6 Stretches Every Cyclist Should Do

by Marc Lindsay
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6 Stretches Every Cyclist Should Do

While cycling is a great low-impact activity, it’s also extremely repetitive and can often lead to limited range of motion.

To combat tightness and pain, it’s important for cyclists to maintain a consistent stretching routine that focuses on the muscle groups that contract concentrically (shorten) during pedaling and can limit the mobility of your joints.

Give these six stretches a try to improve your flexibility and prevent common cycling injuries.

Downward-Facing Dog

What it helps: Since power is generated from the core and lower back during cycling, these areas can become fatigued and tight. This stretch releases tension along the entire spine and opens the hips while stretching the calf and hamstring muscles.

How: Begin on your hands and knees. Raise your hips up by straightening legs, keeping your hands on the ground and slightly in front of your shoulders. Contract the quadriceps, and push your hips back. Concentrate on pushing your heels toward the ground and keeping your spine as straight as possible.

Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.

Doorway Stretch

What it helps: Because you never reach full leg extension during the pedaling motion, the hamstrings are in constant contraction. Hamstring flexibility and lower back pain often result. To counteract these common complaints, work on hamstring flexibility — particularly within 10–15 minutes of your ride.

How: Lie in a doorway with one leg flat on the ground. Place the other leg straight up on the frame of the door. Scoot your butt as close to the door frame as you can tolerate. Keep your back and hips flat on the ground.

Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times.

Lunge and Reach

What it helps: Another core muscle, the iliopsoas, can become tight from aggressive riding styles and the upstroke during the pedaling motion. This stretch will help to relieve tension on the front side of your hips.

How: Lunge your left leg, and put your right knee on the ground. Keep your back straight, and lift your right arm straight up in the air, reaching for the ceiling. Twist your torso away from the knee you’re kneeling on. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm.

Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times with each leg.

Seated Glute/Piriformis Stretch

What it helps: The glutes are your workhorses during cycling. You rely on your glutes to generate power during hard efforts like hill repeats. If these muscles become fatigued or tight, it could lead to lower back pain. This stretch will target the glutes and piriformis muscles, which attach to the backside of your pelvis.

How: Sit in a chair and cross one leg, with your ankle resting on the opposite knee. Keeping your back as straight as possible, bend forward at the hips so your shoulders fall toward the shin of the crossed leg.

Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times with each leg.

Upper Trap Stretch

What it helps: Because of the bent-over position common in road cycling, the upper trapezius can become fatigued from the constant contraction needed to hold up the head. This stretch will help to loosen the muscles, which run from the base of the skull along the back of the neck to the upper shoulders.

The stretch: Sit in a chair with your head in a neutral position, and place your left hand behind your left hip. Place your right hand on the left side of your head, and apply gentle downward pressure, bringing your right ear toward your right shoulder. If you want to isolate the stretch higher in the neck, slightly rotate your chin toward your right shoulder.

Reps: Hold for 10–15 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times on each side.

Revolved Belly Pose

How it helps: Lower back stiffness and pain are common complaints among cyclists, particularly after long or hard efforts. This stretch will help you relieve those symptoms by releasing tension in the lumbar spine.

The stretch: Start on your back with the knees bent. Stretch your arms straight out by your sides. Bring your knees into your chest, then lower them slowly to the right side. If you cannot lower your knees all the way to the floor, place a pillow on the floor, and allow your knees to rest there. Repeat on the opposite side. As you feel your lower back begin to loosen, you can increase the stretch by extending your lower legs so that your feet reach toward your outstretched hand after you’ve lowered your knees.

Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3–4 times on each side.

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  • Andreas Lohmar

    Although all these stretches are well intended, they do not address the fact that you are spending a long time with your lumbar spine in flexion. If your back pain has a presentation of being unable to straighten up after a long ride it is most likely due to what is called a discogenic derangement. The nucleus inside the center of the disc has displaced towards the back of the disc and now literally blocks your ability to straighten up. The fix: during times when you coast; stand in the pedals and arch backwards. Do this throughout your ride. Do not proceed if you should experience sciatica type symptoms down your leg.
    Good luck and be safe!
    Andreas Lohmar, PT, Cert. MDT