A little bit of stretching goes a long way. Even if you don’t ride all that often, or all that far – spending just 10 minutes a day relaxing your body into a couple of simple stretches will help you feel free-er when you do get on the bike.
When you cycle, you are repeating the same movement over and over again, you never fully extending your legs. Stressing muscles in this way, and not allowing them to straighten out, results in tightness – and when some muscles become tight, they can cause pain elsewhere. For example, tightness in the IT band, that runs alongside the outer thigh, can become knee pain, as can stiff calves or unhappy hip flexors.
Here are 8 moves that you can do daily to alleviate tight muscles, preventing pain and helping keep your movement supple.
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- IT band stretch
- Glute Stretch
- Quad Stretch
- Calf Stretch
- Hamstring Stretch
- Back Extension
Your hip flexors allow you to turn at the waist, and lift your knees – they are a very strong group of muscles that run from your waist to the top of your legs. Every time you use your leg to pull up on a pedal stroke, the hip flexor is working, and if they’re not happy the result is often lower back pain.
To stretch your hip flexors, kneel down as below – making sure your hips are straight, and that your front knee is directly over your ankle – hold this for 30 seconds – 1 minute, and then swap sides.
The Iliotibial band is a troublesome muscle – or it can be if not treated with a little TLC from time to time. To stretch out the large muscle, which runs from the outside of your hip, to your knee, position one leg in front of you, and cross the other over your body, pulling it as close to your chest as possible. Hold this for 30 seconds – 1 minute, and repeat on the other side.
Your glues – or gluteus maximus – is the largest muscle in your body – and it works pretty hard in cycling.
To stretch out the glutes, kneel with your front knee at a 45 degree angle, and your other leg extended behind you. Try to keep your hips square (straight) – and if you can move your upper body closer to the floor. Hold this for 30 seconds – 1 minute, and swap sides.
Another major muscle group – the quads, which run along the top of your thighs, get a thorough workout when you cycle.
To stretch the quads, lie on the floor, and bend one leg towards your bum – keeping your pelvis flat. Hold this for 30 seconds – 1 minute, then swap sides.
Your calves do a lot of work when you cycle, and they can sometimes become tight without you noticing – even resulting in a change in the way you walk. You can stretch your calves daily by leaning against a wall, and pushing one leg backwards. Alternatively, for a stronger stretch, stand on the edge of the stairs, and drop one ankle – holding for 30 seconds – 1minute.
Tight hamstrings can result in important muscles like your glutes not activating. Even if you cycle just to nip to the shops, there is no point you shutting off the use of major muscles like this.
To stretch your hamstrings, you can either place your leg on an object that is raised off the ground, and lean over it, or simply bend at the waist to reach down to the floor –this will also stretch out your lower back. You do not need to touch the floor – stop once you feel a stretch.
The lower back can become upset if you spend long durations in the saddle, leaning over. If that’s you, it’s advised that you do a couple of quick back extensions when you get off the the bike.
To do this, simply place your hands on the small of your back, and lean slowly backwards – not overstretching yourself, but feeling a very slight pressure. Pushing your shoulders down and out will give you a stretch across your chest, as well. Three extensions after a bike ride should have you feeling limber and free after your ride.
Repeat these stretches in the morning, evening, and ideally after a bike ride, and you’ll thank yourself for it.
If you have a prior injury, feel any pain or have any concerns, please visit a physiotherapist or doctor before carrying out these stretches.