If there is one recommendation for every athlete out there, it is focusing more on stretching. Very few people get the proper stretching done before doing any physical activity, and that is undoubtedly relatable in the bike riding world.
For cyclists, in particular, longer rides mean focusing specifically on certain types of stretches. It might seem like a person could ease into a ride and stretch their body out in some ways, but stretching before and after makes a big difference.
1. Thoracic Mobility Stretch
This wordy stretch option might seem complicated, but it is fairly simple once a person gets the hang of it. The goal here is to get in the kneeling position and put hands together like saying a prayer.
The arms need to be on a stable surface, so look for something that is right around the same height as a person’s ears. Without moving the feet or knees, bend at the waist and have the elbows bent to a 90-degree angle.
The neck needs to stay in a neutral position, and the chest will drop towards the floor and run parallel as well.
Cyclists are covering a lot of distance at a time, and that usually leads to some hunching over. When hunching over handlebars, it can start to cause some pain in the back area.
The thoracic spine need stretched out so that it will help with a flexible body overall. This means more flexibility through the trunk area and the shoulders as well. The stretch can be done right before a ride, or as a way to work out the kinks post-ride. (Source)
2. Neck And Trap Stretch
Whether is preparing for a ride or simply sitting at a desk all day, there are plenty of reasons to give the neck and upper trap area a bit of a stretch.
It is crucial to have a fair amount of mobility in this area, as it can lock up and caused quite a bit of pain for some riders.
The concept is pretty simple, as a person needs to sit in a chair or stand and tilt their head to each side. There is no need to use a hand to push the stretch in the beginning, but those who want to get a deeper stretch can do that as well.
When cyclists start to feel a little bit of numbness in their hands, it usually has to do with leaning in the wrong position. They will be leaning on their hands, and it can put stress on other areas as well.
For example, nerves in the neck can start to tighten up, and all of a sudden some hand numbness evolves into pain in the neck area. When a rider tries to overcompensate for pain, it can lead to more pain in other areas. (Source)
3. Updog Lumbar Stretch
This is another common stretch for any athlete, but cyclists who can spend hours in a hunched position should pay particular attention to this part of the body.
To balance everything out, the upward dog yoga stretch releases the lower back and stretches the abs, thighs, hip flexors, and more.
The goal here is making sure that the body does not fall into any bad habits. Having a good amount of mobilization moving the body both ways will help a cyclist reach new heights.
There are a ton of riders who feel like they have to give up what they like because their back hurts too much. That does not have to be the case with the proper amount of stretching. (Source)
4. Doorway Stretch
The doorway stretch gets its name because of how the leg extends up against the frame of the door. A person can theoretically use just about any wall as well, as the goal is to get the leg stretched in full extension.
Cycling never requires the leg to fully extend, which means the hamstrings stay contracted the entire time. Having additional hamstring flexibility will make a rider feel healthier and cut down on the chance of pain.
This is another type of stretch that works well getting ready for a ride, but also post-ride. Many people are going to notice how much more flexibility in the hamstrings can help in other areas as well.
People might think that their legs are in great shape because they are cycling so much, but the hamstrings do get overlooked quite a bit by doing the same motion all the time. This adds variance to the entire setup.
5. Seated Glute Stretches
The glutes are essential when cycling. It is where the power comes from with legs, and they need to be healthy and durable for the best riders to have success.
If they become way too tired or tight during a ride, it means that a person will put pressure on other parts of the body. For example, lower back pain usually starts with glutes that are not working correctly.
One of the easiest ways to stretch out the glutes is to sit in a chair and cross one leg over the other, resting the ankle on the opposite knee.
When doing the stretch, keep the back straight, lean forward a bit, and feel the stretch in each glute. It is fine to hold a stretch for a good amount of time, and pushing it a bit will make it very useful as well.
There are other ways to stretch out the glutes, but this is so convenient since it can be done just about anywhere.
Some riders will even do this pose while lounging around the home, as there is never a wrong time to stretch the glutes out to make the body feel better. (Source)
6. Hip Flexor And Quad Stretch
Just like the glutes are important, so are the hip flexors. This is where a lot of power generates from, as flexible hip flexors can make a huge difference for cyclists.
Not only can a person stretch their hip flexors, but the quads get a little bit of work as well in the simple stretch.
The positioning is much like a traditional lunge, but there is a bit of a twist. The back leg goes on the ground and bends up to balance on a chair or bench behind.
This is to get some work in the right areas of the leg while leaning forward with each stretch. Alternating sides will keep the legs feeling fresh and ready to go.
What people notice is that they do not have to stretch too much to feel the difference. As long as they can move the hips forward a bit, it stretches out a part of the body that does not get too much attention all the time.
This is beneficial for overall health, but specifically for cyclists needing that extra power in her legs. This helps with sprints, climbing hills, and overall endurance. (Source)
7. Revolving Belly Pose
The final stretch to make this list right now is something that people can do to help with lower back stiffness of any kind.
It is a good stretch before riding, but a lot of people do this after a long ride so that they are feeling as good as new. It helps to uncoil the body a bit after being in a certain position for so long.
The first thing is for a person to lay on the ground, and then bend the knees. With the arms straight on the floor, the knees should be lowered to the right and left side slowly.
This moves the lower back around and loosens it up, and people will be able to stretch more and more with each repetition.
Other stretches also start from the belly pose, but this is a great full-body type of stretch that so many riders benefit from.
No matter if a person is a cyclist, a dirt bike rider, or anything in between, the body needs to be stretched out after being in the biking position.
How Important Is Stretching In Cycling?
People get in the habit of not stretching in different types of sports, but it is recommended to stretch with cycling every single time.
That is because it can be a pretty strenuous activity, even without pushing speed too much. While there might not be top end speed, it is a long journey that can start to add up.
Just a little bit of tightness at the beginning of a ride can lead to something much worse an hour into everything. That is why people will invest so much time and energy stretching as much as possible.
No one wants to be the person who refuses to stretch properly, and then pays for it the rest of the day. Riding a bike should not be so taxing on the body that a person needs multiple days to recover.
Creating a Habit
Stretching before a ride is important, and stretching, in general, can help throughout the day. To develop these habits of stretching, try to figure out ways to get stretches in while being inactive otherwise.
For example, a lot of people stretch while they are watching television, as it gives them something to do instead of just sitting. It might seem a little strange at first, but it is all about creating habits and going from there.
Make sure to ask medical professionals about any struggles a person might be dealing with as well. It can be very beneficial to focus on specific stretching if there is a bothersome issue on the body.
Nobody wants to be facing a lot of different challenges on their own without any type of direction.
Stretching makes a difference, and cyclists will notice that their rides are more comfortable in time. It does not take too much extra time to start stretching, and the body will feel thankful for the extra effort.