Every year the popularity of cycling seeing huge growth. During the period from 1990 to 2012, the number of cyclists commuting to work more than tripled in major cities across this country. If you are one of the many new converts to riding, we want to be sure that you say injury free, safe, and on your wheels day after day.
Although cycling is not an impact sport, the repetitive motion leads to tightness and puts considerable stress on legs, joints, and the back. A pre-ride stretching plan is a very important part of injury prevention. Hitting the road or spin class with well warmed up and stretched muscles will also improve your performance. It is important, however to do a bit of a ride or jog to warm up cold muscles before stretching. Dynamic, rather than static stretching is always preferred. Make sure you don’t stretch too deep or vigorously, since you can over-do it. Never stretch to the point of pain. Breathe and focus on relaxing the very muscles you are stretching.
Areas targeted for cyclists are hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors, triceps, calves, pectorals, back, and shoulders. Hold all the following stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
- Start off with some good Leg Swings, as the dynamic action will help get your muscles warmed up all over. This stretch helps keep those hip flexors loose and improves mobility. Stand holding your bike seat or another solid object. Keeping your leg straight, swing your outside leg forward and backward. Try to extend the range of the swing each time as you get more warmed up with each swing. Move the stretch to your outer hip and thighs as you turn to face the bike and swing your leg from side to side. You will also feel this in your groin muscles.
- The Standing Calf Stretch not only stretches the important calf muscles that work so hard in cycling, but you will feel the stretch up the back of your hamstrings, as well. Standing an arm’s length from the wall, extend your foot behind you with your heel on the ground and your weight on that foot while the other leg is bent. Gently lean forward with both hands shoulder height in front of you, placing palms against the wall. You will feel the stretch in the calf of your extended leg as you lean forward from the hip, not bending the knee.
- Stretch your neck and shoulders as you stand or sit straight up with your shoulders relaxed. Reach one arm overhead and place your hand close to your opposite ear. Gently stretch the neck as you pull with that arm.
- The Pigeon Stretch really give your glutes what they need for the work they pour on during your ride. Kneeling on all fours, bring one knee under your body, with the lower leg bent at a 90 degree angle. Gently lower yourself onto your forearms and extend your other leg straight behind you as you lower yourself more deeply over your bent front leg.
- Stretch your Hip and Low back with this combo stretch. Starting in a forward lung position with the left knee to the ground, the left elbow should press gently into your left knee while you twist your torso to the right as your right arm reaches back behind you. Focus on opening up your chest and torso and feel the stretch in your lower back, hips, and groin
- The Standing Quad Stretch targets the most often used muscles in cycling. Stand with one hand on a chair or your bike seat. With your other hand, reach back and grasp your ankle as you bend your knee drawing your foot straight back toward your buttocks. You should feel the pull along the front of your thighs and through the hips. Be sure to not arch your back and do keep your focus on stretching the thigh.
- The Shoulder Reach is important since you work them for long periods of time. Loosening up the Latissimus dorsi is the goal here. Standing upright, reach both arms straight overhead and shrug your shoulders up and down.
Remember to do these same stretches after your ride to help you cool down and avoid injuries. These 7 will cover all the major muscle groups most challenged while cycling. Be safe out there!
Featured photo source: Pixabay.com