Being a cyclist in a constant hunched position with the same muscles always working with little variation, stretching is essential to loosen them up and recover. The looser your muscles, the more dynamic and comfortable you will be in movement, and therefore the better your performance! That’s why having a good combination of stretches to do after your ride can be incredibly beneficial to your body and muscles.
10 recommended stretches for cyclists from PBK experts:
Stand on one leg and pull the other backwards holding your ankle. Pull your leg up and back slowly until you feel the stretch in your quad, with the aim for your heel that you’re holding up to touch your glutes. This one is tricky for balance so you’re allowed to hold the wall, or if you’re with a mate, hold onto each other’s shoulders.
Target Muscles: quadriceps
Standing or Floor Stretch
Cyclists have short hamstrings because of the riding motion not needing much movement from your upper legs. Your hamstrings are therefore never stretched out. There are a few stretches that you can do to target this muscle area.
Stand with your legs together and bend forwards, letting your arms dangle down in front of you. Slowly lower yourself with your back and shoulders as straight as possible (do not hunch over) and see how far you can go – don’t force anything. Aim to touch the floor, and if you can’t then you can work towards it over the course of regular, consistent stretching after your rides. You should be able to feel the stretch in your hamstrings, the back of your legs.
Alternatively, sit on the floor and lean forward to touch your toes, (again, not hunching over). See how far you can go on this without forcing yourself to touch your feet as this can be uncomfortable and you can do some damage by over stretching beyond your capabilities. Do this one leg at a time if you find it difficult to do both, holding the stretch for approximately 30 seconds on each leg.
If you are particularly tight, you may sometimes feel this in your calves and if you’re not flexible then behind your knee will be painful!
Target Muscles: hamstrings
There are multiple stretches that you can do for your claves. My personal favourite – and what works best for me – is if you find yourself a step and stand on it on the ball of your foot, and drop one heel down letting it stretch out your calf. Hold for up to 30 seconds, change legs, and repeat several times. Do not drop too far though as putting pressure on can lead to over stretching and actually hurt.
If you can’t find a step, then position yourself in an A-frame position, with one leg lifted off the ground slightly and pushing back on your heel of the foot that is still on the ground.
Target Muscles: calves
This one needs balance and concentration. Do a standard lunge and repeat 5-6 times on each leg, alternating between them. Or, if you are keen to take this further, go down into a standard lunge and hold still for a couple of seconds. Then clasp your hands above your head and gently tilt from side to side. Depending on how stiff your back is, you may feel clicks down your spine.
Target Muscles:hip flexors, back
One of the most difficult stretches to master is the Pigeon Stretch, however although it looks complicated, it’s actually quite simple. Here’s how to do it:
Get yourself in a straight-armed plank position, then cross your right leg in front of your left, keeping it in a bent position and lower your body to the floor. Lean forward with your arms out in front of you and keep your left leg stretched out behind. Hold for up to a minute, inhaling deeply. Alternate sides.
Target Muscles: IT band, glutes
Hip & Glute Stretch
Lie with your back flat on the floor, raise your right leg in the air and bring it over to the left, moving your knee towards the floor but keeping your back flat and straight on the floor. Leave your arms spread out in an angel position – be prepared to hear/feel a lot of clicking down your spine. Alternate sides.
Target Muscles: hip, glutes, lower back
Shoulder Roll & Neck
Again, this is one of the more difficult stretches as it is tricky to master, so pay attention!
Roll your shoulders, bringing them up to your ears – do this slowly and alternate how you do it. Then, bring both arms out in front of you and clasp your hands, lower your head, looking down towards your chest and apply a small amount of pressure, pushing your head down, whilst keeping your arms and hands clasped out in front of you at a 90 degree angle. Bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades apart slightly. You should feel the stretch down the back of your neck and across your shoulder blades.
Target Muscles: neck, shoulders
Lie flat on the floor, raise one leg and pull your knee towards your chest – simple! Make sure that you hold the stretch for no less than 30 seconds and alternate legs. You should feel the stretch in your glutes.
Target Muscles: glutes
Stand with your feet more than shoulder width apart and lean from side to side. You should bend one knee as far as you can feel the stretch comfortably, keeping the other leg straight. Extend your arms out in front of you to keep balance. This stretch can also be done dynamically, taking 3-4 side steps in between each one – don’t forget to change direction so that you alternate the leading leg!
Target Muscles: groin, inside leg
Cross-Legged Hip Stretch
Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position with the soles of your feet touching. Gently lean forward to hold your feet and lean forwards as far as is comfortable. You should be able to push your knees flat on the floor – if you find this difficult then use your elbows to push your knees down, otherwise do as the picture to the left and just hold your feet and lean forwards!
Target Muscles: hips, groin
Remember that technique is everything, so take your time and really feel the stretch before coming out of it to get the most from your muscles, to loosen them up and increase your flexibility. And…Don’t stretch in jeans like we have done in demonstration at ProBikeKit!