2. Strengthen the Hips
Most knee pain on the bike has almost nothing to do with the knee itself.
Burning pain in the knee is often due to inflammation of the iliotibial (IT) band that runs along the outside of the thigh. This and other overuse-related hip and knee pains are due to weakness or tightness of the smaller, deeper muscles of the pelvis, according to Dr. Alex Meininger, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Moab Regional Hospital’s Orthopaedic Specialty Services in Moab, Utah.
The gluteus minimus and medius, or hip abductors, “play a really important role in aligning the (lower) extremities,” he said.
Strengthening the hip abductors early in the year can help keep the the knees in alignment while pedaling, reducing the risk of race-ending knee pain during the season; stretching the hip abductors can further reduce the risk of IT band inflammation.
“It’s the abductor strength that I think is the focus of pelvic balance,” Meininger said. “If we strengthen or balance [the abductors], you’ll find that those syndromes can be avoided, or you can recover [from them] faster.”
Meininger recommends training the abductors with light weight for three sets of 12-to-15 repetitions at least once weekly for injury prevention, and at least twice weekly for athletes recovering from an injury. Alternating sets of abductor strengthening with sets of core exercises is an efficient way to make use of the short rest period between sets.