This article is going to contain zero references because it is going to be my opinion based on my experiences with mountain biking, coaching, formal education, and research. If you disagree with of my opinions, I want to hear from you. Why? Because I’m obsessed with learning. The more information I get from you the more I will learn about my own process, my training, and my opinions. I ask that you approach this with an open and inquisitive mind. The more questions you ask, the more I’ll learn about what people want to know about. It will force all of us to think outside the box.
There are a few pieces of information that come to mind that I want to share with you. The three types of muscle contractions, and the stretch shortening cycle (SSC).
In order to better describe the contraction types, we’re going to look at an exercise that everyone is or should be familiar with, squatting I’m not going to talk about technique of this exercise here, but what I want to bring your attention to is the up and down phases of it. Keep the these phases in mind – downward movement (eccentric), pause at the bottom (isometric), lastly the upward movement (concentric).
An eccentric contraction is when your muscles lengthen under load. On the downward phase of a squat, the muscles that on the front of your thighs (quadriceps) and rearend (glutes) are lengthening under load.
If you pause your squat somewhere between standing and as low as you can go, that paused movement is caused isometric contractions. All of your muscles are working synergistically to hold a static position.
To get yourself back up to a standing positions requires a concentric contraction (shortening) of the muscles that were lengthening during the eccentric contractions (lowering phase, quadriceps and glutes).
When these contractions occur in an a spring like pattern it is referred to as the stretch shortening cycle.
Stretch Shortening Cycle
What happens when you stretch a rubber band? As soon as you let go it returns back with force. A sprinter relies on stretch shortening cycle for optimal speed. A long distance runner relies on stretch shortening cycle for efficiency. How do you rely on it when you’re riding? It’s not when you’re pedaling. It’s when you’re absorbing forces from the ground. Reacting to these forces through your hands and feet into your limbs, then your hips or shoulders, then your torso. In order for you to be able to withstand the continual onslaught of forces, you must be strong, controlled, and fast in the three contraction types.
To Be Continued…