Whether you bike to work or are training for a triathlon, stretching beforehand can improve your performance and protect you from injury. Stretching before cycling helps to warm up your muscles and joints, and prepares them for movement. Here are few warm up exercises for more effective cycling.
1. LEG SWING
Any cyclist can attest that your hips can get tight from riding your bike for too long. Here is a simple exercise:
Stand holding a support for stability. Swing your outside leg forward and backward, keeping it straight and extending the length of the swing with each repetition. Repeat with the other side.
2. CAT AND COW
Your back may become stiff from bending over throughout your ride.
For the exercise, get into box position. Inhale as you slowly arch your back, letting your belly drop down toward the floor and your hips and shoulders rise. Then reverse the position as you exhale, rounding your spine and tucking your pelvis. This lengthens the spine in both the forward and back bends, thus working out the stored tension from cycling. Do this prior to the ride to avoid stiffness.
3. BUTT KICK
Open up your quads and hip flexors before your ride.
Just don’t jump too hard or too high — it’s the kick part of this exercise that’s most important to open up the fronts of the legs. You can do this one standing in place or on the move. Jump up and down on alternating feet, bending one knee at a time and kicking the foot of that leg toward the glutes on the same side. Try to get your foot as close to your butt as you can for the maximum stretch.
4. CHEST STRETCH
Hunching over your handlebars for endless miles can cause your chest muscles to tighten.
Stand facing the side of your bike with your feet hip-distance apart. Grab the top tube (or your seat and handlebars for a little wider grip) and lean forward at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground. Hold there with a slight flexion in your elbows and press your chest down toward the ground.
5. BACK/ LATS MUSCLES
This muscle (your lats) runs underneath the shoulder and down the sides of the back and is responsible in part for bringing your shoulder in toward the body.
Stand tall, reach your arms up over your head and shrug your shoulders up and down. Keep your biceps next to your ears and reach your fingertips for the sky so that you get a stretch in your Latissimus Doris.
6. HAMSTRING STRETCH
Be in supine position, flexing your hip and knee to a 90-degree angle. Taking your bent knee slowly extend it to the ceiling until you feel a stretch; while keeping your opposite foot still planted on the floor. Keep your spine vertical without moving it. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and switch feet. This stretch helps in extended hamstrings letting the pelvis tilt forward on the saddle, allowing for a more aero position.
7. GLUTES STRETCH
Glutes are the body’s strongest muscles and are muscles which are more involved in pedalling.
Start on all four limbs. Slide your right knee forward toward your right hand, then angle it at two o’clock. Next, slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow. Keep your hips square to the floor (in other words, don’t let them twist). If you’re not feeling a deep stretch in your right glutes, slide the right foot forward little by little toward your left hand. Walk your hands forward over your right leg. If you are not comfortable extending that far down, hold the pose with your arms or forearms on your mat or the floor in front of you, and let your hips sink forward and down. To get a full release in the hips, breathe and release the belly.
8. HIGH KNEE
Stand in place and lift one bent knee up at a time, as high as you can. To make it a little more challenging, speed up the pace, hopping back and forth and kicking alternate knees up as high as you can. That’s the motion that you’re doing in biking – your knees are coming up and pulling on your glutes and your lower back.
Special TIP – Try Foam Rolling after your rides and see the amazing benefits that it provides!