Did you know that regular stretching is just as important as regular exercise? It is important for a well-rounded and balanced exercise regime to include regular stretching to keep your muscles loose supple and pain free. Stretching goes beyond simply warming up the muscles as it improves the range in motion by releasing tension, helps to reduce post exercise soreness by increasing blood and nutrient supply to the muscles.
Cyclists spent large amounts of time hunched over their bikes. This can lead to stiffness in some parts of the spine and tightness through muscles of the neck, back and legs. It is really important to make sure the joints remain mobile and muscles stay lose in order to improve efficiency as well as prevent injury.
There has also been much controversy regarding stretching so we have put to together our top stretches for cyclists.
Stretching Pre Cycling
Generally cyclists don’t stretch prior to going out on their bikes. However if you are doing a specific drills or interval session or if you want to warm up before an event – dynamic (moving) stretches should be performed. Static (still) stretching will not aid performance and there is some evidence to suggest that it might actually increase the risk of injury. So stretches should be short – less than 10s holds. Or they should be with movement – for example leg swings.
Stretching post cycling
This is when stretching is of most benefit. Stretching should be done within an hour post finishing the ride. Generally if you stretch straight off the bike it can be rushed. The best thing to do is shower and then have a good 20mins of stretching while your muscles are still warm but you won’t get cold having just jumped off the bike. But time is always a factor – so just do as much as you can. Theses stretches are static and should be held for longer than 30s. Don’t push to the point of pain as the muscles will fight against you. Ease into the stretch – use your breathing to push a little deeper with each exhale.
Foam rollers are excellent tools for stretching and self-massage. They are usually very painful to start but the more you do the less sore it will become.
Any yoga or pilates style exercise is good for cyclists too.
Below are a series of stretches that we feel are the most important to cyclists. The thoracic spine (middle part) is an area very prone to stiffness as most riders are bent forwards for hours at a time on their bikes so this is a really important area to target. Also the quads, hamstrings and glutes are prone to tightness from the repetitive nature of cycling.
Here are 9 simple post ride stretches you can do to maximize your training:
In a lunge position, drive back hip through to feel a stretch in the front of the back hip. Keep the back straight.
Feel stretch around bum of front leg. To increase the stretch lean forward with elbows and forearms resting on the floor.
Keeping knees as bent as you will need to hold onto your toes, then drive your bottom up toward the ceiling to feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keeping your knees locking straight means that you will be stretching your back so keeping knees soft targets the hamstrings specifically.
Sitting on floor, one leg out straight, one leg bent over the straight one. Rotate towards your bent leg using your arm to pull yourself around more. Feel the stretch in the middle of your back.
Standing in a corner, arms out to the side, push your chest into the wall to feel a stretch across your chest and should feel your back straighten out.
Foot on chair behind, keep body up tall and push pelvis forwards to feels stretch across front of your thigh. An alternative is standing with heel to bum holding onto your foot.
Standing front leg bent and back leg straight and weight forwards. Then repeat with back leg slightly bent for a stretch lower down the calf. Also can try off the edge of a step.
If you have a foam roller
Lie with roller across back. Use the roller as a pivot to arch your back. Then repeat as different points down the spine
Roll up and down the outside of the leg. Offload weight onto your arms or other legs if too sore – aiming to increase the weight onto the roller over time.
Our bodies give us a lot during those long rides so lets give a little back to our bodies, happy stretching everyone 🙂