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Aerodynamic Position Causes a Sore Lower Back for Cyclists

A sore lower back is a problem many cyclists complain about after riding for hours in the aerodynamic position.


The cause of the sore lower back is a muscle called the psoas and another muscle called the iliacus.  Then to complicate the problem even more, a muscle of the thigh (rectus femoris), is impacted by those two muscles which not only increases the pressure on your low back but also causes knee pain.

Three Key Muscles That Cause A Sore Lower Back:


A closer look at the psoas, iliacus and rectus femoris makes it clear why cyclists are prime targets for a sore lower back every time they ride.

The Psoas

This muscle originates on the front side of the lumbar vertebrae and it inserts into the top/inside of the thigh bone (femur).  When the psoas is its full length it allows the body to stand straight up, when it contracts the body bends forward.

The Iliacus

This muscle originates along the entire inside of the pelvis and it also inserts into the top/inside of the thigh bone.  When it contracts the thigh is brought up toward the torso.

The Rectus Femoris

This muscle is the only one of the four quadriceps muscles that originates on the tip of the pelvis.  The other three quadriceps all originate on the thigh bone.  All four muscles merge into the thick patella tendon that inserts into your the leg.  When the quadriceps contract the leg straightens from the bent position.

What Happens to Your Body While You Cycle:


As you are in the cycling aerodynamic position your psoas muscle pulls your lower back down and your iliacus repetitively brings your thigh up close to your body.  By performing this movement for hours both muscles and often tighten to their shortest length possible.

Then when you stand to exit your bike at the end of your ride, those two muscles are so tight and shortened that they pull hard on your pelvis and lumbar spine causing a sore lower back.  The tension in these muscles keep you bent forward as you start to walk; it may even take a few minutes before you are able to stand upright.

If the psoas and iliacus are severely tight and contracted you may not be able to stand up for an extended period of time and your lower back will continue to be sore for even after you are standing up straight.

This entire situation can be compounded by the rectus femoris muscle in your thigh.  When your psoas and iliacus hold your lumbar and pelvis forward and down, it forces the rectus femoris to tighten and form muscle fiber knots, which puts further strain on your low back.  And in this case the pain is caused from the thigh muscle pulling down on your pelvis.

Safe Stretching is a Two Step Process!


Stretching is great for the body but frequently it’s only a temporary “fix” and it could actually be doing more damage because you are trying to lengthen a muscle that is knotted up with multiple spasms (trigger points).

The most effective method is to first release the spasms that shorten the muscle fibers, and then stretch.

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