Cycling Self Endurance

How to get rid of arm pump

What is arm pump?

Muscle groups are wrapped in a connective tissue (fascial structure). Tensing the underarm muscles over a sustained period of time whilst holding the handlebars can cause a reduction of blood flow of the blood vessels – a lack of blood flow causes the loss of power in the hand muscles. OK, so we now know what it is, how do we avoid it?

Ride more!

Sounds simple, but it works! The best way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. Not only will riding more improve the amount of oxygen reaching your muscles, you will also improve your strength, technique and efficiency, allowing you to ride harder and faster! Stretching before and after riding will keep you feeling tip top.

Cockpit set up

This is one of the main offenders, the position of brake levers, the angle, and having your bite point far from the bars are detrimental, a flatter lever position will engage different muscles and reduce the effect of arm pump – according to Lotte Kraus, your wrist should be level with your hand. Check the thickness of your grips, smaller hands will need thinner grips and vice versa, the rotations of your handlebars can also put unnecessary pressure on your muscles.

Suspension Set up

Pay attention to your suspension setup, is it getting jacked up in long sections of gnar? Is it absorbing those small repetitive hits? If you fork feels harsh over small bumps, with lots of vibration, try opening up the low speed compression as this will help to make your suspension more sensitive, or if your fork is getting harsh over fast repeated hits, like braking bumps, try a quicker rebound to help soak up the repetitive hits and stop the fork from packing down. The more efficient your suspension is at dampening hits, the less you will suffer from arm pump, with this in mind it is important for you to keep on top of suspension servicing.

Relax your grip

When you ride tense and rigid, you are decreasing blood flow and your arms will begin to scream! There’s no need to clamp onto the bars, so loosen your grip slightly and re-engage your own natural suspension, it will dampen the impacts and vibrations jolting through your arms. Also focusing on your breathing can help get valuable oxygen into your muscles. If your grips are worn out and like trying to hold onto a greased weasel then it’s time to get some fresh grips fitted to rejuvenate the feel of your bike.

Good brakes

This is a no brainer, with more efficient brakes you will be on the stoppers less in the first place and you won’t be death gripping everywhere trying to slow down, in turn you will relax further. A win win! When was the last time you spent any time servicing your brakes? Check the rotors and pads for wear and replace accordingly, it might also be worth going up a rotor size, and you certainly won’t lose anything by giving them a bleed. If you are not sure, pop into your local bike shop and ask them to give your brakes an overhaul.

Stay hydrated

It’s all about keeping those muscles happy, insuring you are topped up on fluids will help reduce cramps and fatigue. Electrolyte sports drinks or orange juice with a pinch of sea salt will pay dividends, particularly on hot and sweaty days. Chris Kilmurray of Point1 Athletic Development offers this advice in terms of hydration: ”Hydration on the bike is an extension of your normal hydration practice; as in regular and sufficient. Aim to start the ride hydrated, then drink to thirst and maybe a little more if you are in an environment you are not used to such as heat, humidity or extreme cold etc.”

Bouldering / Other Exercises

Trust us! If you have a bouldering wall near you it’s worth checking out, it won’t take long before your fingers and forearms are spent, but it will pay dividends on the bike and it’s pretty good fun too! There are a bunch of other sports and exercises that can help to combat arm pump, even simple push ups and hand trainers help.

Now it’s time to put these into practice, transform your riding and make that nagging arm pump a distant memory!

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