strEtcHING For ‘maXImus’ rEturN heidi Broecking piriformis, and the piriformis has a nerve running through it, the sciatic nerve, maybe you’ve heard of it. when you sit (flexed at the hip and knee), you stretch the glutes (making them thinner) which removes padding (read: protection) from the area and that can expose the piriformis and sciatic nerve, making them vulnerable. applying pressure in that position could create self-induced sciatica. not good. that is why i use yoga tune up® therapy Balls and then only either laying down or at the wall. if you prefer rollers try to find a quality product that has a little give. Here is a self-massage move i call the Booty Buster:
mend having a teacher in the room with you to help assess your needs and get into that particular asana. instead, try the following awesome gluteal stretch. it also hits the piriformis, other external rotators and the outer hip. you do it on the floor, supine, which allows you to really work the pelvis.
• lay down on the floor • put your ytu therapy balls in the tote. let’s say we’re starting with the right side. • Bend the knees and place both feet on the floor. • Gently lift the hips and place the balls on the meaty part of your right glute, oriented vertically. • start to scroll the hips left to right. • as you reach the outside of the right hip, allow the right knee to drop out to side. lift the knee back up as you reset the balls back to center. • you can create further release in the glute by contracting while rolling. • you can do this for at least a minute up to three. • if you find spots that thunk, stop there. inhale, contract the glute, exhale and release. putting targeted pressure on the spot. like a massage therapist’s thumb. continue to scroll. repeat on the left. • Gently lift the hips, remove the balls and take a few breathes. • tenderness is fine, a little discomfort is fine, pain is not fine. if you feel like gravity is too much, go to the wall and try it there. you can control the pressure more easily.
• lay down on your back, put both feet on the floor. take a few breaths to get yourself centered. • cross your right ankle over your left knee. it should be resting just above your ankle so the joint isn’t torqued in any way. • Hands: reach the right hand/arm forward through the center of the triangle you just made with your right leg. left arm hand comes forward to interlace with the right either at the top of the left shin or at the back of the thigh. you can also use a strap in either hand if you can’t reach your leg. pull your left thigh towards your chest. • on inhale, let the abdomen rise towards your thigh. as you exhale, gently pull the thigh closer to the torso. do this at least 4 times. • when you get to the point where the thigh can go no further, take a few breathes there and really feel the stretch. • then, try to move your sacrum down to the floor. you are attempting to achieve a neutral lumbar curve here. when you do that, your thigh will move away from your chest. try not to let it. create opposing forces. • lastly, try move your right knee away from you, engaging the lateral thigh and outer hip. • of course, if at any point in the stretch you feel you have reached your limit, stop. you will have plenty of opportunities to layer on the additional movements.
stretching. there are a couple of yoga poses that you can do to stretch the glutes specifically. the most common would be pigeon. But it can be tough to get into, especially for a cyclist with already tight hips. it can be made easier with props but i would recom-
massaging the glutes will increase mobility in the muscle itself and its connective tissues. increased mobility promotes joint health, shortens recovery time and can vastly increase performance. so get off your behind and get to the stretching!
illustrations by Heidi Broecking, © 2012 Heidi Broecking Graphic design
the Gluteus maximus is the initiator of the pedal stroke in cycling. you probably already know this since it’s most likely still sore from your last ride. in order for your gluteus to work at peak performance it’s important to keep that musculature supple. Fifteen minutes of stretching and self-massage after every ride is an effective way to keep one of your primary cycling muscles happy. Quick anatomy lesson. the reason the muscle is called Gluteus maximus is because it is in fact, maximal, it is the largest muscle in the human body. why is it so big? our erect posture. Gm needs to be giant so it can hold up everything on top of it. in short, it helps keep us upright. it originates at the sacrum and posterior ilium, then inserts in two spots: the iliotibial (it) band and the gluteal tuberosity of the femur. what’s its job? Gluteus maximus works in multiple directions of movement. it extends the hip, externally rotates the femur, and its upper fibers abduct the thigh. in addition, it supports the torso and stabilizes the knee via the it band. Gluteus maximus is a multi tasker and looks good in a bathing suit. as related to cycling and the pedal stroke: Gluteus maximus initiates the pedal stroke. in order to move forward on the bike we make circles with the pedals. at the top of each circle we start to push down. that is extension of leg from the hip and the job of Gluteus maximus. now, think about when you’re climbing. where is all the effort if you are climbing seated? of course you’re trying to keep a smooth cadence but pushing down on the pedal is really where the work is. Gluteus maximus starts that power push. every...single... time...you...turn...the...pedal. let’s do the math. say you’re on a two-hour long ride and your average cadence is 80rpm (considering hills). that’s 80 pedal strokes per minute for 120 minutes. that is 9,600 times your glutes need to contract and release. no wonder your behind is sore. it would follow that it’s super important to stretch and massage your glutes post-ride. and i don’t mean the vague “hip openers” often suggested in stretching and yoga. you’ve got to target the belly of that muscle. Here’s a couple of things you can do. First, massage it. you can use a foam roller but i get a little nervous about this since most people will sit on the roller. most rollers are high density foam and quite hard and have very little ‘give’. the glutes are superficial to the 24
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