Symptoms, conditions and causes

Is cycling bad for tight hip flexors?

Someone who is a cyclist asked me how to help with low back pain from cycling. They had very tight hip flexors too.

One of the challenges, when you ride a bike, is doing a repetitive motion (pedaling) over and over again. You work certain muscles way more than others. For example, you work your hip flexors, which are the muscle that bends the top part of your body over your lower body. You also work your knee extensors.

If you have your foot clipped into the pedal, that’s better because you can pull one leg up while you push down with the other. Otherwise, you use a lot more knee extension as you push down over and over.

You’ll build up specific muscles in your quadriceps; specifically, the rectus femoris. It attaches to your hip and is both a hip flexor and a knee flexor, and becomes overly developed when you cycle. Any time you have one muscle that’s overdeveloped compared to its counterpart, you’re liable to have an imbalance.

You also have a problem with an overdeveloped iliopsoas muscle, which is a muscle in combination with your psoas muscle that attaches from the inside of the lower back to your femur. The iliopsoas attaches from the inside of your pelvis to your femur.

If you overdevelop the rectus femoris and the iliopsoas, they tend to keep you in a flexed state. You lose the symmetry between the muscles in the front of the body and the back. This is what causes your low back pain.

Here’s what I recommend you do to relieve the low back pain from cycling. Of course, stretch, but you need to do more. When I test a cyclist for flexibility, they don’t usually appear to be very stiff. The real issue is the overdevelopment of the muscles I mentioned, leading to an imbalance. In other words, a weakness in the opposing muscle.

The opposing muscles I want you to strengthen are primarily your hamstrings and your glutes. I put some links below this, to videos that will show you how to strengthen these opposing muscles. I also included some links to videos for effective stretching. Your hamstrings will help your knee flexors, and your glutes will help with hip flexors.

I also highly recommend you do yoga because it involves all of your muscles to develop flexibility and strength. My recommendation actually goes for any sport that’s unilateral and uses repetitive motion, such as golf.

Last updated: Aug 04, 2023 14:07 PM