How many of you have gotten off the bike after a long ride and have this numbness and tingling in your hands and you are really not sure why but you just push through it?
As triathletes, we are really bad at doing that instead of listening to our body. We just ignore the pain because we are use to doing that, I mean, who else puts themselves through the grueling thing call triathlons? So this is where that question stems from: what do abs and numb hands have in common?
Let me ask you this question: what is it that supports your upper body on the bike? This may vary, as everybody’s answer maybe a little different. Would it be:
- your hands?
- your arms?
- your core or your abdominal muscles?
Your core would be the best and most correct answer, but unfortunately, this is not all that common.
What I see in cyclists all the time: I pass them on the road and the first thing I notice is their arms are straight locked out and their shoulders are tense. This is an obvious indication on where their weight is being distributed, because if all their weight wasn’t bearing down on their hands they wouldn’t need their elbows locked out or have so much tension in their shoulders.
The proper form is to have a little bend in the elbows, what you will have to to keep that bend is activate your core just slightly, so it’s not going to be like a weighted sit up or anything like that where you are only contracting this muscles for a few seconds at a time. What you are doing here is concentrating type one, or the slow twitch, muscle fibers and that’s where specificity comes in to play.
Lets go back to form for a second. Besides the bend in the elbows, another thing that we need to do is set our shoulders into proper position so all of our body works as one unit. We are all interconnected, so when we tense up those shoulders, those elbows automatically lock out and vice versa.
Consequentially, we have to make sure that our shoulder tension is not causing our neck to tense up and drop forward, so we have to keep our neck in proper position too. like I said, this is all interconnected. We want to work on the whole form, everything from core up.
Now you are probably wondering how to fix the problem now that you know what it is. Strong abs and core stabilization are a definite must, but not regular abdominal crunches or sit ups like we discussed earlier will target exactly what we want to target here.
There are going to be different methods, but for this purpose and for this problem the best exercises are planks, or a variation of a plank. You can do weighted or unweighted, as well as a verity of planks. Whether you are planking on your hands or your elbows, the most important thing is the time. We want to go for an extended period of time. If you just started out, planks by themselves are probably hard enough in 20-30 second intervals. You could work your way up from there, but we are not going to add any weight or have any level of difficulty until we can get a solid base of around a minute and a half (90 seconds). Two or three minutes is a good goal to work up to.
Your hand pain and numbness after a bike ride is not the only thing that’s going to benefit from these core exercises. Your core is used in almost every event, every movement, every exercise, and every leg of the triathlon whether you are running, swimming. It’s all going to be engaging the core.
Specifically in the cycling, you are also going to be saving your lower back. A lot of times we get out of a long bike ride and we have a sore lower back. That’s from having weak abdominal muscles that causes stress on the lower back.
Now what I want to mention is core for the run; how’s this going to benefit the run? I am going to go over this briefly. If you are running with correct posture once again I’m always going to assume that you’ve been taught, coached, or you learned yourself the correct form and posture of these exercises and running, swimming and cycling.
So in the correct ideal form you are going to have your body slightly lean forward, your spine is going to stay in the neutral position but you are going to have a little bit of forward lean to create that moment, you are never going to be running perfectly standing up. Especially if you practice the pose method of running of course you are going to be leaned over quite a bit more. So it is really important that we work on its core stabilizer so that our back remains in a neutral position and not slumped forward,
It is easy to do and it’s easy place to get through especially for trying to create a little form of momentum and especially if you are a pose runner because you are going to be leaning forward. The falling force that way you can land on the ball of your foot instead of your heel, a lot of times core stabilization and neutral spine is jeopardized in that process. Now you are probably wondering ok, I get it.
Abs on the bike, on the run, but how do I use my abs swimming? I’m in the water what am I doing to use my abs?
Well if you are swimming and you are using the role technique which most swimmers do, if you are rolling from side to side a slight belly role is going to be for efficient swimming, moving more fluid like through the water and you are going to be using those core stabilizers to help move your body through the water. Like I said a lot of times we think of abs and we think of crunches; these deep contractions, this big range of motion and not some static position that we stay in, or some slight range of motion like in the swim where we are turning our torso to the left and to the right as we swim through the water but none the less our core is still engaged. Just because our abdominal muscles aren’t moving, contracting and our spine isn’t flexing and extending doesn’t mean that we are not using these muscles, we still have to target and strengthen them.
This reason specifically is why planks are such great exercise; you are working in the static range of motion, you are not really creating a lot of flexing or extension like in crunches or rush and twist and not to say that these exercises aren’t great and they will work on core activation but we have to remember the principles specificity that when you are swimming or cycling or running you are not doing these things for 5 or 10 or 20 repetitions, you are holding these for long period of time.
Endurance, you are enduring over long distance, so we have to train our muscles for that same purpose, the principle called specificity. So planks are one of those exercises where we can build up and not just do 10, 20, 30, 40 but we can build up to do a long period of time just like we would b on the bike or on the run.
I have a video course “Shoulder health for triathletes”. If you ever had the nagging shoulder injuries or pain coming out of the water whether you think it’s rotator calf or overuse injury, I have just what can help you. I have a video course that’s going to help align those shoulders back to the proper posture and help strengthen those rotator cuffs and all the muscles that surround the shoulders. Now all you have to do is go to www.jonasasivado.com/videocourse and download now. You will sign up with your email address and the videos with the password will be sending directly to your mailbox.