6 stretch exercises to do before you cycle

Cycling is an amazing low impact endurance sports that allows many individuals that have knee issues to perform a sport.

Although cycling is such an amazing sport due to the repetitive nature, it can lead to limited range of motion especially if the cyclist has not gone for a bike set up.

To combat this tightness that often leads to reoccurring pain and even injury, it is important to include a stretching routine into your training program that targets the muscle groups that consistently in contraction during pedalling.

1. Lunge Reach
How it helps: With Aggressive riding, the core and iliopsoas muscles can become extremely tight, hindering the ability of the hamstrings to contract completely. This type of riding can also shorten the iliopsoas muscle, that may cause herniation of the muscle or even lower back pain. This stretch alleviates the tension in the hi[ flexors and allows for better range of motion on and off the bike.
How to: Lunge with the left leg, keep your back leg straight. Bring your arms up whilst tucking your tail bone, pull the core inwards and reach towards the sky
Reps: Hold each stretch for 20 – 30 sec and repeat 3 – 4 times per leg


2. Downward facing dog:
How it helps: When we cycle power is generated form the core and lower back. These areas become tight and overworked and fatigue quite quickly. This stretch releases tension along the Spinal column and opens the hips whilst stretching the hamstrings, calf’s and even the shoulders.
How to: Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder with apart. Bend down and place your hands body length away from your feet. Raise your hips up by straightening your legs, keeping your hands and feet firmly on the ground. Push your hips back and contract your quadriceps. Concentrate on pushing your heels into the ground and keeping your back straight whilst pushing your cast towards your feet.
Reps: Hold each stretch for 20 – 30 sec moving back into a raised plank position and complete 3 rounds before standing back up.

3. Ground or standing Glute stretch:
How it helps: The glutes are one of the most utilised muscles during cycling and we rely on them to generate extreme power during hard effort such as hill climbing. These stretches targets the glutes and piriformis muscles that are attached to the backside of your pelvis.
How to: Kneel on one knee, keeping your right leg in from of you, at a 90-degree angle. Bend the right knee and place the knee on the ground, while keeping the leg at a 90-degree angle. If this is to hard, place a towel or a block under the knee for support. First stretch up into the air to straighten the back and then bend forward to increase stretch into the gluetes and piriformis.

Reps: Hold stretch for 20 – 30 sec and repeat alternating for 3 – 4 times per leg

4. Bear sit, Active stretch
How it helps: your hips are designed to move in multiple directions with muscles to help create the movement. When you have good mobility, you can perform different actions without limitation, such as manoeuvre though switchbacks and dunes. In cycling we need hip mobility to ensure a free flowing of movement whilst navigate through the different obstacles on your mountain bike.
How to: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and back up straight. Keep your arms stretched out to allow yourself to stay upright though the movement. Whilst keeping your feet on the same sport, bring your knees to the left side and place them on the ground. Very important is to keep your back straight and allow the movement to only occur in the hips and the legs. Then move back to centre and repeat on the right.
Reps: Movement should be fluent whilst holding the stretch on each side from 10 sec, repeating though alternating repetitions 10 times. (5 x per side)

5. Hip Opener Lunge Stretch
How it helps: Targeting the hips we are stretching the Glutes, Hip Flexors, and the Iliopsoas. This will relieve tension in the adductors and improve hip stability. During cycling we require stability during a seated and standing position. When performing this stretch, we see the hips opening and allowing for greater movement and stability when utilising these muscle groups. Think about those rock gardens in Rosamary hill and all-over South Africa, we require stability in the lower body to allow us to move over these obstacles with confidence. Being tight and rigid will only cause you to purchase your own rock garden right there and then.
How to: Start in a 90, 90 position with one knee on the ground with your toes pointed at the back and the other foot on the floor with the knee bend. Keeping the pelvis in a neutral position, tucking in the tail bone and the core. Push forward though the hips and place the opposing hand to the knee on the floor. Place your other hand on the knee infront. Keeping your foot flat on the floor, assist your knee, whilst pushing slowly outwards to feel the stretch in the hips. Keep the back straight and try not arch and lean into this stretch.
Reps: Push outwards and hold for 20 – 30 sec then move back to neutral position. Repeat 4- 5 times per leg.

6. Hamstring stretches
How it helps: Finally, the hamstring stretch. During Cycling we never seem to reach full extension in a pedalling motion thus the hamstrings are constantly in contraction. This can cause serious lower back and hip problems. Should the hamstrings not be flexible enough it could result in overuse of the back and compression of the vertebra. The stretch allows increase flexibility in the hips that allows decrease in tension on the lower back and ability to produce more power output on the bike.
How to: Start by kneeling on one leg and placing the other leg straight out Infront of you. Very important, keep the back straight and the toe pointing upwards towards the sky. Reaching up and bend at the hips to place your hands down next to your front foot. If you are unable to stretch all the way down without arching your back, try bringing the hands closer and keep the back straight. Very important, try not to arch the back whilst keeping the leg straight and the toe pointed up.

Reps: Hold the stretch 20 – 30 sec alternating between legs perform 3-5 reps per leg.