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Stretches for Cyclists: Improve Your Cycling Performance with Targeted Mobility


This is a follow on to our last post THE IMPORTANCE OF MOBILITY FOR CYCLISTS


How many times have you found yourself saying, “I should really stretch more?” It’s common knowledge that cyclists need to stretch, but many of us fail to do it enough, if at all. If it’s not broken then don’t fix it right? If you’re putting in the miles and feeling strong, you may not feel like you need to switch up your routine at all. However, if we truly understood the benefits of stretching, perhaps we would be as disciplined to stretch as we are to get out cycling.


Muscle Function & Balance for Cyclists In every movement there are four main functions of the associated muscles, agonists, antagonists, stabilisers and assisters.

  • Agonists – the muscle being exercised/worked

  • Antagonist – the opposing muscle acting in contrast to the agonist

  • Stabiliser Muscles – hold the joint in place so that the movement can be performed, but are not necessarily moving

  • Assisters – help the agonist muscle that is doing the work

Muscle Balance speaks primarily to the agonist and antagonist muscles in any given movement. It is important to have balance to prevent injury, which is why stretching is so important for cyclists. When one muscle becomes tight, its antagonist will also be affected, and can even be injured as a result. Most cycling injuries are caused by tight muscles or a limited range of motion, from knee pain to underdeveloped glutes. By targeting certain muscles and their often neglected counterparts, routine sequence stretching will unlock the full potential of your muscles and joints.


Most cyclists have an Anterior Pelvic Tilt caused by Adaptive Muscle Shortening of your psoas.


Most cyclists have an Anterior Pelvic Tilt caused by Adaptive Muscle Shortening of your psoas.
Most cyclists have an Anterior Pelvic Tilt caused by Adaptive Muscle Shortening of your psoas.

When the front of the pelvis rotates forward, the back of the pelvis rises, leading to a change in your posture. You’ll see and feel an increased curvature on the lower spine and upper back… Leading to rounded shoulders, a protruding stomach, and weakened glutes and core muscles that affects your performance on the bike.



 

Why Cyclists Need to Stretch

Immediate Effects of Stretching for Cyclists

Accelerate recovery – Stretching reduces muscle soreness and stiffness by increasing blood flow, delivering more nutrients to your muscles and removing lactic acid and metabolites. Stretching also promotes whole body relaxation; boosting recovery, rejuvenation and adaptation by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system after exercise.

Increased Oxygen Flow – Stretching increases blood (and oxygen) flow to the muscles, reducing post-ride soreness with the added bonus of promoting cell growth and organ function.

Long Term Effects of Stretching for Cyclists

Prevent Tissue Degradation – Generally speaking, our day to day lives are restricted to certain movements and physical exertion. Over time and with age, the body starts dehydrating and stiffening. On a cellular level, muscle fiber's start developing cross-links with parallel fibers making them stick together. Stretching slows this process by stimulating the production of tissue lubricants and pulling the interwoven cellular cross links back into an ordered state.

Flexibility – Your range of motion is the distance parts of you body can move and rotate before causing damage to muscles and tendons. Everyone naturally has a different range of motion, but stretching can help you define what that looks like for you. As cyclists, we have to have the freedom and flexibility to move without resistance or pain.

Injury Prevention – Everything in the body is connected, and as cyclists we demand a lot from our muscles, joints and ligaments. Stretching keeps the connections strong, treating and preventing injury, improving functionality and longevity. We also can’t forget about the muscles and joints that are not used in cycling. On the bike, all movements are in a straight line, with no other plane of movement. So, it’s important to keep this in mind while stretching. Not only do you want to focus on the muscles used, but those that aren’t, as a means of reversing and preventing muscle imbalance.

Better Posture & Aerodynamics – Stretching the right muscles can help correct poor posture both on and off the bike. By lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their natural position you can maintain proper posture without the desire to round the back or slouch.

Dynamic vs. Static Stretching

  • Dynamic – Dynamic stretching takes a joint or muscle through a range of motion. It is best done before cycling as a way to prepare the joints for the repetitive movement, get blood flowing and warm up your muscles.

  • Static – Static stretches are designed to be held in one position for at least thirty seconds, and are what most people think of when it comes to stretching. The goal is to relax the muscle and deepen the stretch bit by bit. This is best done after exercise, as static stretching before can actually hinder the muscle’s ability to fire.


 


The 10 Best Stretches for Cyclists

1. THREE POINT HAMSTRING


Target: Hamstrings & Low Back
Target: Hamstrings & Low Back

Target: Hamstrings & Low Back Step 1:

  • Step your feet about hip distance apart, toes pointed forward

  • Slowly hinge at the hips, bringing your hands down to rest on the ground if you can, or allowing them to hang freely

  • Relax and hold for 30 seconds

Step 2:

  • Slowly come up so your hands rest on your knees

  • Turn toes outwards 45 degrees

  • Slowly lower back down and hold for 30 seconds

Step 3:

  • Slowly come up so your hands rest on your knees

  • Turn toes inward 45 degrees

  • Slowly lower back down and hold for 30 seconds

  • Slowly roll back up to standing when time is up

2. LEG CIRCLES (WITH A STRAP)


Target: Hips & Groin
Target: Hips & Groin

Target: Hips & Groin Step 1:

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended

  • Hook your strap around the bottom of your foot and extend it straight up into the air

Step 2:

  • Start drawing small, slow circles with your foot, using the strap as a guide

  • Slowly increase the size of the circles over 30 seconds


Step 3:

  • Switch direction for another 30 seconds, starting with small circles and slowly increasing in size

  • Switch legs and repeat


3. LIZARD TWIST

Target: Hips, Groin, Thoracic Spine
Target: Hips, Groin, Thoracic Spine

Target: Hips, Groin, Thoracic Spine Step 1:

  • Start in low lunge position

  • Step your front foot out to the edge or just off of your mat, toes pointed 45 degrees out

  • Rest hands on floor, in line with the front foot

Step 2:

  • Notice a stretch in your inner thigh of the front leg and upper leg and hip

  • Hold 30s, repeat on other side

Step 3:

  • Rotate up towards the ceiling

  • Turn your head to look up at your hand

  • You should feel an added stretch in your mid-back

  • Reach up and down for another 30 seconds

  • Repeat on the other side

4. CHILD'S POSE TWIST


Target: Hips, Shoulders, Spine & Obliques
Target: Hips, Shoulders, Spine & Obliques

Target: Hips, Shoulders, Spine & Obliques Step 1:

  • Come onto tabletop position on your mat

  • Bring your big toes together and step your knees as wide as your mat

  • Bring your torso down between your thighs, stretch your hands towards the front of your mat

  • Relax into the pose for 30s





Step 2:

  • Slowly walk your hands to the right side of your mat

  • You should feel an added stretch on your left side body

  • Hold here for 30 seconds

  • Repeat on the other side


5. PIGEON POSE

Target: Hip & Glutes
Target: Hip & Glutes

Target: Hip & Glutes Step 1:

  • Start in downward dog

  • Slowly bring one knee towards the front of your mat

  • Bring the leg across, with your foot reaching for the outer edge of your mat

  • Slowly lower down, keeping your hips square to the front of the mat

  • Hold here for 30 seconds

Step 2:

  • Now bring your upper body down over your leg if you can, coming to rest your forehead on a block or stacked fists

  • Hold for another 30 seconds

  • Repeat on the other side

6. LOW LUNGE

Target: Quads & Hips
Target: Quads & Hips

Target: Quads & Hips Step 1:

  • Come into a low lunge, placing a cushion under your knee if needed

  • Actively tuck your pelvis under and stay engaged in your core and glutes

  • You should feel and activation and stretch in the quad of the back leg

  • Hold here for 60 seconds





Option:

  • Hold a pole in your hands as you hold the stretch

  • Actively push the pole downwards

  • This will force you to activate your core and glutes and increase the stretch in the quad


7. SEATED TWIST & TUCK

Target: Glutes & Low Back
Target: Glutes & Low Back

Target: Glutes & Low Back Step 1:

  • Sit on your mat, legs out

  • Cross one leg over to the other, as close to your body as possible

Step 2:

  • Use arms for support, use the opposite arm on your knee to help twist your torso

  • Prop your arm in the back to help ease into the twist

  • Look over your shoulder and keep shoulders relaxed

  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side

Option:

  • Gently tuck in the straight leg towards the body

  • Hold for 30s

8. CALF & ACHILLES STRETCH

Target: Calf & Achilles
Target: Calf & Achilles

Target: Calf & Achilles Step 1:

  • Kneel on your mat⁠, taking a seat on your right leg⁠

  • Slide your left foot in towards your body, hugging it in as far as you can⁠

  • Let your weight fall forward, rounding through the spine and tucking the chin⁠

  • You should feel the stretch in the Achilles and calf. Hold for at least 45 seconds, then repeat on the other side



9. DYNAMIC CACTUS

Target: Chest & Back
Target: Chest & Back

Target: Chest & Back Step 1:

  • Palms open, arms straight out, slowly bring up and over your head

  • Look up and open airway, breathe

  • Hold for 20s

Step 2:

  • Keep shoulder blades back, chest out

  • Bend elbows 90 degrees

  • Hold for 20s

  • Option: push your arms against a surface for extra stretch (ex. doorway)

Step 3:

  • Bring elbows all the way down, keep shoulders back

  • Hold for 20s


10. QUAD RELEASE (WITH FOAM ROLLER)

Target: Quads
Target: Quads


Target: Quads Step 1:

  • Place a foam roller sideways on your mat

  • Place your quad on the roller, using your other leg for support

  • Slowly roll your quad up and down from the hip to the top of the knee

  • Do NOT roll over the kneecap

  • Roll up and down for 1 minute on each side


Many Athletes have used Performance BikeFit to improve their cycling position. Whether you are a veteran or new to the sport, Performance BikeFit can help you improve your position and improve your enjoyment of cycling indoors and Out.


For more information on Strength & Conditioning click here



© 2022 Performance BikeFit

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