ALLI Sports Racer X Online MX Sports GNCC Racing Racer Productions The Racing Paper Racer X Brand

Posture and Riding

by Sean Casey

Advertisement

This Fall, Virtual Trainer has provided you guys with some excellent information on the core and rotational stability. If you were sharp enough to read through those articles, you would start to look at training the core in a more “functional” way. And don't get me wrong the word “functional” gets thrown around a lot with the advent of Crossfit and YouTube coaches trying to reinvent the wheel.

Eddie Casillas went over an important aspect of core training and I want to expand on that topic. In order to control your core and make sure you are putting yourself in a good position for riding and/or training, it is a good idea to look at posture. Deviation in your posture can have a major impact on not only everyday life but functioning at an optimal level on the track.

Postural deviation is just like it sounds. It is any deviation from good posture that prevents you from using proper body mechanics. Think of your body as a fire hose. When that hose is kinked or leaking the water will trickle out with little power. Fix those leaks and straighten the line for a noticeable improvement in the power and amount of water!

For the scope of this article, I want to address a few common problems in the core from your neck down to your hips. Like any aspect of training don't expect things to change over night; you didn't develop bad posture over the course of a few days so don't expect a quick fix either.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

What is it?
Think of your hips as a bucket of water. Tilt the bucket forward and water (energy) spills out the front. This is anterior tilt. It looks like you are constantly arching your back and sticking your butt out. This is caused by tight hip flexors, hamstrings and lumbar spine (i.e., lower back). On the contrary, your glutes and abdominals are lengthened and weak. This is more common than posterior pelvic tilt where your glutes are tight and hip flexors are weak. This is common since so many people sit down all day. Just go over a typical 24-hour day: driving a car, at work or school, at home, and even when we workout on machines; we sit. Our hips and knees are flexed literally all day.

How does this affect you, the rider?
For any sport, having weak gutes means less control. Pair that with

weak abdominals and the lower back takes a beating. The upper back is supposed to be mobile and provide range of motion during all movement. However, because of these weaknesses the rider cannot activate his glutes and abs and the lower back, which is supposed to be stable and not move becomes mobile from the lack of stability. That is why most people experience back pain from sitting hunched over all day. When you ride the core is loose and the spine is rounded. This leaks energy and control over the entire body.

What's the Fix?
The hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back need to be trigger pointed, foam rolled, and stretched [See this article]. To trigger point, grab a lacrosse ball and put your weight on the ball where area is tight. For example, to trigger point the hip flexor, lay face down on the ground and place the ball just to the inside of the hip bone, just below the belt line. Roll the ball around each hip and find a sore spot. Spend a few minutes on that spot and move to the other side. This will be uncomfortable at first but the more you do the easier it will become [For more see this article].

To address weak glutes, try doing glute bridges, single leg romanian deadlifts, and banded lying clam shells. For the abs start with planks and reverse crunches. These exercises will challenge you to maintain a neutral lower back. Reverse crunches should be performed laying flat on the floor with your knees over your hips. Focus on lifting the butt off the ground and driving the knees up while maintaining a straight lower back.

Upper Crossed Syndrome

What is it?
If you have ever walked into a gym when the meat heads are training you have witnessed Upper Crossed Syndrome. These guys work the glamor muscles too much forcing their shoulders to roll forward and constantly look like they are shrugging. The pectorals (chest muscle), anterior deltoids, and the latissimus dorsi are tight, while the upper back and posterior deltoids are weak. Essentially, the trapezius muscle is forced to work overtime and the scapulae elevate and spread out. This puts the shoulder in an unstable position and does not give optimal control over the joint.

How does this affect you, the rider?
When an athlete starts to become Upper Crossed, they leak energy and stability in important upper body training exercises and riding. Obviously maintaining good form over the course of the moto becomes more and more difficult because a rider is constantly shrugging. You may not realize it, but the trapezius muscles are always activated. Even in the gym, if the shoulder is not stabilized this bad habit is reinforced. Keeping the elbows up when riding can be easier by addressing this issue.

What's the Fix?
Addressing tight areas with trigger pointing, foam rolling and stretching is a great place to start. As far as strengthening the upper back and rear deltoids, it takes a bit of practice in order not to shrug. Y/T/U/W letter holds are good exercises that place the scaps in the right position. Essentially, lay face down with your forehead on the ground. Straighten your arms out to make a Y. Make a fist and point your thumb to the ceiling. While squeezing your glutes and abs, lift your hands off of the ground 3 inches and hold for 20-seconds. Have a friend check to see if your traps are engaging. If they do, try again! This is wrong. You should feel this in your middle back not by your neck (Traps).

Pronation Distortion Syndrome

What is it?
This is simply any time your knees bow inward when you squat, jump or run. The hamstrings, adductors (the muscles that bring your legs in toward the body), IT band, and calves are as tight as a guitar string. On the opposite end of the spectrum the glutes and the posterior/anterior tibialis (the little guys next to the shin) are nonexistent.

How does this affect you, the rider?
Let's say you are training for Loretta's. Part of your workout calls for a few hundred meters on the rower. Every time you reach the catch position, your knees bow inward. This puts small amounts of stress on your ankles, knees and hips. Compound this with the miles and miles you put in running or cycling and chronic injury is waiting to happen. In addition to this, you have no power or stability over your core. Take a second to recall that last table top you came up short on; not a pleasant memory. When you land, that is just like jumping or squatting. You cannot control the downward force and your knees knock harder than a blind side by Ray Lewis. If your glutes are not firing, the core will be Jello.

What's the Fix?
Trigger point, foam roll, and stretch tight areas. Use the same exercises to strengthen the weak areas as you did with the anterior pelvic tilt. One thing I tell my clients is to screw your feet into the ground when you set up for a squat. You force your knees out and activate your glutes by adding torque. This creates a stable environment for the hip, knees and ankles. You will immediately notice the lower and outside portion of your butt being worked.

This is just scratching the surface on core activation and postural deviation. This is more fundamental than anything and it makes me wonder why more coaches don't talk about this. When you have total control of your core, riding and training become so much easier. As I said before, this will take some time to break any bad habits you may have developed. Everything in the body is connected in some way or another. When you look at your body as a global system and not just a bunch of muscles, things begin to make more sense. Keep addressing the issues you have and become a more balanced rider.

About the Author:
Sean Casey has been riding/racing since the age of 13. Now attending the University of Central Florida, Sean is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine in Personal Training and studying Sport and Exercise Science. His site, MxTrainingBlog, covers everything from nutrition and training to racing mentality and riding technique. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk moto, contact Sean via email, Twitter, Facebook, or his websit.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

Share on:

Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    Kris January 15, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    i think good riding posture is simple: balls of the feet, shins vertical, squat at hips, upper body is a braces neutral spine and arms loose. Most people have the flexibility to do this without all the stretching and mobility. If anything, it's a matter of technique and motor control. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Gravatar
    Daniel January 15, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Look into how you breathe... When you chest breathe, you are not using your lungs to their full potential and it also creates a weak core. Google the importance of diaphragmatic breathing ( belly breathing ). It will actually increase your overall core strength and keep you more oxygenated during your motos,training, coach or girlfriend screaming at you,etc,etc....

  3. Gravatar
    Clint Friesen January 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Daniel
    In my opinion it's quite the opposite when it comes to chest breathing and core strength. The more you engage your diaphragm to get a big deep belly breath, the more you must relax the core muscles in order to allow the diaphragm to descend properly and draw the air in.

    When you chest breathe, it allows you to engage the core muscles and keep it tight during technical sections of the track. Belly breathing should be reserved for the less technical sections (straightaways, in the air on big jumps, etc.). It's important to have the capacity for both belly breathing and chest breathing. Plus the ability to switch between both throughout the different sections of the track.

    As far as people screaming at you... I would go with the deep diaphragmatic breathing in that case.

  4. Gravatar
    Kayne Duncanson January 23, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    First of all, I'd just like to say thank you for finally putting up an article on posture.

    "This is more fundamental than anything and it makes me wonder why more coaches don't talk about this." This is exactly right. Motocross Strength and Conditioning is far behind in this area than other more well known sports because of the "old school" mentality that coaches and riders generally share (barring some exceptions of course). Quite frankly, an article of this nature is far overdue.

    There are a few points from the article that I would like to pick on though based on my personal experience at fixing upper and lower crossed syndrome posture. When you sit at a computer all day, your shoulders can also be very likely to DEPRESS and PROTRACT, causing your levator scapulae to work overtime. Old studies did find "overactive traps" in people with upper crossed syndrome using Electromyogram (EMG) technology. However, it has since been discovered that some EMG machines were in fact sensing the levator scapulae muscle which lies directly on top of the trapezius muscle (upper portion). Therefore, it is also common that the traps are under-active and the levator scapulae are overactive. You can easily tell if this is case by looking at the angle of slope between your neck and shoulders. If there is a steep slope, you would actually want the upper traps to get stronger.

    Secondly, the trapezius muscle has upper, middle and lower portions. I think you should cue lower/mid trap activation rather than simply saying "no traps". I do understand that most people associate traps with the upper portion alone, but this article shouldn't feed into that ideology.

    Clint,
    I thought the goal was to be able to breathe through your diaphragm while maintaining a braced core so that your body doesn't have to choose between breath and stability (as it will nearly always choose breath in a race situation)? I was under the impression that chest breathing is bad news period because you are using prime movers to do the diaphragm's job. My idea is that the ribcage should stay down, the diaphragm should expand in all three dimensions (thereby not relaxing the front core excessively as you descibe) and you should have the thoracic mobility to keep your upper body in alignment and "look ahead". Breathing like this is the basis of core training and thoracic mobility.

    I don't want to sound like a know-it-all, I just want to bounce ideas around with hope of improving my knowledge base and that of motocross athletes and coaches.

    Thanks
    Kayne

  5. Gravatar
    Clint Friesen February 08, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Kayne
    Thanks for the thoughts.. and while they sound great on paper, I think you'll find that keeping your core muscles engaged during diaphragmatic breathing will naturally end up in chest breaths. Anatomy and physiology dictates that as the diaphragm descends, the organs below must have somewhere to displace themselves. If your core muscles are tight, then where do the organs go?

    Everybody, as you're sitting there now, try to keep your core muscles engaged and take a deep breath. The diaphragm may descend slightly before pressure below builds up and overcomes that thin layer of muscle tissue (Especially in those who are un-respiratory trained). Then the chest will begin to expand if you continue to go deeper. Now, imagine G forces acting on you at the same time.. Mid moto, not while sitting in a chair, the demand for core strength becomes even greater.. And I believe the choice will always be for core stability, because you can always afford to hold your breath a bit longer. But you can't always relax the core when your life is hanging in the balance. The choice for me is clear; hold your breath, don't crash...

    While things like this tend to sound nice in theory. Putting them to the test is much different, and it forces us to ask questions as Kayne has here.. I applaud you for the creative thinking and for being brave enough to ask. Keep it coming as I'm always happy to question myself and my thoughts as well. Every good coach/trainer should do so on a regular basis.
    Thanks Kayne

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer February 12, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Kayne - This is Tim Crytser....I own the website and while I was doing some site maintenance I accidentally deleted your comment. It was unintentional. Would you mind reposting your comment. Sorry!

  7. Gravatar
    Best Insulated Water Bottle June 22, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Rattling informative and great complex body part of subject matter,
    now that's user friendly (:.

Leave a reply