Love Your Butt
Increase your cycling power with a fit behind.
Butts are the domestiques of cycling muscles: hard-working, unappreciated powerhouses that get none of the glamour of the legs. Your caboose deserves the same respect you give your legs--it's just as responsible for powering you down the road or trail and up hills.
Your gluteals are one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in your body. Because they aid hip extension and rotation, they're key to your cycling power. Every time you turn the cranks with any power, you rely mainly on your gluteus maximus (and, to a lesser extent, your hamstrings and quadriceps).
Two other buttock muscles--the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus--provide balance during side-to-side weight shifts, such as when you're steering your bike. The more we ride and use the gluteal muscles, the stronger and bigger they become, shedding fat and building muscle. (In fact, next to cross-country skiing, cycling is probably the best exercise for the buttocks, says Andy Pruitt, Ed.D.)
Some of us end up with smaller, more chiseled butts. Some pull a Jennifer Lopez, bulking up thanks to genetic tendency. It doesn't really matter which type you are--both work for cycling, and both can be modified if you don't like how your can looks in jeans.
WHAT KIND OF BUTT DO YOU HAVE?
Science geeks divide our body types into categories-endomorph (rounded), ectomorph (thin) and mesomorph (WWF). Tests to "determine" your body type seem stupid to us because?hello--just look at your body. But here's a clever one: Put your hand around your wrist. If your thumb and fore-finger overlap, you are an ectomorph; if they touch, you are a mesomorph; and if they do not touch at all, you are an endomorph. Cool, huh? And totally useless.
IF YOUR BUTT IS... YOUR GEEK LABEL IS...WHICH MEANS...
Rounded or pear-shaped, often carrying excess weight...Endomorphic... If you want a trim butt, forget about spot weight training (which will only make your gluteus more maximus) and concentrate on overall body weight loss through dieting and fat-burning activities such as cycling, jogging and aerobics.
Naturally muscular, well-formed, athletic and extremely responsive to regular exercise... esomorphic...You have more fast-twitch muscles, which gives you great power for sprints, fast starts and short bursts. But fast-twitch muscles have a greater potential to hypertrophy, or enlarge. Your butt can get muscular, but it ain't ever gonna be petite.
Flat, thin, has difficulty gaining weight...Ectomorphic...You have the most common shape of competitive cyclists-especially climbing specialists. If you want to build a more rounded butt, spend time in a weight room. Lift weights while you're there.
Use Your Butt Power!
* Ride in the drops more often (or bend toward the bar on a mountain bike), which bends your back forward and pre-stretches your glute muscles. Think of the muscle as a large rubber band. Sit erect, and it's barely stretched before you contract, which results in minimal power. Now, imagine stretching the muscle taut by bending your back forward; the butt muscle provides more power when released.
* If you have a big butt, get more power by dropping your saddle and sliding it back. Your cadence will drop and you'll become a big-gear pusher, but powerful glutes were made for that. (Bonehead Alert: Experiment with tiny increments of change--no more than 5 millimeters at a time--as you shift rearward. You may also have to move your handlebar up and back (with a shorter stem) to compensate.)
BUILD A BETTER BUTT
For rounding or toning flat buns, try reverse leg lifts. Lean forward, supporting your body on a table. Slowly raise one leg backwards. Don't swing it-make the muscle do the work. Do 20 reps for each leg. As the exercise becomes easier, add resistance (such as weight straps). Squats also work well.
To Trim Your ARSE
* Let your legs do more work by raising the handlebar and riding in a more upright position, which stresses the hamstrings and quads more, and spares the buttocks.
* Concentrate on long-distance (two hours or more) low- to medium-intensity aerobic rides instead of anaerobic efforts. Avoid track riding, which is notorious for creating gargantuan rears.
* Eat about 20% total fat in your diet. Also avoid alcohol, which kicks the body's
fat-storage mechanisms into overdrive.
* Stay active year-round. Try running and cross-country skiing, which are both great for reducing butt heft and body fat, in the off-season.
4 THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG WITH YOUR BUTT
1. Chafing and Saddle Sores*
Possible Cause... Fix
ILL-FITTING SHORTS...Get a good pair of cycling shorts with a "baseball cut" chamois. Don't wear underwear beneath your shorts.
POOR BIKE POSITION... Set up your saddle so you sit on your ischium, or sit bones (the two backward-facing lower bones in either cheek). Don't lean forward over the bike. Lower your saddle slightly-if you're reaching for the pedals, you're sawing tender tissue across the saddle nose on each pedal stroke.
LOUSY HYGIENE... Wash your shorts after each use. Wash your crotch with mild soap and water before and after each ride. Don't stand around in wet shorts.
RIDING IN RAIN... If it's raining, grease your chamois with something like Chamois Butt'R and keep your shorts dry, either by using fenders or a long-tailed jacket.
* If none of this works and you're susceptible to saddle sores, see your doc.
2. Plain Old Sore Butt
Soft tissue over the bone can become traumatized from pressure-especially for new riders. If you feel sore after a ride, take ibuprofen and hold a cold compress against what our country relatives call their "'taint" ("'tain't your butt, 'tain't your other part")-the soft under-
side of your crotch. The next day, add heat to increase blood flow to the muscle.
If your butt hurts after 3-4 weeks of regular riding, you're doing something wrong--level your saddle, recheck your seat height and stop riding with loose change in your shorts.
3. Road Rash
If you lose skin on your glutes from crashing, get the abrasion clean and scrub all gravel out of it-otherwise the skin heals over grit and you end up with a black "tattoo" desecrating your alabaster bootie. Use lots of water and a light soap--a shower is best, but it's gonna sting. Seal with an antibiotic ointment and cover. An Ace or telpha bandage works best. Change 2 to 3 times a day. When the scrape begins to skin over (a couple of days), leave off the bandage.
4. Sore Cheeks
If your butt is just aching from sitting in the saddle too long or riding lots of hills, chug a protein-rich recovery drink immediately after your ride to help muscles regenerate. Get a sports massage, and ask the therapist to concentrate on your glutes.