My DEXA-Bodyscan: The Hips Don’t Lie

Learning How To Ride [#3]

In this episode of Learning How To Ride I will discuss whether you can become a good cyclist when you’ve got the bone density of an 80 year-old and the left leg of a chicken. In other words, I will be discussing my DEXA-bodyscan. Such a scan gives insight into three of the main components of the human body: bones, muscles and fats. Let’s go through the results and discuss some noteworthy findings.

Before I go into any specifics however, my height is 176 cm at a weight of 56.4 kg. Now let’s dive in.

Antique Bones

First off all the test showed that my bone density is lower than average. Therefore my bones are relatively light. This seems positive for someone who aspires to be a great climber -Let’s goooo- but there also is a downside -oops-. Low bone density namely causes my bones to break more easily. I used to say that if you’ve never broken something you haven’t really searched for the limit. Turns out I’m not the daredevil I thought I was, I just have the bones of an old man… 

Given the relatively low stress cycling puts on your bones it’s not a shocking outcome, as bones get denser the more stress is exerted on them. So bones are actually Antifragile -the opposite of fragile- they get stronger when exposed to stressors. Therefore my bone density is likely to increase if I were to add strength training to my program – More on that later.

A Power to Weight Trade-Off

So I’ve got weak bones, but how about my muscles. In total I’ve got 17,379 kilograms of muscle in my legs. But here comes the shocker: I’ve got a whopping 665 gram difference in my legs – for your reference that’s equal to 665 grams of steal, insane right. My right leg has 9,022 kilograms whereas my left leg only has 8,357 kilograms of muscle – My best guess would be that it’s due to my right-footed history in football. 

Although some difference is normal this is a bit much. Apart from this leg-to-leg difference the overall muscle mass is not that high either. ‘So just try to add muscle’ you might think. But here’s the thing. In cycling it isn’t solely about who’s able to put out the most power. Especially in climbing, the discipline I’m trying to master, it’s all about your power to weight ratio. Since in climbing you’re constrained by gravity much more than air resistance or any other metric. Every extra gram makes it harder to go up fast. So I’m looking to maximize the amount of watts I’m able to put out relative to my weight, i.e. watt/kg.

So it’s a trade-off. If I am going to add weight this should improve my power output by a bigger margin in order for my overall performance (Watt/kg) to increase. I have to look for the optimum weight where I am able to put out the maximum power relative to my weight. In theory this could be both at a lighter weight with a little less power or at a higher weight with relatively more power. 

Luckily my coach is much more experienced and knowledgeable with regard to this topic. He concluded that I probably will perform better if I gain a little extra muscle mass. Therefore one of my main goals in the coming off-season months is to increase the muscle mass in my (left) leg(s) and core. In order to achieve this I will be adding several gym sessions to my program. – I will write a separate blog on my cycling specific strength training.

Greasy Hips

Now let’s discuss the title. Despite the fact that my Shakira impersonation is quite spot on -and yes, especially the dance moves- that’s not what it’s about. Rather it’s about my body fat distribution. My Sister always used to bully me for my ‘wide hips’. Turns out she was right… The scan showed I carry only 6,7% fat on my waist whereas I carry a monstrous 13,7% fat on the hips- My coach said this is normal for endurance athletes since stomach fats are more easily burned but maybe he just wanted to comfort me. 

On a more serious note though, the test showed that I’ve got an overall fat percentage of 8.2. Since fats are helpful for your immune system and building muscle this is fine for now. Towards racing season however I might want to scrape off just a little more to become even lighter -I can already hear my grandma getting worried. So yes Grandma, of course I will be careful with it, and I know: rather a gram too much than too little.

Key Takeaways 

So all-in-all it’s an okay starting point. In the coming period I will be looking to add some muscle through strength exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and a variety of core exercises. These exercises will probably also cause my bones to become more dense and finally I will try to keep my fat percentage stable for now.

If you’re interested in doing such a scan yourself you should go to my coach. He’s the expert. If you’re really interested in the detailed results of the scan make sure to subscribe below and just ask for it and I’ll send you the report. Obviously you can always just subscribe if you want to follow the series in general.

Next time I will be discussing my performance test. Where my coach determined my fitness level by measuring the lactate levels in my blood at different power levels.

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