5 Key Stretches for Cyclists to Avoid Tight Muscles
Cycling is a sport that requires a great deal of athleticism.
However, spending hours on the saddle can also diminish your muscle flexibility. Much of this has to do with the fact that when you cycle, the joints involved are never taken through their full range of motion.
As a result, muscles in your hips, thighs, and lower back that are not fully utilized begin to shorten and tighten. Not only do tight muscles decrease your output power when cycling, they also cause strain problems.
For example, if your lower back is stiff, you are more likely to overreach the arms on the handlebar, and in the process putting too much weight on your hands. This in turn may cause straining in the upper back and neck.
The good news is such problems are preventable.
All it takes is adding some regular stretching exercises to your ‘off bike’ training regimen.
This guide will explain 5 key stretches for cyclists to perform after a ride and keep muscle tightness at bay.
1) Downward Facing Dog
This famous yoga pose is a good post-workout stretching exercise for cyclists. The downward facing dog will stretch the hamstrings and release tension throughout the spinal column for increased power on the pedal backstroke.
- Begin the exercise on all fours with the back horizontal or parallel to the floor.
- While facing down and keeping both palms on the floor, stand on your toes and raise the hips into the air until the body forms an inverted V-shape. Bend the knees if necessary to ease any discomfort.
- Repeat this exercise several times and hold for five breaths during each stretch.
2) Quad Stretch
This stretch focuses on the quadriceps, those muscles on the front part of your thigh. The exercise is performed while standing on one leg, therefore make sure to hold on to your bike or a wall if maintaining balance is a problem.
- To stretch the right quad, grasp your right foot behind your back with the right hand and remain standing upright on one foot.
- Pull the bent foot toward your buttock until you feel a gentle pull on the front part of your thigh.
- Hold this pose for about 30 seconds then switch to the left leg. Repeat 2-3 times for each leg.
3) Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings can limit your ability to reach peak extension in the pedal stroke. Additionally, poor flexibility in the hamstrings also leads to undue stress on the back and knees, thus causing pain in these areas when riding in an aggressive position.
To avoid these problems, stretch your hamstrings using this simple procedure.
- Find a wall, railing or anything you can use for support by placing both hands at shoulder height while bending slightly at the waist. Next, extend one foot in front of you.
- Lower your waist without bending the knee of your front leg, which is where the hamstring stretch should be felt.
- Hold this position for 10-30 seconds then switch leg positions to stretch the other hamstring.
4) Half Pigeon Stretch
The half pigeon stretch will relieve your hips of tightness, which develops as muscles in this joint only contract concentrically while cycling.
With this exercise, you can lengthen the hip flexors and increase the femur and hip socket external range of motion.
- Begin the workout by kneeling on the floor (use a yoga mat for cushioning). Stretch one leg behind you.
- Leave the other leg in front of your pelvic bone. The front leg should be bent at the knee and placed flat on the floor, lying on the outer side of your ankle.
- Lean forward to puff out your chest and place both hands at your sides, positioning them on the floor for support.
- Looking forward, hold this pose for 30 seconds then switch leg positions and repeat 2-3 times.
5) Static Squats
For great hip and glue flexibility, make sure to perform static squats as part of your post-cycling stretching routine. This will increase stability in the pelvis and limit rocking while pedaling.
- Stand with feet spread shoulder-width apart and hands hanging loosely by your sides.
- Slowly lower yourself into a squatting position until the back thighs rest on your calves.
- Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times while taking short breaks between reps.
Practicing the downward facing dog, half pigeon, static squats, as well as hamstring and quad stretches on a regular basis will go a long way in improving your performance in cycling. These static stretches for cyclists will be more effective when done immediately after a ride when the body and muscles are still warm.