After spending three days digging around my shoulders and rotator cuffs at the Yoga Tune Up® shoulder immersion two weekends ago, I had an opportunity to ponder bike position...for the billionth-ish time. Specifically the DOM's (Direction of Movement) involved with correct positioning of the shoulders, arms and hands on the handlebars of the bicycle.
I want to be really clear here, being on a bike CAN be a postural train wreck but it doesn't have to be. Not with correct fit, proprioceptive awareness and plain old observation.
While on the road, I see a lot of people 'hanging on the meat' of their upper shoulders while riding. This is the result of three DOM's:
1. spinal flexion,
2. internal (medial) rotation of the humerus bone, and
3. scapular elevation
That's wrong and here's why:
1. Your abdominals have to contract to flex your spine. By 'crunching' your abs to get down to the bars, you also crunch your diaphragm which compromises your breathing mechanics.
2. Internal rotation at the head of the humerus while gripping the bars locks out the elbows, thereby locking out your natural shock absorbers, your arms and elbows.
3. Raising your shoulder blades engages the trapezius and levator scapulae muscles which you already engaging for neck extension. Why give these already working muscles another job?
Recruiting the muscles involved with these movements can definitely increase the likelihood of lower back, shoulder and neck pain. So, why are you doing it? Generally speaking, it could be the result of: incorrect bike size; poor bike fit; extended reach; weak core musculature; fatigue; or any combination of those things. Or something else.
The healthier directions of movement you SHOULD be employing are:
1. hip flexion 2. shoulder flexion and 3. pronation of the lower arm bones.
Yes. This is the correct combination of movements to get you to your handlebars. You are going for as neutral a spine as possible for general time in the saddle and long distance riding. With that said, there are times--sprinting, climbing, passing--that you have to temporarily adopt a shift in the pelvic tilt, spinal shape or shoulder position to increase power, but a neutral spine is where you should return post-effort. Keep it mind it's really easy to take the shape of spinal flexion because it bypasses the core. Not just the abdominals but the "whole core", defined as the 360-degree barrel shape from hip to shoulder, and all it's contents.
I decided that a video would be the best way to illustrate what I'm talking about. So here you go, the premiere demonstrative video on Turning Wheels. WATCH the logos!
Many thanks to Lillee Chandra for the "watch the logos on clothes" tip!