Op-Ed MTB Analysis (Muscle Contractions & SSC)

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).

Contraction Types

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…

Published by: Coach DanielH

Daniel Heller is a strength and conditioning coach, working in the field since 2007 where he began as an intern at Hope’s Gym in Monroe, Washington. In 2009, a month after graduating from Bastyr University, Daniel became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Since then, he has served as a strength and conditioning coach in the private sector, helping athletes from youth through college level in ice hockey, figure skating, mountain biking, football, and motocross. He works closely with each athlete’s physical therapists and doctors to ensure safety and performance improvement. In 2013, Daniel received the designation of Registered Strength & Conditioning Coach (RSCC) through the NSCA. On the side Daniel was the exercise physiology, biomechanics, and kinesiology consultant for the Advanced Products Development Team at Oakley Inc. He is the Cofounder and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Seattle Institute of Athletic Performance providing Functional Movement Screens, corrective exercises, athletic performance programs, as well as educating athletes and parents on the importance of Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) and practice of heads up sports. Daniel’s passion for strength and conditioning stems from his days as a competitive ice hockey player and mountain biker, aside from the many recreational sports he participates in. He is the true strength & conditioning coach for competitive youths aiming for long careers as athletes but also the weekend warriors that train during the week to stay safe on the weekends. In 2015, Daniel took a year break from coaching in Seattle, Washington to pursue his dream of acquiring a masters degree. He returned to Seattle in September 2016 with a Masters of Science in Strength & Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh after living in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year. By immersing himself in the cycling community of Scotland, he was inspired to focus his dissertation on competitive cyclists from varying disciplines where he researched a potential method of improving stationary sprint start performance. He is excited to return to coaching mountain biking combining his childhood passion with his academic and applied expertise.

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