Most cyclists, specifically those of you that cycle regularly every week or so, have extremely fit bodies. This fitness is in terms of the strong thigh and leg muscles, toned body, good blood circulation, and a happier mental state. Despite all of these benefits, your body may not be as flexible as it should be. Do you agree with us? There is a lot you can improve in that department of health. This fact that your body has not been trained to stretch appropriately is most probably due to the way you ride your cycle in the first place. The act of cycling involves continuous pedalling, which only works your legs, but also never fully stretches them or flexes them enough. Cycling only requires short and brisk movements in the leg, allowing them to get toned and stronger but not more elastic. And that’s why we recommend post cycling stretches that will make a world of difference for cyclists. So, come with us on a stretching trip and learn the quick yet effective ways to relax those stressed out muscles.
- Stretches for Cyclists: Make your Body Flexible
- Stretching is Essential: Pre and Post Ride
- Best Yoga and Post Cycling Stretches
Stretches for Cyclists: Make your Body Flexible
Stretching for cycling has been an ever-confusing discussion among researchers. There are some that say it might help and others that claim that it could make no difference in the physique of a cyclist.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning published an article that conducted a study with participants who were runners and gave them the task of taking part in a flexibility exercise. The results showed that the participants that performed badly in the test of lower back flexibility were actually more equipped to keep going on longer runs.
This proposed the theory that tight muscular makeup of the legs, hips, and feet resulted in better elastic energy return. This happens to be quite different on a bicycle. Since cycling is relatively a newly introduced form of exercise, it is not associated with natural body movement or evolutionary processes. Our bodies adjust to cycling and are not naturally made for this form of exercise as compared to running. This may result in posture changes and an imbalance in the muscles. These could increase your risk for future injury and also interfere later on with your cycling regime. Make sure you maintain the right posture while riding your bike.
Although there are downsides to cycling, you can minimise these risk factors by taking proper care of your body before and after you get on your bike. And you can easily do this by stretching those stiff muscles. When we recommend stretches for cyclists we don’t mean that you stretch yourself to the point where become a contortionist, but only that you maintain a good level of flexibility. You will have to make up for the lack of stretching that occurs when you are on your bicycle and pedal in short motions.
There is also the fact that you do not use all your muscles when you cycle as compared to running where most muscles are flexed and stretched. Your joints move linearly and there are no other movements in other directions. If you do not stretch in these directions like, rotationally or laterally, then the muscles will become weak from neglect. What you need to do is work your quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings and lower back, stretching them out to their fullest. From there you can work on stretching your whole body.The best thing you can do is lean backward, this reverses the posture you keep when you are on a bicycle.
Now that you know what to focus on, go forward and start stretching!
Stretching is Essential: Pre and Post Ride
One of the most frequently asked questions cyclists have when it comes to warmups and cooldowns is when should stretching come into play?
Before or after the ride?
Most physical therapists warn that stretching before a ride is not a good time to stretch. This is because you have not started moving yet and your muscles are cold which makes them prone to injuries.
If you try static stretches on cold muscles then your capacity and stamina would drop keeping you off your bicycle faster than before. To counter this problem, you can try out dynamic stretches which help to warm up your body before a ride. You can do stretches in bicycle pose, which means perform stretches that are very close to the actual act of cycling itself. This will be a form of preparation for the muscles.
If you want the right stretches for cycling, that will flex and destress your muscles, then get involved in yoga. A lot of yoga poses like Surya Namaskar can aid in warming up for cycling while stretching them in the meantime. Once you complete your ride, the static post cycling stretches come in, and help bring your muscles back to their state of rest and length when not in motion.
You should dedicate a good about of time to stretching. This could be around five to ten minutes long. Stretching for cyclists is important and you should not take it for granted. The more time allowed for pre and post-cycling stretches the more flexible you can become.
There is no set number of stretches per workout or number of repetitions that you must do. The recommended amount is to do around five to seven types of stretches for two to four times. The best number of times to stretch is two to three times per week.
Best Yoga and Post Cycling Stretches
Try out these post cycling stretches and yoga poses after a great ride. It is a surefire way to get your muscles stretched.
1. Calf Stretch Into a Wall
Warm up slowly and then begin this yoga pose. Face a wall and keep your toes pointed straight at the wall. Put your hands on the wall making sure your palms are flat and are at shoulder height. Now put your left leg on the right while keeping your soles as flat on the ground as possible. Turn your feet to face the wall and try to keep them straight. Lean forwards while keeping your back leg still without bending. Press your heels into the ground even if they are slightly lifting off the floor. Hold this pose for at least 15 seconds
You will now feel a slight pull in the calf muscles of both legs. This big muscle is called gastrocnemius. You can also try bending your back leg in order to feel a pull on the lower part of your leg below the calf muscle called the soleus. Again hold this position for at least 15 seconds. Switch your legs by putting the right leg behind the left and then repeat this exercise at least 4 times.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Want the perfect solution to make your muscles stretched out after a bicycle ride?
Well, this yoga pose is great to stretch out your whole spinal cord and back muscles, hips as well as the backside of the legs making them less tense and more relaxed. To try this pose, widen your stance and crouch on all fours on the floor or mat. If you have tight hamstrings then for this bending pose you should position your heels against a wall and keep your knees slightly bent. As you crouch, keep your palms apart and placed in front of your shoulders on the ground. Turn your toes forwards and straight.
Breathe in and when you exhale lift your knees off the ground, stretching your legs and moving your backside upwards. While you stretch make sure to keep the soles of your feet pressed onto the floor. Push through so that you can feel the pull on your hamstring and back muscles. Repeat this stretch at least 5 times.
3. Expanded Leg Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Start this pose with your feet apart from each other to put less pressure on your hamstrings. Put your hands on your hips and breathe in. On exhaling bend forward with your torso as low as you can while keeping your spine straight. Bend your knees slightly if you are experiencing pain from tight leg muscles and relieve tension.
Modification for Beginners
There are variations to this pose if you are having some difficulty doing it. The first way involves leaning on a pile of books stacked on the floor. This helps if you are unable to bend and place your hands in between your legs on the ground. The second way is to interlock your fingers and place them behind your neck and as you bend the torso forward keep your arms in place.
4. Quad Stretch
These post cycling stretches can ultimately reverse the bad posture you get from cycling and bending forwards on the saddle. It targets the quadriceps and hips along with the spine.
Get down on the floor or mat in a crouching position and place your soles against a wall. Now keep your body in balance as you lift your right knee off the floor and lean it against the wall, stretching your leg upwards and letting your shin touch the wall.
Now slide down your leg and knee making sure they are touching the wall at the same time. Hold this pose, and now bring the left knee up so that your left foot sole is flat on the floor. Your left shin and thigh must make a 90-degree angle. The intensity of this stretch may make it hard to hold for longer than a couple of seconds. When you feel able to keep balance, remove your hands from the floor and place them on your left knee. Try this stretch at least 5 times.
5. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
With is pose you can stretch out your groin area, thighs, and back. You will feel a pull in your chest and shoulder muscles too. To begin, bend into a kneeling position and keep the soles of your feet facing upwards towards the ceiling. Now try to lift upwards pushing your feet off the ground.
While doing so, ensure you make your hips and torso straight. Inhale and then as you exhale, slowly arch your back as much as you can until your head is looking up at the ceiling or behind your body. Pull your hands back to grab your heels for support and to stretch the shoulders. Try this pose at least 5 times and do it as you exhale each time.
If you cannot reach your heels then place another object like a pile of books closer by to hold on to.
6. Seated Glute Stretch
You may not think your posterior needs stretching but by sitting on a bicycle for too long this can cause damage to the tissues of your glutes. With the glute stretch, not only work those muscles but also open up the hips. Find a cushioned chair and sit with your right foot sole on the ground straight in the direction your knee is pointing.
Now keeping your back as upright as you can, place your left ankle on your right knee. To stretch it better bring the ankle further across the knee so that your shin rests on the right knee if possible. Inhale deeply and on exhaling bend your torso over your left shin. Switch legs and try this out at least 5 times holding the stretch for as long as you can. With practice, you should be able to hold your right knee with your left forearm and on switching legs vice versa.
7. Revolved Belly Pose (Athara Parivartanasana)
This stretch can relieve the tension some of you may be feeling in the back, hips, and shoulders. To try this lie down on your back and bend your knees by holding them at the chest. Breathe in and on exhaling move your knees to your side. Keep your upper body as straight and flat on your back as you can. Extend your arms on the floor on either side to expand your shoulder blades.
This pulls your lower back and shoulders. After stretching them out now straighten your legs to try and touch the extended arm closest to them. Bring your knees back to their original bent position at the chest and bend them over the other side and the pose again. Try this yoga asana 5 times. Apart from cyclists, these stretches are helpful for riders on motorcycles.
8. Supported Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana)
This stretch can help out cyclists the most as it focuses on the areas that are in discomfort after a long ride. You may stay in this position for as long as you would like and it can be relaxing to do and feels good too.
Sit down on the floor with a pile of blankets or two pillows behind you. Bring your feet soles together by bending your knees and form a diamond shape with your legs. Now lean back on your elbows and rest them on the pillows or blankets. Keep this pose for minimum 5 minutes. You will feel a pull on your groin, hips, thighs, chest and upper diaphragm.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to stretching for cyclists and yoga poses for better cycling endurance and muscle flexibility. These poses and post-cycling stretches for bikers should be performed right after cycling when the muscles are still warmed up. Try to maintain a good routine for post-cycling so that you ensure to stretch your entire body and targeted sore spots.
Repeat each stretch at minimum 5 times and soon stretching for bicycling will be easy as riding itself!
Let us know if you have tried any of these yoga asanas and share your favourite bike stretch with us in the comments below.