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Painful knee after exercise bike

Painful knee after exercise bike

06 Aug 2011 13:36

To begin with I should say I'm not a cyclist, I just use the stationary bikes in the gym so I will try give as much info as possible in case it is relevant.

Recently I've been doing a fair bit on an exercise bike. I usually do the hill profile (two hill lumps so basically climb, flat, climb, flat) and I try and set the work load at a reasonably high level (15 out of 20) which puts me at a cadence of around 90 on the flats and 50 at the hardest part of the climb. I usually generate about 2.2 W/Kg overall with a max of 3. I set the saddle so my legs almost reach straight on the down stroke but remain slightly bent as I was told to do. The pedal position is under the ball of my foot.

I've noticed recently that my right knee has started to hurt an hour or two after my gym session. Do you think this could be caused by my workout? The reason I'm not sure is because I have also gone back to hill running recently and am heavier than I was before and think this could be a contributing factor.

Does my gym work sound ok? Am I setting the work load to high and should I be setting it so I can maintain a higher cadence throughout?

Also as a side question, what kind of W/Kg is reasonable for an amateur cyclist? And will the reading from the gym bike be comparable to the reading from a road bike?

Cheers,

Patterson.
patterson_hood
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06 Aug 2011 13:47

patterson_hood wrote:To begin with I should say I'm not a cyclist, I just use the stationary bikes in the gym so I will try give as much info as possible in case it is relevant.

Recently I've been doing a fair bit on an exercise bike. I usually do the hill profile (two hill lumps so basically climb, flat, climb, flat) and I try and set the work load at a reasonably high level (15 out of 20) which puts me at a cadence of around 90 on the flats and 50 at the hardest part of the climb. I usually generate about 2.2 W/Kg overall with a max of 3. I set the saddle so my legs almost reach straight on the down stroke but remain slightly bent as I was told to do. The pedal position is under the ball of my foot.

I've noticed recently that my right knee has started to hurt an hour or two after my gym session. Do you think this could be caused by my workout? The reason I'm not sure is because I have also gone back to hill running recently and am heavier than I was before and think this could be a contributing factor.

Does my gym work sound ok? Am I setting the work load to high and should I be setting it so I can maintain a higher cadence throughout?

Also as a side question, what kind of W/Kg is reasonable for an amateur cyclist? And will the reading from the gym bike be comparable to the reading from a road bike?

Cheers,

Patterson.


People often ride gym bikes much harder than they would an ordinary bike without ever getting their position right. That's something to consider, especially since you're getting the problem in one knee, which normally suggests that your position is awkward in some way. Elsewhere, you didn't mention what activity you do that bookends your bike session: do you warm up sufficiently, for example?
User avatar L'arriviste
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06 Aug 2011 14:15

L'arriviste wrote:People often ride gym bikes much harder than they would an ordinary bike without ever getting their position right. That's something to consider, especially since you're getting the problem in one knee, which normally suggests that your position is awkward in some way. Elsewhere, you didn't mention what activity you do that bookends your bike session: do you warm up sufficiently, for example?


I tend to use the first couple of minutes as a warm up, but I do stretch beforehand. I do an hour long programme and then the two minute cooldown after it has finished where I just roll through at a slow pace at a low level. afterwards I do press-ups and sit-ups then finish.

I try and get my position as set as possible but there isn't much I can adjust on a gym bike, just saddle height and where my foot contacts the pedal. It doesn't feel awkward most of the time and I spend a bit of time each time checking everything feels comfortable before starting out.

Is there anything I should look out for in terms of position? Like where I am on the saddle, where my chest is over my knees etc? I have the saddle so my leg is almost fully extended at the bottom of the stroke, should I think about dropping it? The only problem with that is the handlebars can't be adjusted so my overall position feels a bit too upright.

I know it must be hard to advise without actually seeing me sat on the bile so thanks for the help!
patterson_hood
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06 Aug 2011 15:36

patterson_hood wrote:To begin with I should say I'm not a cyclist, I just use the stationary bikes in the gym so I will try give as much info as possible in case it is relevant.

Recently I've been doing a fair bit on an exercise bike. I usually do the hill profile (two hill lumps so basically climb, flat, climb, flat) and I try and set the work load at a reasonably high level (15 out of 20) which puts me at a cadence of around 90 on the flats and 50 at the hardest part of the climb. I usually generate about 2.2 W/Kg overall with a max of 3. I set the saddle so my legs almost reach straight on the down stroke but remain slightly bent as I was told to do. The pedal position is under the ball of my foot.

I've noticed recently that my right knee has started to hurt an hour or two after my gym session. Do you think this could be caused by my workout? The reason I'm not sure is because I have also gone back to hill running recently and am heavier than I was before and think this could be a contributing factor.

Does my gym work sound ok? Am I setting the work load to high and should I be setting it so I can maintain a higher cadence throughout?

Also as a side question, what kind of W/Kg is reasonable for an amateur cyclist? And will the reading from the gym bike be comparable to the reading from a road bike?

Cheers,

Patterson.

Could it? Yes. Bicycles with standard length cranks bend your knees much more than running does so even though cycling is non-impact it could aggravate underlying knee problems. Is it? Who knows, you are doing other things that could bother your knee also.
FrankDay
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06 Aug 2011 21:49

FrankDay wrote:Could it? Yes. Bicycles with standard length cranks bend your knees much more than running does so even though cycling is non-impact it could aggravate underlying knee problems. Is it? Who knows, you are doing other things that could bother your knee also.


Thanks for the reply but that's kind of pointing out the obvious. I do lots of other things that could hurt my knees but the pain is specific to this exercise it seems. As for crank length, millions of people use standard cranks on bikes and get by fine so surely I should be able to as well? And anyway, it's a gym bike so I can't change them even if I wanted.
patterson_hood
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06 Aug 2011 21:58

patterson_hood wrote:Thanks for the reply but that's kind of pointing out the obvious. I do lots of other things that could hurt my knees but the pain is specific to this exercise it seems. As for crank length, millions of people use standard cranks on bikes and get by fine so surely I should be able to as well? And anyway, it's a gym bike so I can't change them even if I wanted.

Sorry if my answers seemed obvious. I was simply trying to expand a little on what I thought were some of the less obvious reasons behind the obvious YES answer.
FrankDay
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06 Aug 2011 22:10

It is really difficult to know. I too have started getting knee pain from bike riding and while it can be your bike position it can be other things as well.

It is likely to be the bike causing issues as i think knee pain is very common among bike riders.

likely issues from what i have discovered are

1. Just pushing too hard too soon. doing a work out where you are cranking the level too high. if you try doing more 'spinning' workouts (keeping that cadence 90-100) and do not get the pain then it is possible the strain on you knee in those 50 rpm sections is too high right (equivalent to pushing too high a gear on the bike)

2. getting basic bike position can be fine but for some people it can still cause issues due to the way your body fits on the bike. sounds obvious but not everyone is the same. As you are not a cyclist i am assuming you are wearing trainers with feet locked into straps. if your feet are too tightly fixed in then this can increase strain on your knee. may be worth considering getting some cycle shoes that can clip into the pedals. they will cost 80-100 dollars at the cheaper end and yes you feel a slight idiot wearing them in the gym but if you are usingt he bike a lot then will be worth it for the sideways movement they allow.

in the bike position look out for other indicators. after a while of going hard look at your upper body position? do you seem to be stretching too much on one side. is your upper body uneven? this may indicate an imbalance in your body affecting your position.

with your bike position it is worth experimenting to look for changes. from what you say your saddle is likely to high enough. if you place the heel of your foot on pedal leg should be pretty much straight at bottom of stroke. that way when you move foot so that crank is just behind ball of foot leg bend should be right.

rotate your foot and try to get pedals flat. for foot at front of stroke when pedals are level, the front of your knee should be directly above the centre of the crank. if not try adjust back and forth to correct for this

3. Body adjustments affecting position. this is where it gets more complex. for me I have issues with very tight hamstring muscles which in turn is putting too much strain on my knee. i also have issues with putting too much strain on hip flexors which again affects my body position. it is very possible that you running is affecting your legs which is effecting your riding. this is where it gets personal. you can try stretching and if you have good flexibility this may not be it but would be hard to know. in this sort of case your best bet is to try and find a physio or bike fit expert to help. this may not be worth your while if you are not riding that much and not riding on the road. a bike fit expert can look at your body, find issues, adjust your position but more importantly look at the way your body reacts to the bike position and adjust according to your body type or help with exercises that can help.

I personally found that i was ok on bikes in the gym (i did as you and only worked out on spin bikes for a couple of months before making progression to road) and was only on that movement to road and longer hours in saddle that i started getting pain

you do not mention exactly where the pain is and if you have any pain when on the bike or just in the hours afterwards.
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06 Aug 2011 22:21

Oh and I should mention that i am by no means an expert. the above is based on my own research / experience trying to resolve my current knee issue. I went through a bike fit a few days ago so am hoping the changes from that will start to take affect soon
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06 Aug 2011 22:32

1st off, the hill section is probably what is doing it, the cadence drop down to 50 is not good. You need a lighter gear or whatever the exercycle equivalent is. Try to not go below 70 rpm for a couple weeks.

Then check to see if that helps. If it helps a little but not entirely, raise your minimum to 75 or 80 rpm.

I am a big guy and I have had both knees scoped. The problem sounds similar and I know when it hurts I have been spinning too slow. A lot of times, on a hill for me at least when I feel that twinge in my left knee, it's just a matter of sucking it up because I am plumb out of lower gears and spinning faster (unless cardiac detonation seems imminent).

Raise your cadence.
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07 Aug 2011 01:49

patterson_hood wrote:Thanks for the reply but that's kind of pointing out the obvious. I do lots of other things that could hurt my knees but the pain is specific to this exercise it seems. As for crank length, millions of people use standard cranks on bikes and get by fine so surely I should be able to as well? And anyway, it's a gym bike so I can't change them even if I wanted.


All respect, I believe Mr Day represents a commercial interest based on shorter cranks. I am not saying somewhat shorter cranks wouldn't help (and yes, you can't change them, your gym manager would be quite cross!:) ). I have a friend that went from the standard 172.5 down to a shorter crank and he said it offered a very mild improvement to a very serious chronic condition. But just be advised that some people have a self interest. Again, not to say that their interest and your situation may not coincide.
ggusta
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07 Aug 2011 06:17

patterson_hood wrote:I set the saddle so my legs almost reach straight on the down stroke but remain slightly bent as I was told to do. The pedal position is under the ball of my foot.


To check the saddle height on one of those gym bikes put your heel on each pedal (rather than the ball) and pedal backwards. If your hips rock or your feet are trying to lift off then drop the saddle down until they don't.

After you have done that make sure you aren't too far forward.

Last and most important. If it has those rubbish nylon plastic toe/foot straps to hold your feet down then don't tighten them all the way down. They can pull your foot out of it's natural alignment and that could be causing your knee pain if you're on the bike for an hour. I quite often use those bikes after doing a big leg workout and never ever tighten the straps. Waste of time anyway, it's not like you need to get out of the saddle.
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07 Aug 2011 09:55

You say you ride the hills, maybe you just ride them too hard. Try doing the hills at a higher rpm
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08 Aug 2011 07:48

FrankDay wrote:Sorry if my answers seemed obvious. I was simply trying to expand a little on what I thought were some of the less obvious reasons behind the obvious YES answer.


Not a problem, it's just not something I can really do much about if it is the cause and I'm guessing there is no way for me to know?
patterson_hood
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08 Aug 2011 07:59

daveinzambia wrote:Oh and I should mention that i am by no means an expert. the above is based on my own research / experience trying to resolve my current knee issue. I went through a bike fit a few days ago so am hoping the changes from that will start to take affect soon


Easier to quote this post that the last. Cycling shoes aren't an option, the pdeals are platsic things with straps for your feet. My body position seems ok. I've based what I look for on my running knowledge and everything seems symetrical.

The foot position sounds like something I need help with. At the bottom of my pedal stroke should my foot be perpendicular to the floor? I think my toes are probably pointing down slightly but will check tomorrow when I'm next on the bike.

ggusta wrote:1st off, the hill section is probably what is doing it, the cadence drop down to 50 is not good. You need a lighter gear or whatever the exercycle equivalent is. Try to not go below 70 rpm for a couple weeks.

Then check to see if that helps. If it helps a little but not entirely, raise your minimum to 75 or 80 rpm.

I am a big guy and I have had both knees scoped. The problem sounds similar and I know when it hurts I have been spinning too slow. A lot of times, on a hill for me at least when I feel that twinge in my left knee, it's just a matter of sucking it up because I am plumb out of lower gears and spinning faster (unless cardiac detonation seems imminent).

Raise your cadence.


Ok, this sounds reasonable, I'll give it a go. I find I generate more power during the hill climbs at lower rpm and I thought this was giving me a better workout. Should I expect to be generating a consistent wattage or should I be generating more in the climb?

Night Rider wrote:To check the saddle height on one of those gym bikes put your heel on each pedal (rather than the ball) and pedal backwards. If your hips rock or your feet are trying to lift off then drop the saddle down until they don't.

After you have done that make sure you aren't too far forward.

Last and most important. If it has those rubbish nylon plastic toe/foot straps to hold your feet down then don't tighten them all the way down. They can pull your foot out of it's natural alignment and that could be causing your knee pain if you're on the bike for an hour. I quite often use those bikes after doing a big leg workout and never ever tighten the straps. Waste of time anyway, it's not like you need to get out of the saddle.


This could well be it. I tighten the straps fully and I think I probably pull up a little as each leg comes up. I'm guessing I shouldn't be doing this? I tighten the straps to make sure my feet don't slip on the pedals, do you think I should either leave them loose or just tighten them sufficiently to keep my feet where they are?

I don't think my hips rock as I try to hold myself in a very still position while pedalling but I will check.

Michielveedeebee wrote:You say you ride the hills, maybe you just ride them too hard. Try doing the hills at a higher rpm


I'll give it a go. I generate more power on the higher hill sections and I feel I get more from the workout in these sections but it seems like this could be one of the factors.
patterson_hood
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08 Aug 2011 08:06

daveinzambia wrote:I
you do not mention exactly where the pain is and if you have any pain when on the bike or just in the hours afterwards.


It is usually after the exercise, at the front of the knee and can last until the next workout session (as I either run or bike every day). It's not intense, more something that would usually make me nervous to run or bike hard and it gets worse if I am sat stationary (which makes me think it is inflamation, possibly insdie the knee).
patterson_hood
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08 Aug 2011 20:25

this happens to me often and cramps can hurt like crazy. I try to drink before plenty of liquids and try to eat a banana to increase my potassium.
kevin_22
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09 Aug 2011 23:34

Sounds very similar to my issue

I think i am right in saying there is a large tendon that runs from hip to front of knee.

bad bike position or tight hamstrings on legs can increase the strain on that tendon.

I am in early days of sorting it out so cannot say if it works for certain but personally would say

do the checks others have said on position (especially loosening your feet)

change you workout to avoid those 50 rpm reps, you can still manage interval training at higher rpms, just go at a lower level and try to maintain 80-90 rpm for a while to see if this helps

if you are not flexible then work on stretching the hamstrings (lie on back, one leg bent foot on floor, other leg straight in air with towel on foot. hold ends of towel, lift leg til you get a stretch then pump your foot pulling against towel to get stretch in hamstring)

give it some time to recover, tendons take time to get better so likely you will not recover straight away

I am also working on other areas (flexibility mainly) to reduce strain but think above would be main starting points.

I am assuming that you are riding on spin bikes rather than more traditional gym exercise bikes. if not then i would definitely recommend moving to a spin bike. much better position and much more adjustable
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10 Aug 2011 01:53

patterson_hood wrote:Ok, this sounds reasonable, I'll give it a go. I find I generate more power during the hill climbs at lower rpm and I thought this was giving me a better workout. Should I expect to be generating a consistent wattage or should I be generating more in the climb?


I'll give it a go. I generate more power on the higher hill sections and I feel I get more from the workout in these sections but it seems like this could be one of the factors.


Well, I am not the training guru, don't even begin bring up wattage, cuz I don't have the slightest. I am envious of people who are at the point where they TRULY need power meters to substantially improve.

My simple minded thinking on RPM is that lower RPM's will rely on more muscle strength while higher RPM will gradually shift to more aerobic fitness. So in my rudimentary training outlook, yes, when starting out, it is natural for most people to rely on muscle more than aerobic fitness because that is what they have more of, which means lower RPM. When all you have is a hammer, every problem is seen as a nail.

However, my 70 rpm suggestion is just to really give that knee a rest, you're beating the s--t out of it at 50 rpm., imo. After it is recovered, you could drop the minimum rpm down to 65, if no pain, then try 60. My guess (and it can only be a guess, you know your body, trust yourself) is that long term intervals at 60 rpm or lower and very high resistance are probably going to result in a return of the pain. your mileage may vary, your age, weight, relative strength, heredity, all that stuff factors in.

You may want to try resistance training like leg extensions, leg curls etc to build strength rather than low rpm/high resistance. I'd stay away from stuff like squats if your knee bothers you. You may benefit from researching different intervals that don't go that low on the rpm meter. Steady state, etc.

Other posters have given you good stretching advice. Especially after exercise, but any time is a good time to stretch hamstrings. I think a lot of people stretch too hard that's why they don't like to do it!
ggusta
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12 Aug 2011 09:19

So I did some experimenting and I think I have narrowed it down to two things:

Saddle height and low RPM.

Using the peddling backwards method I found my saddle was too high so dropped it down a notch and this seems to have helped. I also tried a lower gearing on the high parts of the climb profile and this seems to have had an effect.

I am doing this on a standard gym bike, spinning bikes aren't available unfortunately.

Thanks for the help all, I'll update if i have any other/recurring problems.

Cheers,

Patterson.
patterson_hood
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12 Aug 2011 09:39

patterson_hood wrote:So I did some experimenting and I think I have narrowed it down to two things:

Saddle height and low RPM.

Using the peddling backwards method I found my saddle was too high so dropped it down a notch and this seems to have helped. I also tried a lower gearing on the high parts of the climb profile and this seems to have had an effect.

I am doing this on a standard gym bike, spinning bikes aren't available unfortunately.

Thanks for the help all, I'll update if i have any other/recurring problems.

Cheers,

Patterson.


Watch out for lower back problems too. Those too-wide exercise bike saddles are a killer for that, though thankfully most of them tend to involve sitting upright, which usually means less stress down there.
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