Do Cyclists Need to Stretch?

by Peter Glassford
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Do Cyclists Need to Stretch?

Static stretching is getting lots of attention lately. The consensus seems to be not to do any static stretches before a workout, and the jury is still out as to whether a post-workout stretch session impedes recovery or helps it. Yoga and strength training are done by many top, injury-free cyclists, but stretching is typically a very small and infrequent component of training, if it’s done at all.

Yet, we still feel like we should be incorporating stretching into our workouts. How many times have you heard a friend say they “really should stretch more” or they are going to go home and stretch their IT band, which has been an issue as long as you’ve known them — despite the daily stretching? It could be these aches and pains are related to the limited, repetitive range of motion on the bike and the lack of motion at the desk all day. Perhaps it isn’t flexibility, but rather strength and progressive training that is missing in an underperforming or injured cyclist’s routine?

In general, people end up falling into one of two buckets: avid stretchers and well-wishing stretchers who often comment that they should stretch more. My advice is this: Don’t change it if it’s working, but be willing to change your routine if something is off.

Here are two scenarios where a willingness to tweak your training might be in order:

YOU’RE NOT GOING FAST ENOUGH ON YOUR BIKE

If you are not reaching your goals of pedaling a bike up a hill faster, then I contend that stretching your hamstrings is not the most effective way to increase your ability to push down harder. In fact, there is little evidence static stretching even works. Instead, progressive training, including strength training and a couple interval training sessions combined with easy (yes, easy) endurance training, will get you moving toward your goals.

YOU’RE INJURED FROM RIDING YOUR BIKE

My view here is not much different than the performance question: Stretching won’t likely fix anything. If you aren’t thriving and your current movement routine is causing pain or worsening discomfort, then you need to change something. Reduce the volume, change the intensity, adapt the sport and try to add variability to your day. If you’ve been stretching a lot and are still injured, then reduce the volume, intensity and type of stretching, consider a more active or dynamic form of range-of-motion training or include foam rolling.


READ MORE > 5 RULES FOR A QUICK STRETCH SESSION


If you enjoy the routine of stretching, there’s probably no need to stop. The benefits of cooling down, deep breathing and being away from phones are all good, and if you are feeling like it works, that is beneficial, too. Your homework is to start incorporating more movement in a variety of ways into your day. Ease into a strength-training routine and progress over many weeks, start walking your errands, try different cycling disciplines and do yoga while your morning coffee brews.

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