Single leg strength for Mountain Bikers
If you ride offroad, either on a mountain bike or cyclocross, you will spend a lot of time out of the saddle to adapt to changing terrain. In this position pedals are level, and as a rider you develop a preferred leg forward (your 'chocolate foot' as it gets all muddy).
This front leg will grow stronger for two reasons: the knee and hip angle favor the development of quadriceps muscles, especially the VMO (see photo below), and secondly this front foot will be the first to pedal again,pressing hard to overcome inertia. Over time this leaves you with a leg that is stronger but possibly also tighter, and that imbalance can create all sorts of issues such as lower back pain and reduced mobility if not managed.
What can you do?
Apply the golden rule of "strengthen what is weak and stretch/release what is tight". In other words, develop a strong 'back' leg and emphasize stretches on your front leg. On a stationary bike, pedal (ideally clipped in) for 30 seconds only with your 'weaker' leg, then back to both for 30 seconds - repeat 10 times. You can also do this while out on the trail or road.
Other great exercises are:
- single leg squats (holding on to something)
- single leg deadlifts, with kettlebells, dumbbells, etc.
- split squat, weaker leg forward
- single lex box jumps
I will post more on single leg strength development in a separate post, until then stay safe and enjoy spring!