Stretching out before and after you ride is one of the key elements in avoiding injury when cycling.

Anne Dickins and I have looked at your body-and-bike position as well as what we mean by core strength and why it’s important; this time we are focusing on stretching and flexibility.

Stretching can help avoid stiffness, pain and injury. Image copyright Rachel Sokal

As Anne says;

At the most basic level you need flexibility in your muscles and joints to get into a position to ride your bike comfortable.

We’ve covered the theory of how you should stretch, and why. Now it’s time for the actual stretches. We’ve got a 9 stretches that are perfect for cyclists, and will help you increase your flexibility and relieve stiffness.

Don’t forget, to help stay supple and flexible;

  • Don’t slump or stay in static postures – get up and move about – your muscles will thank you for it!
  • Always warm up before you stretch (5 mins gentle cycling or jogging is sufficient)
  • Always stretch dynamically before exercise (by moving in and out of the stretch)
  • Always stretch statically after exercise hold each stretch for about 30 seconds
  • Never cause pain, numbness or pins and needles during stretches – if you have any pain just easy off the stretch. If the pain continues then consider seeing a professional for advice as there may be a structural problem

[part title="1. Active muscle stretch; Thigh muscles (quadriceps)"]

Quad stretches

It’ll come as no surprise that your thighs are one of the most active muscles whilst you are cycling.

To stretch stand, using support if you need, and take one leg up behind you supporting your ankle with your hand on the same side. With your knee bent up and legs together, gently draw your leg backwards so you are aiming for both thighs to be together. Don’t let your back arch or your knee come out to the side.

[part title="2. Active muscle stretch; Calf stretches"]

Another important cycling muscle as your foot transfers the power from your leg into the pedal – tight calves can affect your ankle and knee joints.

Stand with your feet parallel one in front of another. Take your weight onto your front leg, keeping your back heel down and knee straight until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. Progress this stretch to the deeper calf muscles by bending your rear leg, you should feel the stretch move downwards in your calf.

[part title="3. Active muscle stretch; Gluteals"]

Your glutes work to straighten your leg from the hip and are more powerful than your thigh muscles. They are important core muscles too so important to stretch.

To stretch lie on your back and draw your knee over your body with the opposite hand. Keep your other arm out to the side to stop yourself rolling over. Move your knee up and down until you find a good stretch.

To progress to stretch the deeper piriformis muscle which can often be uncomfortably tight, lying on your back take one knee towards your chest, wrap your other leg behind to push your top leg further up. With your hand push the top knee down and away from you. You should feel a nice deep stretch in your hip.

[part title="4. Active muscle stretch; Hamstrings"]

Your hamstrings are important muscles in cycling and any tightness can pull on your lower back and knees which can lead to various injuries.

To stretch stand with one foot in front of the other with feet hip-distance apart. Straighten your front leg and bend your rear supporting leg. Lift your bottom backwards and tilt pelvis forward slightly arching your back until you feel a stretch in the back of your straight leg.

Alternatively you can do this stretch lying on your back with one leg and your back flat against the ground. Take the thigh of your stretching leg to 90 degrees and support with your hands. Gradually straighten your knee until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh whilst keeping your back and other leg flat on the ground.

[part title="5. Postural stretch; Inner thigh (adductors)"]

InnerThigh

As cycling involves only moving your legs in one plane your inner thigh muscles need taking through their range of movement to prevent any stiffness causing problems at your hips or knees.

Stand with both feet pointing forwards. Keeping your hips facing forwards take your weight over to one side, bending your supporting knee. Move your pelvis forwards and backwards to find the point of the greatest stretch for your inner thigh of your straight leg.

[part title="6. Postural stretch; Lower back"]

LowerBack

This is an important postural stretch as whilst riding you’ll be in a sustained flexed (bent forward) position in your lower back. This stretch will take your joints and muscles in the opposite direction and help relieve any stiffness and discomfort.

Stand with your hands on the back of your hips and gently lean back pushing your hips forwards. Don’t arch too far, this stretch shouldn’t cause you discomfort in your back.

[part title="7. Postural stretch; Neck (upper trapezius)"]

Neck

Another postural stretch – your upper trapezius muscle can become tight if you are hunched in the shoulders whilst riding. You can easily perform this stretch during a ride if you are stopped at traffic lights to stop the tightness building.

Drop one arm down by your side and gently taking your head towards the other shoulder whilst making sure you are facing forwards. Increase the stretch by reaching your hand over onto your head and gently pulling your head further over.

[part title="8. Postural stretch; Chest (pectorals)"]

A commonly tight muscle in lots of people who spend the day sitting and leaning forward onto your handle bars can make this worse.

Stand tall and take your arms down and out to the sides. Gently take your arms further behind you and slide your shoulders away from your ears. Take care not to arch your back. Repeat but this time with your hands by your ears to stretch across all the muscle, take care not to pull your head forward. You can also stretch your pecs by placing your hands either side of the door frame and then lean through the door.

[part title="9. Postural stretch; Hip flexors and ilio-tibial band (ITB)"]

The hip flexors are key muscles in supporting backs and hips. Due to all the sitting we do they spend much their time in a short position which can lead to strain on your lower back when we move.

Kneel in a lunge position and gently move your weight forward keeping your back flat and bottom tucked in. You should feel a stretch across the front of your hip on your back leg. To increase the stretch concentrate on tucking in your bottom and flattening your back.

To stretch your ilio-tibial band (ITB) perform a quads stretch holding your ankle in standing and take your leg slightly forwards and out to the side, you should feel the stretch move from the front of your thigh to the front-outer part of your hip.