Why should cyclists stretch?
The position we adopt to cycle in isn't one that humans naturally evolved to sit in. Therefore it is important that cyclists take the time to properly stretch their muscles and joints so that they don't get tight and their flexibility isn't weakened as a result.
Cycling is such a repetitive action that there are a number of muscles and joints that are ignored in your normal exercise routine. Stretching well will prevent these unused joints becoming weak as well as conditioning those that you use regularly such as your calf muscles and hamstrings.
Stretching can also hugely enhance your performance. Longer hamstrings allow for a more aero position, stretched calves give you a more powerful stroke and streching your hip flexors well helps to prevent back pain enabling you to keep pedalling comfortably for longer.
When should cyclists stretch?
Despite what you may have been told in PE class at school, you should never stretch before a ride when your muscles are cold. Rather than strengthening and conditioning your muscles, stretching them prior to exercise could actually do more harm than good.
The optimum times to stretch are after you have completed your warm-up ride and before the main event, or at the end of a ride when your muscles are well and truly warmed up.
Whenever you choose to stretch make sure you repeat the process at least three times a week and you'll soon notice improved flexibility and less aches and pains after long rides.
Stretches for cyclists: IT band
Foam Roller: Lie on your side resting one leg on the foam roller and cross the other one over the top. Placing your hands flat on the floor to support you, roll your leg up and down the foam roller for one minute. Repeat on the other leg. This helps to prevent IT band syndrome and to stabilise your knees.
Kneeling lunge: With one leg stretched out straight behind you, bend your forward leg at the knee keeping your knee directly over your ankle. Straighten your pelvis and push your hips forward to feel the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch legs.
Stretches for cyclists: Calves
Single heel drop: Place both of your feet on a step together and then lower one of your heels over the edge of the step and hold this position for 10-15 seconds. Repeat this stretch several times so that you can feel it reaching your calf. Switch feet and complete the process again.
Stretches for cyclists: Hamstrings
Forward fold: Keeping your feet hip width apart and your legs and back straight, gently bend yourself forward at the waist lowering your hands towards your feet. When you feel it start to burn pause for 20 seconds before following the stretch through. Once your hands are touching your feet (or as near as they will go) you should feel the pressure come off your hamstrings. Repeat a couple of times.
Stretches for cyclists: Shoulders
Shoulders can become especially tense when cycling long distance hunched over your handlebars. When you stop for a break, try out a couple of shoulder stretches to ease the tension.
Placing your arms above your head, rest your right hand on your left elbow and stretch. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and then switch arms and repeat.
Shoulder rolls are also a great way to condition the muscles. Keeping your arms down by your sides, bring your shoulders up so they're pretty much touching your ears before rolling them backwards and down back into their relaxed position. Lift your shoulders back up to your ears and this time roll them forward and down. Repeat eight to ten times.
Yoga for Cyclists
Many of the stretches recommended specifically for cyclists are in actual fact yoga positions. Yoga is seen as an extremely good way for regular cyclists to stretch, strengthen and condition their muscles without causing them any extra strain or pressure. Victoria Pendleton is a huge fan - if it's good enough for the professionals...
TWC have put together a collection of videos covering the different Yoga poses suited to cycling. Grab a look at our Yoga for Cyclists content for more information.
Our short videos are fantastic for cyclists to complete back at home once their muscles are well and truly warmed up after a long ride at no cost or inconvenience to them.
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