Stretching Exercises for Cyclists
Stretching exercises are important for any type of athlete, but have an even more exaggerated effect for cyclists. Because you’re repeating the same movements over and over, day after day, your muscles become accustomed to a smaller range of motion than they should be.
Cycling without stretching actually causes your muscles to shrink over time. The change in length of your muscle fibers causes slight posture changes in multiple areas, which can add up to a significant alteration of posture over time and lead to injury.
The most common areas of tightening and muscle shortness for cyclists are the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads. Here are some great stretching exercises that will help cyclists overcome this.
Seated Hip Opener
Sit on a chair with your knees bent in front of you. Take one leg and put the foot over your other knee, resting one leg onto the other. Keep the leg you’re stretching parallel to the floor and bent at a 90-degree angle, if possible. Lean your upper body forward and stretch into your legs. This works the glutes and opens up the hips.
Lay down flat on your back, and bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Place your arms on the floor next to your body, and push your hips upwards into the air. This stretches your glutes, back, chest, and shoulders.
Downward Facing Dog
Start in the plank position, and then lower your whole body onto the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders and push your upper body up off of the floor, keeping your toes tucked under your feet (this is called upward facing dog). Lift your hips and push your body up into the air, so that only your palms and feet are touching the floor. Your body should make an upside down V shape. Your heels probably won’t touch the floor, but you can take this opportunity to stretch out your calf muscles by leaning into each foot. This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves, and back muscles.
Find a step and put your toes on the step while you drop your heel off the step and below your toes. This is good for the calf muscles and the ankles.
Kneel down on the floor with your back straight up. Tuck your toes under your feet (your toes touch the ground while the rest of your foot does not, and your toes are at a 90-degree angle). First, stretch out your back by leaning to each side, then leading backwards a bit, and repeat. Keeping your thighs perpendicular to the floor, slowly lean backwards and put your hands onto your ankles, arching your back. Put your weight onto your ankles/heels and let your head fall back, stretching out your back and thigh muscles. This is one of the best stretching exercises for back health, and it can be used to alleviate spine misalignments.
Sit back onto your legs with your feet underneath you. Sit up and move onto your hands and knees, with your arms and thighs parallel to each other. Keeping your knee bent, take one leg and put it underneath your torso, then lean forward so that your body weight is on top of the leg. Come down onto your elbows, and allow the weight to compress your leg. This will be a bit painful at first, but as you hold the pose for a minute or two, you won’t feel it anymore. After one or two minutes, push your upper body up and come out of the pose. Fresh oxygenated blood will flow through the leg, which improves joint and muscle health. This stretches your back, flutes and hamstrings.
A couple of these stretches are easy to add into your daily routine. For example, when I sit in a chair I try and do some seated hip openers. When I am walking up the stairs I pause for a moment and to some calf stretches. The others I do while watching TV or shortly after a ride coupled with a foam roller session.
Regular yoga is a great way for cyclists to regain and retain their flexibility and posture, and there are even special yoga classes for cyclists. Yoga benefits your entire body, and there are a lot of poses that are amazing for the muscles in the legs. Yoga is also great for lowering blood pressure, relaxing the whole body, and clearing up your mind.
Stretching is the best way to ensure your muscles stay flexible, strong and healthy. As cyclists, we need to maintain a healthy range of motion in the joints. If you don’t know where to begin, check out Dynamic Cyclist, a stretching resource just for cyclists! With easy to follow videos, you can spend less time thinking about how and what to stretch, and more time in the saddle! Sign up today for a free 7 day trial!