is good for getting
your foot in position for the downstroke, but not if you ask it to work under
load. If you ask it to flex the ankle under load, it quickly gets tired and
then sore. Try relaxing your ankle during the early part of the up-stroke, allowing
the ankle to stay extended until the upper dead spot and then dorsiflexing with
Sit bones and scar tissue
I am a 34 year old male. I am six feet even and weigh 160. I have been riding
almost 10 years.
The last few years the focus of my training has been the annual Lotoja Classic.
A 204 mile one day race through the mountains of Utah to Jackson Hole, WY.
This past year I switch my saddle to a SLR a few months before the race. I
felt great the entire race. The next day I noticed that I was bruised on both
sides right on my sit bones (ischial tuberosities). There was no sign of exposed
sores, just bruising.
I took time off the bike and when I started riding again I noticed some pain
right where my sit bones make contact with the saddle. I replaced the SLR with
the SLR XP and the pain has continued. It feels like there is a small marble
right on the end of my sit bones. When I feel it, there is something hard that
moves right up against the bone. I have been told that it might be scar tissue
from the 10 hour bruising that happened in the race.
Have you every heard of something like his before? If so what is the best course
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Basically, your sit bone problem stems from supporting a boney area on a hard
surface. More padding will diffuse the load over a wider area.
I use an SLR on my race bike too as the shape suits me. I am a similar height
and weight to you and lean as I suspect you are. The SLR shape is very comfortable
for me for up to 3 hours then my sit bones 'light up'. I rarely ride that bike
for that long so no problem there.
People are different and I know SLR riders who have ridden long 230km + hilly
races on them comfortably. As you know they have no real padding, more or less
a milimetre or so over a hard shell and I'm sure that you have realised that
is your problem. The SLR XP you changed to has only marginally more padding
than the SLR, so no surprise that it didn't fix the problem either. I wouldn't
consider either as first choice for the type of racing you are doing.
If you want to stick with the SLR family, try an SLR Gelflow. They have the
same shell shape but more padding. I use one on my training bike and have never
ridden far enough (up to 7 hour rides) for it to be uncomfortable in anything
like the sense that you are finding with the less padded versions.
If you try a Gelflow, they are firmish at first but soon soften up. Once they
do, you will need to raise the seat 3mm or so higher than your SLR because you
will sink into the padding to a degree. If that advice doesn't work, then time
to consider a change in seat shape.
Pelvic asymmetry and the bottom bracket
I have a pelvic asymmetry, just like a previously
submitted question appearing on November 22, 2006.
From Steve Hogg's response: "The second way to tackle the problem won't
change you but is likely to relieve current stressors to some degree and allow
you to function more symmetrically on a bike while you work on your body's lack
of symmetry." Then there's a link to an article about a FSA K-force seatpost.
Is there a bottom bracket currently available that separates a cyclist's left
leg effort from the right leg effort? Has any manufacturer ever tried? Is anybody
going to try?
About myself: I've been riding seriously for 9 years now, starting at age 21.
I've never raced and I don't want to. What I have accomplished is that I've
ridden my bike to work more often than I've driven. For five years I carried
my lunch and clothes to work with a messenger bag, thus destroying any pelvic
symmetry I had. I need it back. Yoga and chiropractic treatments are helping
somewhat but I want a bottom bracket that isolates my left leg effort from the
San Francisco, CA, USA
Scott Saifer replies:
There is a device which separates the right and left leg effort, but I don't
think it's really what you want. Actually, it's a bottom-bracket and cranks
set called "Power Cranks".
The problem or advantage of them, depending on how you look at it, is that
when you separate the two legs' efforts, you can't rely on the front leg to
lift the back leg and you actually have to lift the back foot up to the top
of the stroke.
Left foot pedal positioning
Steve, I read your articles on cycling news very often and truly enjoy your
frank commentary back to the folks you are trying to help. I was looking to
see if you could recommend someone in my area with your level of expertise on
Let me give you a little background on my problem: Two years ago I had a back
injury to my L3, L4 that affected my siatic nerve - effectively reducing the
power in my left leg by about 50%; today I am at about 85-90% power on the leg.
The problem that I have is as follows: I can never get my left foot to feel
comfortable on the pedal. I have tried moving the pedal forward, back, side
to side but it always feels as if I have my left foot not forward enough (axle
closer to my toes) than my right foot. I have also tried seat positioning but
that has not helped either.
Two things I have noticed that may or may not matter: Left leg swing; when
riding I look down at my leg and notice that my knee swings out and in with
every turn. My right knee tracks pretty true.
Shims on cleats; I have installed shims on my cleats ever since I moved from
old SPD to look Keo red cleats and pedals. If I don't have two or three shims
installed on each cleat I tend to get pretty serious pain in my inner knee on
both legs. I installed the shims so that they raise the ball of my foot.
Miami, Florida, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Do you sit squarely on the seat? The way to find out is to set your bike up
on an indoor trainer and pedal under load with your shirt off. Have an observer
stand above and behind you on a stool or seat. What I want to know is do you
drop or rotate your right hip forward and down on each right side pedal stroke?
If as I suspect, you drop and rotate the right hip forward, that is the likely
underlying reason for all of the other stuff. If you hang to the right, the
plane of movement of the left leg is constantly challenged and it has to reach
further to the pedal. The left knee swings out at the top of the stroke because
that is when the right hip drop is greatest. It swings in on the downstroke
because that is when right hip drop is least as it is the top of the right pedal
Whatever is the root cause of this suspected right side tightness/tendency
to drop the hip etc, may also be the underlying cause of your left side sciatica
Do you stretch regularly? If not, get on a first name basis with your local
yoga or Pilates teacher. A good self help manual is "Overcome Neck and
Back Pain" by Kit Laughlin.
Shorter crank for leg length discrepancy?
I am a 29 year old male racing cyclist, 5'10" and 155 pounds. I suffered
Perthes disease from 10-15 years of age and as a result, my right leg is 8mm
shorter than my left leg. The entire discrepancy is in the femur and this has
been established from x-ray images. In addition the hip joint and supporting
ligaments and muscles are often very tight which creates a further apparent
leg length discrepancy, but this element is variable depending on the condition
of the joint - if it becomes inflamed as it regularly does, the apparent leg
length discrepancy will worsen for a time, sometimes for days or weeks.
Like many others I feel rather locked in an ongoing fight to achieve the best
pedaling action I can and to compensate appropriately for my leg length discrepancy
and related pelvis, knee and foot alignment problems. However my motivation
to try and keep developing as a rider is very high.
I have been using cleat stacking to aid more balanced pedaling throughout my
cycling career. I also have my seat nose rotated to the left side slightly (the
nose is 8mm approx from dead centre), as my left hip is forward through my pedal
stroke in comparison with the right hip. I also tend to drop my right hip. Both
of these symptoms have been confirmed by an observer while I pedaled on a turbo
I also use Lewedges to level the apparent pedaling surface - three on the right
shoe and one on the left, both with the taller side of the wedge on the crank
side. This is in addition to having two wedges stacked thin to thin on the right
(shorter) side, giving about 2mm of vertical stack height.
I am working with a sports clinic to try and achieve a better aligned lower
spine and pelvis as well as greater flexibility and strength through the core.
I have read with interest many of the replies to previous questions regarding
leg length discrepancies. One thing I have taken from the responses is it often
seems a good principal to compensate for the discrepancy with a range of small
adjustment methods rather than to simply stack the cleat on the shorter side,
or to simply twist the seat nose toward the shorter side.
This has got me thinking that perhaps I should consider using a shorter crank
on the shorter side. I use 172.5mm cranks currently.
My thinking is that while cleat stacking is effective when the crank is at
the bottom of the pedal stroke (and the leg is fully extended), it doesn't seem
to do anything to help when the crank is at its foremost position within the
pedal stroke (with the knee at its highest position). This is because the cleat
stacking is in the vertical plane only, assuming the shoe remains more or less
parallel to the ground throughout the pedal stroke. Indeed the rocking torque
effect seems to simply introduce new problems. I think this is exacerbated by
the cleat stacking as there seems to be an exaggerated feeling of 'not pedaling
in circles' and a difficulty in achieving a strong driving power at the very
top of the pedal stroke. The effect seems to be a specific weakness in parts
of the pedal stroke where a pushing forward (from the top of the pedal stroke)
or pulling backward (from the bottom of the pedal stroke) force is involved.
If I used a 170mm crank on the shorter side, rather than simply stacking the
cleat, I think this would help ameliorate not just impact of the leg length
discrepancy in the vertical plane, but in the horizontal plane also, and without
creating the same rocking torque problems that the cleat stacking has introduced.
Lastly the hip joint tightness I experience might also be relieved somewhat
as the impact of this is felt most at the top of the pedal stroke.
Am I right in thinking this? Would using a shorter crank potentially introduce
other problems? Would 'out of the saddle' efforts be impacted negatively?
Boulder, Colorado, USA
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for a fairly complete description of your issues. With Perthes disease
and inflammation of the joint capsule, the key to minimising the impact of this
is to gain best possible control of the pedaling movement. As you suggest, the
key to this is how far the leg has to extend but also and more importantly,
how far the knee rises at the top of the stroke. By all means try the shorter
crank as I have seen many instances of this working fine in similar situations.
There are a few people with theoretical reservations in doing this but my view
is that when there is a congenital of developmental issue, often the only workable
solution is the 'least worst choice'. You are unlikely to have problems when
standing on the pedals. Ultimately the only thing to do is try.
You have tried stacking the cleat and are not totally happy with the results
so try another way. Without seeing you I can't be definitive, but from what
you have said I think that there is a good chance of it working okay. RH cranks
are expensive as they can't generally be purchased alone but only as part of
a pair, so it is worth trying to borrow a RH crank of the same type that you
use prior to buying any.
One small thing I want to correct though is when you say "to simply twist
the seat nose toward the shorter side". When you twist the seat nose towards
the shorter side, you move the rear of the seat and hence the hip of the shorter
leg rearwards; i.e. further from the pedals. This is only of value if the rider
sits with pelvis twisted towards the side of the shorter leg as it will help
square them up on the seat and a means will then need to be found for them to
reach the now increased distance to the pedal.
More commonly, people with a measurably shorter leg tend to sit with the pelvis
twisted forward on the long legged side though this isn't universal. If they
do, then what you suggest is going to increase the problem in many cases by
reducing the distance that the long leg reaches and increasing the distance
that the short leg reaches.
I am a male cyclist, late 30's and have developed the following problem. When
I first get onto the bike I get a sharp needle like stabbing in my left testicle.
It takes a few minutes for the sharp pain to subside, then it becomes a dull
It first arose 3 years ago and I spent over 4 months off of the bike, with
no improvement. I had testicular scans, x-rays, etc. and nothing came up. Rest
did nothing. I even visited a physiotherapist who did testicular massage, but
without any results. Finally I saw my osteopath who diagnosed a misaligned pelvis,
a regular ongoing problem of mine. After re-alignment the problem subsided for
a few months and I raced a full season on the road. However it is now back again.
I have visited my osteopath on a few occasions but my pelvic alignment is good.
I have taken time off, but no improvement. The problem mainly surfaces on the
bike, but something hits me when I bend over or when weight training.
I haven't raced much since the problem re-appeared. I train four to five times
per week, although the sessions are now less than 90 minutes in general. I should
point out that the problem doesn't typically get any worse if I spend 2 to 3
hours on the bike.
Steve Hogg replies:
There is no shame in having sore testicles. We all hurt somewhere sooner or
later. It is interesting that a pelvic realignment seemed to solve the problem
which makes it possible that the cause is the same again. It is worth checking
I have seen instances of this in the past and finding a solution was always
frustrating and eventually solved by cutting away any part of the seat that
contacted the testes. In your shoes I would try an SMP seat. Have a look at
www.sellesmp.com. My limited experience is that they work for more problems
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