Egoscue Posture for Cycling Enthusiasts
Many cyclists have bad back's and other posural problems. The Egoscue method is a way to balance the body and free it from pain's due to cycling's crouched posture.
FITNESS | Egoscue method Perfecting your posture CYCLING CAN FORCE your body into a very unnatural position, which could leave you in considerable pain. Make time for this sequence of positions, based on the Egoscue method, and you could save yourself future problems O UR feature earlier this year on postural alignment therapy aroused plenty of interest in the exercises featured from our readers. Fitness guinea pig, CW’s chief reporter Keith Bingham, benefited from the assessment and exercise programme set by therapist Pamela Jones and saw considerable improvements in the back, hip and knee conditions he had been suffering. The detailed programme was, however, specifically tailored to the patient’s individual needs. Jones has now designed a generic set of 10 exercises based on the Egoscue method that just about anyone can do at home. Self-assessment Front view Standing in front of a full-length mirror, your feet should be hip width apart and pointing straight ahead, and so should your knees. Your shoulders and hips should be level (horizontal) with each other. If they are not, you may have either a torso offset or shoulder or hip elevation, or all of these things. You should be able to draw a plumbline down through the centre of your body — everything should look symmetrical either side of the plumbline. If you can see one shoulder or one hip coming forward, this is an indication of a rotation in the body. WRONG RIGHT In the side view (sagittal plane), you should be able to draw a plumbline up from just in front of your ankle bone up through the centre of the knee, the hip, the shoulder and then the ear — get a willing helper for this. Another indication of sagittal plane alignment is to stand flat against a wall — try to use one without skirting boards so that the heels are flat against the surface. Your heels, hips, shoulders and head should be able to sit back against the wall. Standing straight with your feet hip-width apart and pointing straight ahead, close your eyes and focus on the sole of your left foot. Try to feel where the weight distribution is, and then do the same for the right foot. Then focus on both feet and feel for unbalanced distribution. SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 www.cyclingweekly.co.uk This set of exercises must be done in the order listed — they progress through specific areas of the body — and you should return to the ‘neutral’ position between every exercise. The whole set should take 30-40 minutes, so if you are pressed for time, reduce the repetitions, rather than missing out exercises. Side view Weight distribution 38 The exercises WRONG RIGHT FITNESS | Egoscue method 1 Neutral back Lie on your back with your legs resting on a chair or large cushion and arms resting at 45 degrees to the body, palms turned up. Try to relax your upper back. Concentrate on your lower back and feel whether it is flat evenly from left to right. 3 2 Hooklying pillow squeeze Adopt the same position as above, but place a pillow between your knees. Squeeze your knees inward into the pillow and release. Try not to contract your stomach / abdominal muscles with each contraction. Repeat 20 times. Good for... working the muscles at the front of the hip. TIP: Alternate exercises two and three, and repeat three times. Lying flat on the floor, raise your knees so that there is a 90-degree angle between thigh and calf. Lie with your arms out at 45 degrees and with your palms up. Begin squeezing and releasing your buttock muscles without contracting your stomach / abdominal muscles. Repeat 20 times. Good for... working the muscles around the back of the hip. TIP: Place yours hands on your bum to get started if your brain is struggling to isolate the muscles. 4 Reverse press Assume the hooklying position but with your arms lying level with your shoulders and your forearms facing up, fingers lightly curled. Gently draw your shoulder blades together and release. Repeat for three sets of 15. Good for... elevated shoulders. TIP: Keep your forearm vertically aligned above the elbow. Illustrations: Jason Hardy Hooklying position www.cyclingweekly.co.uk SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 39 FITNESS | Egoscue method 5 Pull over From the hooklying position, move your arms into a ‘James Bond’ shooting position, with your arms brushing the side of your face. Bring your arms over your head and try to touch the floor behind you. Repeat 30 times. Good for... creating movement in the spine and shoulders — the spine lifts slightly as the hands reach the floor. TIP: The arms must stay straight. 7 Hip lift In the hooklying position, raise your right thigh at a right angle to the floor with your knee bent at 90 degrees. Lift your left leg and cross your ankle over your right knee. Now draw your right leg towards you (using the gluteals) while counteracting with your left ankle. Hold for 60 seconds, breathing into the abdominals. Swap sides, coming back to the neutral position in-between. Repeat fives times each side. Good for... creating function in the hips. TIP: Keep your knee vertical above your hips. 6 Abdominal contractions From the hooklying position, place your hands behind your head with fingers interlocked. Contract the abdominals by lifting your shoulders and feet, then relax. This is not a sit-up: look straight up and keep your eyes fixed on a point. Repeat two sets of 10. Good for... engaging the trunk flexor muscles. TIP: Do not just pull your head forwards. This movement must be done correctly to achieve the desired effect. CASE STUDY I was in constant pain Cycling Weekly reader Brian Daley visited Pam Jones for treatment of his persistent back pain. “I started postural therapy because I had constant back pain; something I have had for many years, particularly after sessions on the bike. I was spending a lot of time and money at the osteopath, physio and chiropractor, as well as trying sports massage. I read the article about Pam in Cycling Weekly and other articles about core strength and I thought I would give it a go. 40 “I’ve noticed a difference in my core strength – it is definitely improving and hill climbing is getting better (it’s still not great!). And my back doesn’t hurt when I get to the top. “I haven’t been back to the osteopath since starting the programme. The postural therapy does need some effort, just like any training. I find it takes about 30 minutes and I tend to do it first thing in the morning, which is always hectic, so I have just been getting up a bit earlier. The morning is always worst for my back pain, and doing the exercises really eases me into the day. SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 www.cyclingweekly.co.uk “The photos, feedback and exercise programme really are an eye opener on your posture, and the exercises have worked. In Cycling Weekly the experts talk about cross training and other activities, and that this could be part of your routine, whether you are a part-time cyclist for fitness, like me; a slightly overweight 40-something; or a more serious performer.” “Doing the exercises in the morning really eases me into the day” FITNESS | Egoscue method 8 THERAPIST PROFILE Heal with movement Cats and dogs Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your elbows straight. For ‘the cat’, pull your hips under, pull your head under and push your upper back to the ceiling. Follow this with ‘the dog’ — roll your hips forward to put the arch in your back, collapse your shoulder blades together and look up. Repeat 10 times. Good for... flexing and extending the spine. TIP: Keep the arms vertical with your hands directly beneath the shoulder 9 Static extension Start on your hands and knees. Place your elbows into the place where your hands were. Make a light fist and pull your hands away from each other, pivoting on your elbows. Drop your shoulder blades together, drop your hips and lower your head. You should feel a stretch in the rhomboids (between the shoulders). If not, adjust your arm’s position fore or aft. Hold for 60 seconds. Good for... post-ride stretching of the spine. TIP: If you only manage one of the 10 exercises, this one is the most beneficial for cyclists. 10 Pam Jones trained in postural alignment therapy after her own experiences of persistent pain and successful treatment using the Egoscue method. “I have been cycling since 1989,” she said. “At one time I was riding about 5,000 miles a year. Then, throughout the course of 2004, my cycling waned because I seemed to develop one problem after another. I got ‘trigger thumbs’, which needed surgery, then golfers elbow, then tendonitis in my wrist — I had cortisone injections for both which didn’t work. I had a lot of other things too, so at 48 years old I thought I was falling to pieces. I couldn’t ride my bike, I was in so much pain. “Then somebody told me about a book called Pain free and the Egoscue method, and that’s how I came to the therapy.” Jones’s inquisitive disposition — fitness training, weight training, yoga and karate all feature in her CV — led her to train at the Egoscue clinic in San Diego after achieving rapid results on her own ailments with treatment from a therapist. She now treats all sorts of athletes, assessing their postures and setting individual exercise programmes for musculoskeletal dysfunctions. Cyclists can be curiously reluctant to spend valuable riding time on non-cycling activities, but Jones believes it is essential to include an exercise programme such as hers in your regular routine. “Most people tend to concentrate on one activity,” she says, “and if it’s a demanding activity they think it is enough for the body, but it never is. Cycling, in particular, is a dreadful position for the body, but an amazing workout for the heart and the lungs. Things like tennis and golf, are really detrimental to the body too, because normally they will cause rotational problems. “If you can heal your body in the most natural way, by movement, why on earth would you want to have your body forcefully manipulated, operated on, or medicated? It doesn’t make sense does it?” Wall sit Stand against a wall with your feet facing straight ahead. Your hips, upper back and head should be up against the wall. Walk your feet away from the wall approximately two to two-and-a-half feet. Bend your knees and start sliding down the wall. Hold this position and keep the weight in your heels. Your lower back should be flush up against the wall. Hold for 60 seconds. Good for... leaving the pelvis in a neutral position. TIP: Feet should be hip-width apart — look down and you should see your toes. With thanks to David Lloyd Leisure, Sidcup. www.cyclingweekly.co.uk SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 41