Stretching should be part of any cyclist’s ‘off the bike’ strength and conditioning routine, something many of us are guilty of neglecting! Good flexibility is one of those key areas
for helping to avoid aches and pains out riding and for improving function. Muscles are not individual structures, being continuous with one another, acting together to produce patterns of movement and acting in opposition with each for balanced movement.
Modern life has us sitting much of the time, then we sit on a bike. Our bodies accommodate being in a sustained posture, muscles can shorten in that position, not great for efficient function. Unfortunately, age also has a negative effect on flexibility!
This picture illustrates the common imbalance around the pelvis. Tight hip flexors can inhibit effective gluteus maximus function, a muscle we WANT to function effectively to maximise cycling performance, help reduce knee pain and the occurrence of ITB syndrome. It’s not all about the quadriceps! This tightness may also contribute to ‘tight’ hamstrings as shortened
hip flexors can tilt the pelvis anteriorly. With the hamstrings’ attachments at the bottom of the posterior aspect of the pelvis, this tilting will effectively pull on the hamstrings making them feel tight.
Just as with your training, stretching needs to be a regular activity, not a once a week big session, to reap the benefits. We all have busy lives and stretching may seem superfluous to time spent pedaling, but it should be an integral part of your active lifestyle.
A stretching session doesn’t have to take long, fitting in 10-15 minutes daily is a good target. Get into a routine and you’ll quickly feel the benefits. If pushed for time, stretch out the anterior groups (quadriceps, hip flexors and upper body) to elongate the tissues which have been in a sustained flexed position, especially if your job is desk based. The calves are good to do as well.
A few key points;
With static stretching, hold for 20-30 seconds, 2-4x
Come into a stretch gently, don’t push hard into it.
Stretching before riding isn’t useful, best to be warmed up. (dynamic stretching could be done however)
After a really hard session or race, only do a gentle stretch as the muscles will be ‘damaged’ from the effort and hard stretching will only add to that.
Do stretches properly. You may find that you are not as flexible as you thought!
If you have an injury such as a muscle tear, DON’T stretch it!
Yoga is a great way to build and maintain flexibility, but being very flexible needs to be balanced with good stability too.
Getting an assessment for flexibility and stability is a good way to work out which stretches and stability exercises are the right ones for you.
I’m working in the clinic on Wednesdays and Thursdays – don’t forget you can book your appointment online by clicking here