Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Look Ma No Hands

One of my favorite riders Mario Cipollini shown here winning the 2002 World Cycling Road Race Championships in the picture above. What does super Mario have as a advantage over his fellow sprinters? Besides his abundance of fast twitch muscle fibers, his strong core muscles are his best kept secret. Even Lance Armstrong spends extra time working on his core muscles so he can be more stable and hold his time trial position longer in the quest to get mere seconds over his competitors.

Why this topic, you may wonder? Well, many of our patients this past fortnight are cyclists, triathletes preparing for a cycling stage race in Thailand at the end of the month. Hence, I've decided to do a topic on this as it benefits all athletes and even patients who don't play sport and yet have low back pain.

Consider some research done on cyclists on whether a torso (or trunk) stabilization device would reduce metabolic cost of producing cycling power - increasing cycling efficiency and lower energy expenditure for the same cycling power output. All this translated means cycling faster using less energy. The cyclists were tested on a cycle ergometer at different power outputs, different pedal cadences with and without torso stabilization. The results show that with a stable torso, submaximal cycling power was reduced (increase in cycling efficiency was seen), meaning cycling faster with less effort. This reduction was also related to pedaling cadence. Greatest reduction was seen at lower pedaling rates where pedaling force was greatest.

The researchers concluded that implications of this study are significant for cyclists. High cadence pedaling appear to increase efficiency by reducing the amount of energy required to stabilize the upper body while cycling. Cyclists with greater core stabilty will have an advantage over those with weaker stabilzing muscles. (My patients reading this now should realize why I spent so much time teaching you how to use your deep, core muscles).

I'd like to point out that you need to learn how to activate your core muscles without activating the superficial muscles and still be able to transfer them to your sport or activity. I know for a fact that many of our patients have been taught wrongly despite having 'learnt' it before from previous physiotherapy, Pilates or other core classes. Please come talk to us if you have any questions.


McDaniel J et al (2005). Torso Stabilization Reduces The Metabolic Cost Of Producing Cycling Power. Canadian J App Physiology. 30(4) : 433-41. https://doi.org/10.1039/h05-132.


  1. hi gino! :) looked like you had loads of fun on your trip....when i run i get a sharp pain near my collar bone after running past 20 mins, that lasts until i stop...would you have any idea why?

  2. will call you and explain when you come back from your trip.