Monday, December 6, 2010

Conditioning on Stationary Bikes: Pros and Cons

I often get the question from some of my GAA players, "what do you think of spin, or doing some conditioning on a bike?". Well I am about to give you my definitive answers here. Keep in mind I am talking about conditioning on stationary bikes for field and court athletes

1. Cycling is very anterior chain (quad) dominant: Most athletes are anterior chain dominant. By this I mean they overuse their quads, and underuse their glutes and the hamstrings (posterior chain). Conditioning on a bike feeds this imbalance even more.

2. No acceleration, deceleration, or change of direction (COD): In sports like hurling and football acceleration, deceleration and COD are very important aspects of the sport. Acceleration is all about being able to apply force into the ground. Deceleration is about having great eccentric control of your body, especially on one limb, while COD is also about eccentric control and then being able to rapaidly apply force back into the ground to change direction. Being on a stationary bike does nothing to improve these very important aspects. Someone can argue that I am talking about the speed, and agility portion of training, but even in the conditioning segment I would prefer a field/court athlete to be on their feet, having to deal with these forces as they fatigue. As we know injury risks are higher with fatigue!

3. Hip Flexors: Do we really need to shorten the hip flexors anymore than we already do with all the sitting we do nowadays? I think no.

4. Kyphotic Posture (Rounded Shoulders): Similar to the comment to the hip flexors above, do we really want to bring our spines into more poor posture. Don't we get enough as it is already. Ok you can make arguments for the airdyne, but I am making the argument against your typical stationary/spin bike.

5. Low transfer: The transfer of conditioning on a bike to improve your on-field conditioning is low. What we use to believe before was that if we can improve the strength & conditioning of our cardio-respiratory system by any means (running, cycling, etc) then our conditioning levels in all activities should improve. What we failed to realize though is that there also needs to be a cellular adaptation to the muscles also, as well as the cardio-respiratory system. This is why on a bike Lance Armstrong is the most conditioned human in the world, but in the New York City marathon he was why back at the end of the field. This is becacuse he has made the cellular adaptations (mitochondria, capillaries, myogoblin, hemogoblin) in the muscle tissues and blood when cycling, but not when he is on two feet running.

Ok now for the Pros

1. Injuries: Anybody coming back from some joint or lower extremity injury, the bike may have some role to play in the initial stages. In fact I have heard Dan Pfaff talk about how his has used bikes to still get some training effect for his sprinters with a broken bone in their foot or a lower extremity issue. This may seem to fly in the face of what I just stated above about transfer, but Pfaff is using a specialized bike that manages to get his athletes in positions similar to those that are encounter in sprinting. Also he states his volumes is a lot higher on the bikes due to there being no ground forces. Keep in mind also that Pfaff calls this a serious Plan B!

2. Variety: OK. I know you're like WTF. I am contradicting myself again. But you need to remember I am answering the average athlete who is not on a well designed strength & conditioning program, has shitty posture, and has poor acceleration, deceleration, and COD capabilities. But for a well trained athlete who is concurrently training all these qualities that I have mention, some conditioning on the bike will be a welcome change. This is why I think conditioning on the airdynes at MBSC is ok, as the athletes are working on their posterior chain, their hip mobility/flexibility, their acceleration, deceleration, COD, etc.

3. Recovery: Low impact, and requires little mental attention. For recovery it is a tool in the toolbox.

So there you have my opinions on conditioning for field/court athletes on a stationary bike. Hope you find it somewhat useful??

Stay Strong,


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