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Chateau de Pitray
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How to better recruit your glutes and hamstrings muscles to improve your pedal power via correct pelvic posture on the bike.

Pelvic Position Cycling

The most powerful muscles to extend the hips – the down stroke portion of the pedaling motion – are the hip extensor muscles, specifically the “Glute Maximus,” along with the hamstring muscles. Sadly they are more often than not under-leveraged and under-utilized due to poor posture on the bike. If you do not recruit effectively these muscles you can not use them to their optimum! The net result is less torque and power at the pedals. Improve your posture and control and take advantage of your most powerful pedaling muscles.

Our musculoskeletal system is a mechanical system driven by the laws of mechanical physics (hence the term Biomechanics, “bio” simply referring to a “living mechanical system”). Think levers and pivot points. When designing such systems the name of the game is leverage, torque, and power. For us humans bad posture decreases leverage, which decreases torque and power. Therefore, it is logical that in order to maximize the mechanical leverage of the glutes and hamstrings muscles, remember they are the extensors of the hip, and to improve torque and power at the hip and ultimately the pedals, we must pay attention to our posture on the bike. Here is how it works and what to look out for.

For a muscle to be able to contract strongly it has to be lengthened. The Glute Maximus and hamstring muscles are lengthened when the hips are flexed. There are two ways to flex the hip: one is to approach the thigh towards the torso, such as the upward motion of the pedal stroke; and the other is to approach the pelvis towards the thigh, which means titling the pelvis forward. This is where things get complicated and where riders make a crucial mistake. A forward tilt of the pelvis is the correct and desired posture while seated on the bike, but it will increase pressure on the groin as the groin is being pushed downward and into the seat. Obviously this isn’t good or comfortable. The solution for most is to tilt the pelvis back, the opposite direction, an unconscious movement to relieve the discomfort, but this is bad and incorrect posture because as a consequence the glutes and hamstrings are shortened thereby decreasing their leverage and participation in hip extension. What to do?

The solution is to eliminate pressure at the groin and that can only be done via a modification to the saddle, so that when the pelvis is titled forward there is no pressure. There are seats available on the market that can help with this, but I haven’t found any that do the job 100%, and therefore I developed my own modification that does eliminate the problem 100%. Here is a link to show you how to modify your saddle. (Modified Seat)

Now, as you maintain a forward tilt of the pelvis you will notice an increased leverage and participation of your glutes and hamstrings.

Here then is a list of the advantages to this proper posture correction.

  • Increased activity and participation of the glutes and hamstrings = increased power!!
  • Increased efficiency in work load distribution to the entire thigh (glutes, hamstrings, quads) = better endurance!!
  • A forward tilt of the pelvis also allows for maintaining a “neutral position of the low back” and set up for proper posture in the upper back and neck = no back pain while riding and less stress in the shoulders!!
Ride Across the Pyrenees cycling challenge