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Quads or Glutes ?

EscargotEscargot Posts: 361
edited September 2009 in Training, fitness and health
Hi all

I have a question about what muscle group(s) I should be working when cycling.

My bike is currently set up with the saddle very slightly lower than I would have thought optimum. I have ridden like this for some time now as it's comfortable over long distances. However after a long ride, it's my glutes that feel like they've been worked the most.

On Sunday I rode the Ox to Cambs 90 miler and this week my quads are killing me. When cleaning my bike I found that I had ridden with my saddle a notch higher (10mm?) as I had taken it off during transit (I thought the position was slightly off but I was well into the ride by the time I noticed). My glutes however hardly feel like they've been worked at all.

This has got me wondering if I should be targeting my quads more as opposed to working my glutes. Naturally the wife thinks my backside is better off for it but is there a general consensus on how much you should be working each muscle group ?

Cheers.

Posts

  • Both equally, unless you seek injury.
    Legs development is one of the hardest areas to develop and needs a lot of attention.

    Ever heard of the stereotypical gym lout who has big arms and thin legs? Reason is simple: the biggest muscles in the whole body are in our legs (then the back, chest and arms...)

    Developing strong and balanced leg muscles takes a lot more work, and any imbalance is difficult to remove quickly.

    I would recommend practicing free body squats, using a superslow technique, which will allow you to detect any imbalance (but won't necessarily fix it). You might need to isolate the glutei, biceps or quads to remove any imbalance.

    Please also don't underestimate the roles of calves and shins during the pedaling movement. If those are not trained too, they will create imbalance.

    A well looked after knee joint is the product of a well balanced workout.
  • Thanks.

    By the sound of it I need to find a seating position (somewhere inbetween) that works both my glutes and quads by the same measure.

    I'm normally quite good with balancing my weights sessions and do a lot of opposing exercises to build strength evenly. However I've pretty much stopped doing deadlifts etc. since I started cycling as it takes too much out of my legs.

    I'll give the body squat thing a go at home. This probably sounds silly but what should I be looking out for ?

    Thanks again :)
  • Keep your core strong, move as if sitting carefully onto a very fragile chair.

    Stick your bum back as you squat. Feet shoulder width apart, knees going in the plane of the foot if that makes sense.

    If you want to make it really hard, put a small stool on the floor and squat down onto it and back up.
  • Thanks for that.

    However how do I know if my quads/glutes are imbalanced during the squat ?

    (feel pretty stupid now :oops: )
  • Escargot wrote:
    Thanks for that.

    However how do I know if my quads/glutes are imbalanced during the squat ?

    (feel pretty stupid now :oops: )

    I am not an expert, so please take my advice with a pinch of salt.

    I have very strong legs: I am not genetically gifted with them, I had to train hard. And most of my time in the gym was spent strengthening my legs.

    The more the muscular imbalance, the less fluid and 'correct' the squat movement is.

    It is not a foolproof method; having a front and side mirror can show whether you tend to pull up first with your quads or your glutei.
    People who have stronger quads than glutei tend to move forward during the movement, overarching their backs. They also tend not to do deep squats: the quad in a deep squat can't do any work.
    If you glutei are stronger, your back will stay more vertical but your lower back might start to flex forward: reason why deadlifts work the glutei more.
    In a leg press exercise for example, the quads get used more: the back does not move in a natural way, disallowing the back mobility required for the engagement of the glutei.
  • Many thanks again.

    I'm normally pretty strict with form as I don't believe it's worth doing any weights without it. When I did do squats I used to go below 90 degrees (so quite deep) so I know my glutes are reasonable. However I used to have slightly more trouble fully extending my legs on the upward stroke so maybe my quads are lacking.

    Either way, my ride on Sunday got me wondering if I'm not using my quads enough during cycling as they still hurt like hell. I'll look into your comments further (chat with a personal trainer possibly) and then adjust my position on the bike so I'm targeting more of my quads.

    Cheers for your help :)

    P.S. Do you find all that leg work helps with the type of cycling you do ?
  • EdwinEdwin Posts: 785
    No - I haven't found that weights help much, I generally run out of breath before I run out of strength, and I wouldn't say my legs are particularly weak. I'm going to leave the gym out of my training plan this year, and put the savings on gym membership towards a new set of race wheels and a powermeter.
  • That's interesting but a damned good way of buying yourself a nice set of wheels :D

    I've read a few contrasting opinions on the weights thing but have made some basic observations.
      Most of the cyclists I know have thighs the size of tree trunks (maybe because they live in Wales) so have concluded that cycling a lot in hilly regions generates big legs. Big quads are very useful when sprinting or attacking your mates when out and about :wink: Doing lots of gym work develops the muscles faster than cycling.
      With this in mind it seems logical that doing an intense leg bulking campaign could help develop the muscle for use with cycling. I realise cycling long distance does not utilise fast twtich muscle but then climbing most hills in the UK is like interval training, for which fast twitch muscles are probably used more. Of course my logic could well be fooked :lol:
  • EdwinEdwin Posts: 785
    Yep, your logic isn't quite right I'm afraid, although it sounds reasonable. Cycling is an endurance sport (unless you want to be a track sprinter), so muscle *size* isn't the main factor, it's power.
    Look at the pros - does Contador have massive legs, or the Schlecks? I've got bigger quads than them, but I wouldn't beat them over any distance. Also, I don't know if you race, but it's not usually the riders with biggest legs that win in my experience.
  • Cycling mostly uses hamstrings and glutes, no matter what position you cycle in, you use your quads relatively little. In fact the imbalance caused between quads and glutes can cause imbalance as mentioned earlier.

    As far as the quads are concerned, running and cycling particularly strengthens the outer quad muscle which may cause the knee cap to track incorrectly so stretches that target that outer muscle can be helpful as are weight lifting exersises that target the inner quad muscle.
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  • Edwin wrote:
    Yep, your logic isn't quite right I'm afraid, although it sounds reasonable. Cycling is an endurance sport (unless you want to be a track sprinter), so muscle *size* isn't the main factor, it's power.
    Look at the pros - does Contador have massive legs, or the Schlecks? I've got bigger quads than them, but I wouldn't beat them over any distance. Also, I don't know if you race, but it's not usually the riders with biggest legs that win in my experience.

    LOL, that's no surprise (that my logic is not quite right :wink: ). It just seemed reasonable given that the hill climbs around my area are normally no longer than 1-2 minute intervals (which I assumed required power and not endurance).

    You're right though, the pros aren't big (other than guys like Cavendish) so is probably not as relevant.

    BTW I don't race (other than with my kids, who often win :wink: )
  • I would be careful with the leg weights for cycling. A strong muscle is not necessarily a powerful one. If you concentrate purely on the weight rather than speed you'll most likely end up with very strong but very 'slow' muscles.

    You won't see a squat done quickly. Compare the leg speed of someone squatting even a light weight compared with the leg speed of even the slowest churner you know. Don't even want to think about the orders of magnitude difference
    when compared with a spinner.

    The type of squat is also very important;

    1. Legs in different time zones with a 90 degree bend. Coupled with an acute back angle.

    2. censored to ankles with an upright spine. Feet shoulder width apart.

    Option 2 is preferable IMO for a variety of reasons. (I trained oly style for a loooong time)
    Option 2 also works more muscle groups while eliminating the shearing forces in your spine. Although there is an acute knee angle this is desirable and any one says that this will damage your knees is ill informed and has not studied biomechanics or seen a powerlifters (option 1) knee explode.
    Cycling mostly uses hamstrings and glutes, no matter what position you cycle in, you use your quads relatively little.

    I'm unsure of whether this statement is a mistake or misinformation but I can positively assure you that your quads are most definitively the main muscle utilised when cycling. You try straightening you legs without using your quads. (The four - hence quad - huge muscle on the front of your thighs.
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