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Stretching for Cyclists

Cycling and Stretching

As cyclists, we have a lot to gain from consistent stretching.  Our muscles work at a limited range of motion—confined by the length of our crank arms, our legs are never entirely bent or straightened.   Furthermore, cycling is a sport in which all of the muscle contractions are concentric, meaning that the muscle fiber shortens as it contracts (as opposed to eccentric contraction, where the muscle lengthens as it contracts). And if we ride about 10 hours a week spinning at 90 rpm, that’s 54,000 pedal strokes: a lot of repetitive motion!   As a result, cyclists are especially prone to tight muscles and the accompanying biomechanical problems.

This is where stretching comes in.  When was the last time you skipped stretching after a ride?   It’s okay, we all do it sometimes: it’s so tempting to spend that extra 20 minutes doing more miles, it’s easy to forget about it post-ride when all we want is a shower and a snack, or it’s just not that exciting.  But it’s never too late to change, right?

 

Benefits of stretching

-Injury prevention:  Tight muscles put strain on the skeletal system, sometimes even pulling joints out of alignment.  Regular stretching will ensure that the muscle is getting stronger, not tighter.

-Recovery:  Stretching promotes blood flow to the muscles, bringing in fresh nutrients and flushing out waste products.

-Glycogen storage: Research has shown that stretching triggers glycogen synthesis in muscles, topping off their fuel supplies for the next hard workout.

-Get aero: Flexibility is often the limiting factor when it comes to bike fit.  The more flexible your hips, hamstrings and lower back, the more aero you can get.

 

Stretching tips

-Be consistent: it’s better to stretch for 5-10 minutes after each workout than for an hour once a week.

-Stretch after exercising when your muscles are still warm.  Stretching before a workout can actually weaken muscles, and stretching cold can cause injury.

-Don’t bounce and don’t overstretch.  Stretch just until tension is felt, then hold for 30 seconds to a minute.

-To increase your range of motion, try PNF stretching: it’s has been shown to be the most effective way to increase flexibility.  Stretch the muscle for 30 seconds, then contract it isometrically (without moving it) for 5-10 seconds.  Relax and slowly deepen the stretch.

-Breathe and relax.

 

Stretches for cyclists

-Hip flexor lunges: Keeping the front knee above the ankle, let the hips fall forward and down.

Quadriceps stretch: With the foot resting against a wall, on a chair, or on the physio-ball as shown, move backwards, until the quad muscle begins to stretch.  Keep the hips even and the torso upright.

Piegon Stretch: To open the hips and gluteals, place the bent leg in front of the body.  Lean forward, keeping the back straight.

Iliotibial (IT) band stretch: Cross legs and lean to the side of the leg that is behind.  Feel the stretch in outside of the leg, from the hip to the knee.

 

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