One of the most common complaints I hear about from riders is that their lower back gives them problems. It could be tight, weak, sore or even painful but on some level their low back is affecting how well they can move and ride.
Over the years I’ve seen this problem just get worse as more and more people take up our sport of mountain biking without the requisite movement and strength needed. They also get a lot of bad advice that leads to excessive stress on the low back when riding as well.
Add it up and you have a recipe for disaster, which is why low back pain is almost an epidemic in our sport. Fortunately, unless you have a diagnosed issue like a bulging disc or other acute injury there are things you can do to improve and even eliminate your low back pain.
In this new episode of the BikeJames Podcast, I share the 3 most common causes of low back pain in mountain bikers and the top 3 solutions to help you improve it. While everyone is different, these are some of the lessons I’ve learned in working with hundreds of riders and I hope they can help you too.
- Two kinds of low back pain
- Something is physically wrong (not as common)
- Nothing is “wrong” but it still hurts (far more common)
- Psychology and stress may play a role
- Assuming that nothing is wrong and you are managing your mindset and stress, then it is probably mobility and/or strength gaps that are the problem
- Add in sedentary living with too much sitting and a sport that encourages more sitting and you have a time bomb
- Problem #1: Poor hip mobility
- When you can’t bend at the hips you end up bending more at the lower back
- Problem #2: Poor core stabilization and hip strength
- When your core can’t stabilize properly and you can’t generate force with your hips you end up using the low back to help create movement
- Problem #3: Too much seated pedaling
- When you sit down it disengages the core and encourages rounding at the lower back
- If sitting is the new smoking then what does that make seated pedaling?
- Solution #1: Improve your hip mobility
- Use foam rolling, static stretching and dynamic mobility to restore quality movement
- Solution #2: Improve your core stability and hip strength
- Use strength training to “stress proof” your movement
- Solution #3: Stand up to pedal more
- When you stand up to pedal your core engages more and you can achieve better posture
- Goal is to use standing pedaling for High Tension efforts and seated pedaling for Low Tension/ Recovery efforts
- Idea that you need to sit down for traction is a myth and while it takes some practice, you can get really, really good with standing pedaling, especially if you are using the other 2 solutions.
- Bonus Solution #4: Use moderate skills focused rides to practice your standing pedaling skills
- You can’t improve your skills if you are always trying to “pin it” every ride
- Favorite way to practice standing pedaling is to lower my seat and leave it down
- Low back pain doesn’t have to be a normal part of riding or every day life if you practice good movement on and off the bike.Until next time…Ride Strong,