Cycling may start as enjoyment but, regular training and perseverance is required to nail the sport and maintain the levels of fitness needed to sustain it. While other sports lay significant emphasis on flexibility, cycling entails the absence of full motion range for joints and thus limited flexibility. Flexibility essentially means getting rid of the stiffness to avoid injury. The lack of flexibility leads to a poor posture that in turn increases the risk of injury and hampers cycling performance. It is a great idea to perform stretches for cycling and take up yoga to tackle the issues.
Yoga not only helps you maintain your flexibility but is also refreshing and prepares you well to embrace fitness and the fun of your favorite sport.
- Stretches for Cyclists: Targeted Muscles
- Yoga Poses for Cyclists
- Stretching before cycling
- Stretching for Cyclists - Q&A
We list some common stretches for cyclists that will ensure that you won’t have to suffer from cycling-related injuries.
Stretches for Cyclists: Targeted Muscles
Stretches for cycling are varied and target various parts of the body with most of them working on the lower body. Below are the major muscles that need stretching
- Calves: Calves are one of the most overworked body parts during cycling and stretches help relax the calf muscles thus improving riding performance.
- Quadriceps: A very slow stretch that isn’t too hard is a necessity to relax the biggest cycling muscle i.e., the quads.
- IT Band: The band between the hip and the knee that helps in balancing is called the IT Band. Stretches for cycling relax the IT band to avoid tendonitis and issues with knee alignment.
- Hamstrings: Hamstrings must be stretched slowly and carefully because pedaling motion makes the hamstrings short and powerful.
- Gluteus: The butt muscles are often ignored as a part of stretching routine, but it is important to focus on them to sustain flexibility.
- Neck and Shoulders: These muscles are often strained with constant checking for traffic and tracking other riders, stretching them ensures a better ride.
- Core: The abdomen and back muscles are your core muscles as they support your legs while pedaling, which is why they need to be stretched properly.
Yoga Poses for Cyclists
Below are best stretches for cyclists that yoga has to offer. These ensure a better sport as well as increased flexibility:
Start the pose with your hands and knees on the ground and lift your body to make an inverted V. The palms must lie flat on the ground but not the heels. Flattening of the back ensures an effective pose and you can bend the knees if required.
This pose helps increase the length of back muscles and hamstrings and facilitates more power on the pedal.
To attain this pose, work from the downward dog position by walking the feet towards the hands and following with a chair sitting squat position. Flatten the back and pull the stomach in and open the chest by taking the arms above the head and rolling shoulders back and down.
This pose enables better breathing by opening the chest and helps in toning the lower back along with glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
With the arms raised, step one foot towards the front to get into the lunge position. The back leg must be kept straight, and the heel must stay as close to the ground. The alignment of shoulders must be over the pelvis. Switch legs after 30 seconds.
Cyclists can work their quads, hamstrings and hip flexors with this pose.
Undue stress on the joint can be avoided by not pushing the front knee further than the toes.
Work from the crescent lunge and lower the body towards the floor while the front leg is crossed and rear leg is straight. The level of hips should be maintained without sinking at either side. Switch sides.
The pedal stroke can be made more efficient by working the hips with this pose.
A soft block under the hips will aid this position.
Lie down and bend your knees to bring the feet towards the butt. Maintain arms by the side, breathe out, and slowly lift the pelvis. Head and shoulders should lie flat on the floor as you join hands under you. Avoid turning the head in this position.
Add comfort to your reach to the handlebar by strengthening back and opening the chest with this position that also works glutes and abdomen.
Recline hands to toes
Use a strapped loop under one foot as you lie on your back and lift that leg in the air. The other leg must stay on the ground. It’s okay if the raised leg isn’t straight, but put in efforts to take the heel beyond the hips. Hold the stretch and flex foot from toes in the sky to heel in sky position. Switch legs after 30 seconds.
Stretching before cycling
Stretching your muscles before your rides help avoid injury and also enhance performance during the ride by offering an effective warm up.
Below are some effective stretches for cycling to take up just before the ride:
Hip tightness from long rides can be tackled by leg swings.
Stand to one side of your bike, hold its seat for stability, and start swinging your leg back and forth. Start with small swings and extend the length of your swing each time. Repeat this 10 times for each leg.
Once this is done, face your bike and hold on to the seat with both hands. Proceed to swing one leg side to side. Again, repeat the stretch 10 times for each leg, starting with small swings and increasing the length with each swing.
Remember that the leg must stay straight during the swings.
This stretch adds to the flexibility in the glutes and relaxes the back by warming and loosening the muscles around the spine.
Get on all fours, with your palms and knees in line with your shoulders and hips, respectively. Then, as you inhale, arch your back, letting your belly drop towards the floor while your hips and shoulders rise. Then, start exhaling as you round your spine and tuck in your pelvis. Repeat the process for 30 to 60 seconds.
Remember to take it slowly.
Calves may pain from excessive cycling. A heel-toe walk is beneficial for warming up the calves and adding to ankle flexibility.
Take a step forward, landing only on the heel of your foot. Then lower your torso, applying pressure on the heel. Once you lift your torso back up, roll your foot from the heel to the ball of your foot, thus transferring your weight. Repeat this with the other foot, and continue this process for another 30 to 60 seconds.
It is one of the most relaxing stretches for cycling that offers the comfort of a massage and warms up the muscles.
Use the foam to work on your glutes, hamstrings, quads and hip flexors; make sure to apply as much pressure on the foam as possible. Roll slowly so that every part of each muscle gets enough attention. If you feel stiffness or tightness in any part, focus on it more so as to ease out any knots.
Chest stretches help relax the muscles tightened from hunching over the handlebars and also help the legs and back.
Stand facing the side of your bike, with hip-distance between your legs. Grab on to the top tube, or the seat and handlebar for a wider grip, and bend forward from your waist. Now hold for three seconds, slightly flexing your elbows and pressing your chest towards the ground. Stand tall for a few seconds and repeat the process five to ten times.
Apart from these, butt kicks, high knees, shoulder reach and active squats are also effective exercises that can be taken up before riding to unleash flexibility and benefits.
Stretching for Cyclists - Q&A
Let’s take a look as some Frequently Asked Questions regarding stretches for cycling.
1. When to stretch?
It is wise to stretch either after a ride or post warming up to avoid injury in cold muscles. Dynamic stretching must replace static where one holds a fixed position to retain power output.
2. How long should each stretch last?
To allow for the stretch response, you must aim for 20-60 sec of stretch time.
3. What is the stretch response?
Out of reflex, your muscles will try and “protect” themselves from the stretch. Stretch response occurs after the muscles relax and stop trying to protect themselves, which takes about 20 to 30 seconds.
4. How many times should each stretch be performed?
This depends on the type of stretch you’ve doing, but, ideally, each stretch must be performed at least two to four times.
5. What should the frequency of these stretching exercises be?
Flexibility training must be taken up 2-3 times per week.
6. How far should I stretch?
Don’t push yourself too much. While stretching should cause some tension, even some discomfort, it shouldn’t be painful.
7. Should I stick to a particular routine?
Not necessarily. As you start becoming familiar with the exercises, you will learn which ones are more suited to your capacity. It is important that you don’t follow someone else’s routine, as their capacity is different than yours.
Listen to your body and do what you’re comfortable with.
Adequate emphasis on inculcating flexibility in body ensures that one is more equipped to handle injuries and avoid them. Training routine must involve considerable efforts on the mobilization aspect to add comfort to riders and improve the performance.
So now that you know how to prepare your muscles for cycling, grab these ten absolutely essential cycling gears and accessories, and get going!