Recovery and stretching are key to making sure you’re fit and flexible to get back in the saddle. Make the most of your riding time with our advice on stretching for cyclists.
Cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise and so it is a great way to lose weight and keep our hearts and bodies in good shape. But the repetitive nature of cycling also causes physical demands that can end in strains and injuries.
To compound the problem, cycling is one of the few activities in which muscles contract only concentrically (while shortening) and not eccentrically (while lengthening). After many miles, this can cause muscle fibres to shorten.
The forward-leaning and crouched position of a road cyclists leads to tightened and shortened hip flexors, which can cause an anterior pelvic tilt and an excessively arched lower back. Many cyclists complain of lower back pain.
Cyclists work hard but in only one direction, forwards, so they do not make movements into other planes, which can cause further tightness, especially in joints.
The Benefits of Stretching for Cyclists
Shortened muscles can, in the short term, affect your performance and, in the long term, lead to pain and poor posture. Stretching the muscles that have been tightened and shortened by cycling can be benefit for regaining a “normal” range of motion and for improved comfort on the bike – and in general life.
Top of the cycling areas to address are stiff quads, hip ﬂexors, hamstrings and lower backs, as well as tight shoulders and closed chest muscles.
Yoga for Cyclists
Before a ride, try some dynamic stretches. Static stretches of cold muscles are not a good idea but generally warming up the muscles with exercises such as lunges, squats, calf raises and hip mobilisation can be hugely beneficial.
Yoga is great way to warm up, getting you physically and mentally ready to ride. Try a few Sun Salutations to get you prepared before a ride. This is a perfect way to warm up a range of muscles in a more dynamic way.
After a bike ride you can take the stretching a little further but it should not be painful. Stretch each muscle two or three times. Using simple tools, such as the BLACKROLL Yoga Set, you can help to alleviate tight spots and release any tension build up.
Seven Top stretches for Cyclists
Stretches – and variety of yoga poses – work really well for cyclists.
1 On the Wall Calf Stretch
Stand facing a wall with toes pointing forward. Place your hands ﬂat against the wall at shoulder height. Take one leg back about half a metres and place the foot flat on the floor. Gently lean into the wall keeping your leg straight and feel the calf stretch. Swap legs and repeat.
2 Downward Facing Dog
Another great yoga pose for cyclists. This is especially good for releasing hamstring tightness and stretching claves and back. Start on all fours with your hands flat on the ground underneath shoulders and toes tucked forwards. Then, keeping your toes tucked under, lift your knees from the ﬂoor, straightening your legs and raising your butt while moving on to the soles of your feet. Aim to press your heels close to the floor but don’t overdo it. Also aim to flatten your back while pushing through your shoulders. Hold for around 10 seconds or more.
3 Quad Stretch
Standing on one leg, bend the knee of the other leg and bring it up behind you and close to your butt. Keep your knees together and face forwards. Lightly hold the ankle of the bent leg and gently pull it towards your butt. Make sure you keep you hips forward to feel the most benefit of this stretch along the quads. Swap legs and repeat.
4 Seated Glute Stretch
Sitting on a chair, keep one foot on the ground and flat. Bring the other foot up and rest it on the opposite thigh. Keep a straight spine, fold forward at the hips and bring your torso over your legs. You’ll feel the stretch in the glute of the leg that is lifted. Swap legs and repeat.
5 Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on the floor and raise one leg in front of the other while facing forwards. Lift both arms above your head and while keeping your hands apart look up between the hands. Lean gently backwards, arching your lower back, to feel a stretch along the front of your hip flexors. Swap legs and repeat.
6 Open Legs Stretch
This is an easy and superb stretch for cyclist. Sit on the ﬂoor in front of a couple of piled up pillows, or similar. Bring the soles of the feet together so that your legs form a diamond shape. Reclining on your elbows, lie back on to the pillows and stay for as long as you want. It’s a relaxing position and great for relieving tension in the groin, hips. Lower back, cheat and shoulders. It’s a lovely way to finish off a day on the bike.