Stretching is crucial for cyclists and must be done before and after each ride, no matter how long you’ve sat on the bike or how hard you’ve cycled.
How many of us finish cycling and hop in the shower right away? How many hop on the bike and start pedaling without having stretched first?
Stretching prevents muscle damage, gets your muscles activated before rolling and helps relaxing and recovering after having ridden.
Main aim of stretching
As mentioned above, stretching can be done before and after cycling. Their main goal is to gain flexibility in order the your posture on the bike is as good as possible, as well as activating muscle fibers before the ride and improving blood circulation in order to reduce muscle fatigue once you’ll hop off the bike. Moreover, stretching eases muscle oxygenation, which helps them recover faster and more efficiently and helps prevent muscle damage.
Keep reading to find why stretching is crucial both before and after working out or riding.
Stretching before cycling
Before you hop on the bike your body tends to be cold and your muscles are rigid and not ready to start making any big effort. This is why stretching is so important, especially for the lower body, as they will be the muscles that will be working during the whole ride. It’s advisable to stretch each muscle for 15–30 seconds. The aim of doing so is to gradually warm up your body and activate muscle fibers, so that they can work properly once you’re on the bike.
Stretching must thus be dynamic, with soft, controlled movements in order that muscle fibers start working and getting more and more flexible. The main aim of this warmup is to dilate muscles and get it ready for the physical activity that’s to come.
Focus especially on your lower body muscles, which are the ones that will be used more intensely, from your hips to your feet.
In this post, we will discuss several dynamic and basic stretching exercises, that you can perform before starting to ride.
1. Calf stretching
Stand up as straight as you can, with your legs slightly apart (at shoulders’ width). Then, stand on your tiptoes and hold that position for 20 seconds, two or three times. It’s an essential exercise if you want to increase your legs’ blood flow and warm up. Calves are considered your body’s second heart.
2. Neck stretching
You can’t ride a bike around as if you were a robot or a statue. That’s why neck stretching is so important to increase your flexibility and put your body to work. It’s very simple – rotate your neck. Make 4 or 5 rotations in one direction, then repeat in the opposite one. Repeat this 2-3 times. Focus on executing slow and precise movements.
3. Trunk and upper body stretching
This exercise is a thorough one, as it activates the whole abdominal area while also stretching your hamstrings. In order to perform it correctly, open your legs and keep them straight. Lean forward and try to reach your right foot with your left hand. Once you start feeling some tension, stop and do the same movement with your reverse hand and foot. Repeat, more and more intensely, 2-3 times, for 20 seconds each. Once you’re finished, straighten up slowly in order to prevent feeling dizzy.
4. Shoulder stretching
Stretching your shoulders in order to ride? Yes indeed – putting your shoulders to work is really important before cycling, as they will be supporting almost your whole body weight. Moreover, shoulder have a great range of motion, and in order to rotate your bike’s handlebars without looking like a robot, it’s important that they are warmed up beforehand. Simply stand still and stretch your arms laterally. Then, with your arms still up, start rotating them forward, slowly, for 20 seconds. Then repeat, rotating them backwards. Repeat this for 2-3 times.
5. Adductor stretching
Adductors are the muscles that give the most mobility to your legs, so it’s essential to activate them before cycling. Sand still, your feet slightly apart, and slowly raise one leg until it forms a 90-degree angle with the opposite one. You can use your bike as a support in order not to lose balance. Repeat this 10 times and then do the same thing while standing on the other leg. Repeat the whole process 2-3 times. It’s important that you feel your adductor muscle stretching each time you raise one leg – then you’ll know it’s starting to work. Do this gradually, stretching it less the first times.
Stretching after cycling
The main aim of after-ride stretching is to relax muscles after all the tension they have endured during the ride. Stretching helps muscle fibers relax, boosts blood circulation and helps your muscles get more oxygen. This static stretching session must last as long as the warmup ones, that is between 15–30 seconds for each muscle.
Now stretching must be static, done until you reach your maximal muscle tension. Reach that point and keep your position for 15–30 seconds. Your muscles will relax properly after a ride and you’ll feel good and relieved.
Now that we’ve discussed pre-cycling stretching, keep reading to find another short list of post-cycling stretching exercises.
1. Quadriceps stretching
Quadriceps are the muscles working the most when you cycle. It’s thus essential to stretch them once your ride is over. To perform the exercise correctly, grab a towel or a mat and sit on it. Lie down on your side and flex the opposite leg, grabbing your foot with the opposite hand and bring it closer and closer to your back, until you feel it stretching. Once you reach that tension level, keep that position for 20-30 seconds, gradually stretching harder and harder. Do this 3 times for each leg.
2. Hamstring stretching
As happens with quadriceps, hamstrings are some of the main leg muscles and must be stretched accordingly. To perform this exercise, sit down on a towel or a mat and stretch one leg in front of you. Keep the other leg flexed, and the foot resting against the stretched leg. Lean forward, slowly, and reach for the toes. Once you start feeling a considerable tension, keep that position for 30 seconds. Always try to keep your back straight. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times with each leg.
3. Adductor stretching
Adductors are normally very rigid and it can be hard to get them relaxed. That’s why it’s so important to stretch them after a ride. Sit on a mat or towel, flex both legs (your feet being together) and grab your ankles. Then lower your knees with your elbows. Once you start feeling a slight tension in the groin area, keep that position for 30 seconds. Do this 3 times.
4. Back stretching
Beneficial for your back and hips, back stretching will also help your lumbar muscles and even your hamstrings.
Sit down, stretch your right leg forward and fle the left one, placing it over the extended right one. Then, block your left leg with your right elbow, and press it inwardly. Your left hand must be resting behind your back. Then, start rotating your trunk towards your left hand. When you start feeling tension around your back area and on the side of your stretched leg, keep that position for 20-30 seconds. It’s essential that your back rotates progressively until you start feeling a tension. Do this 3 times with each leg.
5. Full body stretching
Last but not least, in order to relax your muscles overall, lie flat on your back and stretch your arms and legs as hard as you can. Stretch also your fingers and toes and you’ll allow your back to stretch completely and your muscles to relax. Stay in that position for 5-10 seconds and rest. Repeat 5 times.
Benefits of stretching
Stretching has a lot of benefits and works for any sport. Generally speaking, it
- Boosts muscle oxygenation and bloodflow.
- Prevents muscle hurt.
- Improves flexibility, a very important factor, as it will help you adopt the most comfortable position on the bike.
- Relaxes your muscles.
- Improves the range of motion on your joints, increasing mobility.
- Allows for a faster and more effective muscle recovery.
- Prevents muscle overload and contractures.
- Makes you feel good.
- Improves your posture.
- Helps control and reduce stress thanks to the muscles’ relaxing.
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