Become a Better Cyclist: Learn to Stretch, part 2

Cycling is very tough, no doubt about it. A lack of flexibility will make any ride much more uncomfortable, regardless of your type of bike and how long you ride for. Shortened, tight muscles pull and restrain your body into unfavorable positions, causing discomfort and poor balance.

Let’s look at some fantastic stretches that all cyclists should have in their arsenal!

Read part 1 in this series if you are new to cycling and stretching!

#1: Spine twist

Spine twists put your shoulders in a neutral position and help loosen up your spine, back, neck and abdominal muscles. Stretching out the back is as important for road cyclists hunched over handlebars as it is for office workers hunched over a keyboard.

Start by lying flat on your back. Stretch your arms out perpendicular to your body, keeping the palms up. Kend your knees up while keeping your ankles together, then roll your knees to one side while you turn your neck and look the other way. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.

#2: Quad stretch

Your quadriceps are responsible for the bulk amount of force being generated when you push off with your feet, whether that be on pedals, running, jumping or doing lower body strength training. Tight quads will prevent you from fully straightening your leg while pedaling, and may affect your rhythm and balance on the bike.

This stretch is straightforward and simple, but it will probably be pretty uncomfortable if you aren’t used to stretching. Stand up straight and grab your ankle behind you. Holding onto a wall or chair with the other hand makes it easier to stay balanced.

You should pull your ankle enough that you feel your muscles stretch, but not so much that it becomes difficult to stand with straight hips.

#3: Hip flexor stretch

Your hip flexors sit at the front of your hips and are part of the muscles that lean your torso forward and move your knees up towards your chest when you ride. These muscles are constantly working when we pedal, and giving them a stretch is important to keep you from getting hunched over.

Get into a kneeling position with one leg in front of you. Leave the trailing foot on the floor. Drive your hips forward, and you will feel the stretch at the front of your hips. You can play around and get a feel for how much forward lean you want!

#4 Cat cow stretch

This stretch is excellent for your back, neck and abdominal muscles. Since we spend our time on the bike leaning forward, it is important to have a stretch that moves us in the opposite direction!

Start by getting on all fours: hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Inhale and move into the cow pose by flexing your lumbar spine and dropping your abs and ribs cage towards the floor, pull your shoulders back and look up.

Hold for a few seconds. Exhale and engage your core muscles to move into the cat pose, pushing your hands into the floor and dropping your head in between your arms.

#5 Glute and piriformis stretch

Obviously, your quads do an awful lot of work when you pedal – but so do your glutes. They are some of the most powerful muscles in your body, and are part of the muscles that are responsible for extending your hips. Tight glutes are often part of the reason why some experience lower back pain, but stretching them out can help with that.

Image credit: welovecycling.com

Lie flat on your back and put your left ankle on top of your right knee. Clasp your hands behind the right leg. You shouldn’t need to do anything else before you feel the stretch across your left glute. Hold for 20-30 seconds (or more) before switching sides. This can also be done in a seated position, but most people will probably find it easier lying down.

There you have it, our top 5 stretches for cyclists! Did we miss your favourite stretch? Let us know on Facebook!

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.


Become a Better Cyclist: Learn to Stretch, part 1

Cycling is a great way to exercise, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s also very unique in that it puts your body in the same position and has you performing the same motion thousands of times every time you ride.

Over time you may start feeling stiff as increased muscle tone will lead you to being less limber than you used to be. Stretching and increasing your flexibility will give you more freedom of movement – both on and off the bike.

How & when should I stretch?

Much has been said and written about whether it’s better to stretch before or after a workout. They’re both great, but you need to take some things into consideration!

If you’re stretching before exercising, you should do dynamic stretching: slow and deliberate movements. Since your muscles haven’t been warmed up yet, you should avoid any serious pulling, as you may be at increased risk of tearing muscle fibres apart. Instead, incorporate movements. For example, you could do walking lunges instead of kneeling hip flexor stretches (more on these later!).

This blog will focus on static stretching, the kind that most people will be familiar with; pull a leg or an arm in a certain direction and hold it there. The key is to do it after exercising, when the muscles are warmed up and have increased blood supply.

You’ll want to do each stretch for at least 20 seconds, but how long is too long? There’s probably no such thing, but you definitely reach a point of diminished returns after around 90 seconds. Keep in mind too, you need to prioritise good form over how long you stretch for. 20 seconds of good form is better than 40 seconds of poor form!

How hard should you stretch? It’s hard to answer this question because there are no objective metrics to go by and stretching will feel different to everyone. As a rule of thumb, you should take it to a point where your muscles are giving you resistance, but you shouldn’t push into pain. You may feel some discomfort, especially if you are new to stretching, but you should not feel any sharp, sudden or intense pain.

The basics of stretching

  1. Dynamic stretching before working out is a great warm-up.
  2. Keep static stretching limited to after a ride.
  3. Focus on correct form and gradually increase how long you stretch for.
  4. Feel the burn, but don’t push into pain!

Looking for an end-of-trip facility in Brisbane CBD? At cycle2city, we offer a free 7 day trial with no commitments. Come by our King George Square location for a tour of the facilities, or sign up for a free trial on our website!

We offer 24/7 premium cycling facilities in the heart of Brisbane, and have state of the art bike storage, an in-house bicycle workshop, 400+ personal lockers, plenty of shower cubicles and fresh towels supplied daily.

Want to learn some specific stretches? Click here to read part two in our series, where we will go through some of the best stretches for cyclists!

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.