Training-Room Tips: Use an Exercise Bike to Recover from a Charley Horse

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

Exercising on a stationary bicycle is a great way to recover from a charley horse. The leg movements are low-impact and avoid any of the jarring that might trigger pain responses. At the same time, biking improves blood flow and increases range of motion, while reducing muscle atrophy and helping to maintain fitness.

Seat Height is Important
The height of the seat determines the range of motion the quadriceps will experience, with a lower seat increasing the bend of the knees and increasing the flexibility required to complete a movement.

Here's how to adjust the seat height to ensure a progressive improvement in range of motion without causing excess pain or damage to the muscle.

Cycling Progression
First, determine a normal seat height for the athlete, in which the leg is almost fully extended with only a slight knee- bend when the pedal is next to the floor.

Then, raise the seat an additional one-two inches (or pre-set levels) above this height. Athletes perform their first workout at this height, which minimizes leg bend, flexibility requirements, pain and potential tissue damage.

In the next workout or as pain subsides, ask your athlete to lower the seat one or two settings, so that after several sessions they are exercising with the seat lower than their normal cycling height. This will force the legs to bend more and more with each session, gradually increasing flexibility in the injured thigh muscles.

This cycling progression can often be started 24-48 hours after the injury, or as pain allows.

1. Joel Beam, (U. of N. Florida), “It's just a charley horse.” American Football Quarterly, April-June, 1998.
2. Peter Brukner and Karim Khan, Brukner & Khan's Clinical Sports Medicine, McGraw-Hill Book Company Australia, 2011.

To download the pdf version of this
article, click here: Download Now

© 2014, Physical Education,

Bookmark and Share

Printer-Friendly Format