Best Stretches for CyclingThe more flexible you are, the faster you can go, with less effort.The more flexible you are, the faster you can go, with less effort. Flexibility is a long term process. It takes 6 weeks to achieve a true length change in muscle or tendon structure.When to stretch is very important as there are numerous cases of individuals who are suffering chronic pain due to incorrect stretching technique and/or timing. Research shows that stretching before exertion can weaken muscles, although it is recommended to warm up for 10 minutes of easy pedaling before a ride. Postride stretching should be done when your muscles are warm, preferably after a hot shower.
Illiotibial (IT) Band StretchIT band test. (Kyle T. Webster)
Lie on a table or high bench and let half of your thighs extend off the edge. Dangle one foot and bend the other knee, pulling it toward your chest until your lower back touches the bench. Have a partner observe what happens. If your dangling knee falls to the side rather than forming a straight line from the hip, your IT band, which runs along the thigh to the calves, is tight. Why It MattersThe IT band stabilizes the knee. If it’s tight, it can rub against the knee and become inflamed, an overuse injury known as IT band friction syndrome.The Fix: Leg RollLie on your side, your thigh resting on a foam roller. Ease your leg along the cylinder, using your weight to apply pressure to the tissue. Roll up and down the band for 60 seconds, then repeat on the other leg. Spend extra time on tender areas.
The TestIf the ankle on your extended leg sticks out beyond your knee, you have tight quads. The straighter the extended leg, the tighter the muscles.Why It MattersYour quads produce power, and a limited range of motion prevents some muscle fibers from firingThe Fix: Lie on your stomach with your knees hip-width apart. Reach one arm back and grasp the opposite ankle. Slowly pull the heel in toward your buttocks. Keep your pelvis flat on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat on the other side.Hip Flexors Stretch
If your extended thigh lifts so that the knee rises above your hip rather than remaining flat, your hip flexors aren’t as flexible as they should be.Why It MattersThe hip flexors pull the leg up and over the top of the pedal stroke; stretching prevents lower back pain when you amp up your intensity.The Fix: Kneeling LungeKneel as shown below. Straighten your pelvis to align your pubic bone directly below your hip bones. Ease your hips down and forward, keeping your front knee directly over your ankle, and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Tight glutes prevent you from achieving an aerodynamic position in the drops.Why It MattersLie flat. Ask a partner to raise your leg as far as it can comfortably go, bending the knee. Estimate the angle your thigh forms to the floor: less than 90 degrees indicates tight glutes; 90 to 120 is typical. Test both legs.The Fix: Pigeon PoseTo work your glutes, kneel on the floor with one leg extended behind and the other bent at a 45-degree angle in front of you, ankle and knee touching the floor. Keeping your hips square, ease your pelvis toward the floor. Next, tilt forward and lower your chest toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Lie flat and have a partner raise one leg until your hamstring begins to tug. Estimate the angle formed with the floor: 55 degrees or less signals poor flexibility. Repeat with the other leg.Why It MattersLonger hamstrings let the pelvis tilt forward on the saddle, allowing for a more aero position. Plus, you’ll get your glutes—the body’s strongest muscles—more involved in pedaling.The Fix: Lying Quad StretchIf you’re deficient in this area, stand with feet hip-width apart and slowly bend at the waist, tilting your pelvis forward and keeping your back straight. Pause for 10 to 15 seconds when you feel a slight stretch in the back of your legs, then deepen the pose until you feel the hamstrings relax.
Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Raise your toes while keeping your heels grounded. If you can’t get your foot past 90 degrees, use the stretch at right.Why It MattersTight calves and Achilles tendons force cyclists into an exaggerated, toe-down pedal stroke that transfers less power than a flatter foot. More flexible calves allow for a more powerful and efficient stroke—and also leave you less prone to cramping.The Fix: Single Heel DropStand with the balls of your feet on a step. Lower one heel to stretch through the calf, ankle, and Achilles tendon. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat a second time. Switch and stretch the other side.