OFF THE BIKE TUESDAYS - PART 1: STRETCH
A while back we created a segment on our social media channels which promoted some off the bike exercises which are cycling specific and will compliment and enhance your cycling ten fold when included into a weekly routine. We divided these exercises into three groups: Stretch, Strength and Plyometrics (dynamic power movements).
We have compiled the ten best exercises in each group to provide you with a short routine you can get into the gym and use once a week for effective workouts which will definitely improve your cycling.
First up - Stretch.
These are the amazing benefits of stretching, not just as athletes but as moving bodies, stretching has some amazing benefits.
Fortifies posture – Stretching helps ensure correct posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their intended position and keeping your muscles loose. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains. With reduced pain, there is a reduced desire to hunch or slouch.
Enables flexibility – The most established and obvious benefit of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion. An effective flexibility training program can improve your physical performance and help reduce your risk of injury. By improving your range of motion, your body requires less energy to make the same movements and you also will have more flexible joints thus lessening the likelihood of injuries acquired during workouts or during daily activities.
Increase stamina – Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you exercise the more energy you burn, typically causing one to grow fatigued. With stretching, you can delay the onset of muscle fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.
Decreases risk of injury – it will help to supply a greater nutrient supply to muscles, thereby reducing muscle soreness and helping to speed recovery from muscle and joint injuries.
Improve energy levels – Sometimes you may have trouble staying awake during your long, dragging day. If you’re feeling this way then it might help to get out of your seat and do a few good stretches for a boost of energy, helping your mind and body be more alert. Muscles tighten when we get tired and that makes us feel even more lethargic, so feel free to stand up and do some stretches. It will help you to quickly and efficiently revitalize your energy levels.
Promotes blood circulation – it increases blood flow to the muscles. Not only will this help reduce post-workout soreness and shorten recovery time, but it will improve overall health. Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.
Improve athletic performance – If your muscles are already contracted because you haven’t stretched, then they will be less effective during exercise. Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and therefore enable them to be more available during exercise.
Reduced soreness – Stretching before and after a workout gives your muscles time to relax. Increases in blood flow increase nutrient supply to the muscles and relieve soreness in the muscles after a workout.
Reduces cholesterol – Paired with a healthy diet, engaging in prolonged stretching exercises can help reduce cholesterol in the body. This could prevent and even reverse the hardening of arteries, helping one avoid heart diseases.
Our top 10 stretch movements for cyclists
Figure 4 Stretch This stretch targets the gluteus medius, maximus, lower back, and hip flexors. To perform this stretch find a carpet or yoga mat. Begin by lying on your back with feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. With both hands, grab either the back of your left thigh or front of your left shin. You should feel a stretch along the glutes. To exaggerate the stretch, push your right knee away from your body. Do three repetitions per side. Start by holding each side for 20 seconds and work up to 30.
Downward Facing Dog What it helps: Since power is generated from the core and lower back during cycling, these areas can become fatigued and tight. This stretch releases tension along the entire spine and opens the hips while stretching the calf and hamstring muscles. How: Begin on your hands and knees. Raise your hips up by straightening legs, keeping your hands on the ground and slightly in front of your shoulders. Contract the quadriceps, and push your hips back. Concentrate on pushing your heels toward the ground and keeping your spine as straight as possible. Reps: Hold for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
Look after this Troublesome Cycling Muscle to Avoid Lower Back Pain. Lower back pain in cyclists is incredibly common – and when the lower back becomes upset, inflamed and tight, it can have implications elsewhere. The glutes and hip flexors can become affected, leading to all manner of knee complaints. Therefore, it’s important to look after the lower back. The muscle that often acts as the instigator to all this discomfort is the QL: the ‘Quadratus lumborum. “The QL is a deep back muscle that connects the twelfth rib to the lumbar vertebrae and the top of the hip bone. It’s primary functions are to bend your body from side to side and bring your hips up to your chest which is exactly the movements required for cycling and therefore a muscle that is constantly being used.” So we know we’re using the muscle with every pedal stroke, but we’re also using a lot of other muscles. Why does this one cause problems in so many riders? “Due to the position our body adopts on the bike (flexed forward), this muscle is constantly being stretched and a great demand is placed on it to be working all the time. Thus it can get make the cyclist feel pain, tightness or discomfort in the low back and hip area.” release and stretch the muscle.
QL muscle release: Release your low back. Lie on your back and place a firm massage ball under your QL muscle, which you will find in-between the top of your pelvis and your bottom rib, off to each side of your spine. 2. Repeatedly bend your knee up and down towards your chest. Try hold for 1-2 min while moving your knee. You will feel the tension spots that need to be released.
Squat Stretch This stretch targets many muscle groups in the lower body including glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, soleus and calves. The squat is a movement pattern that many of us have lost with time. Many will find that this stretch is difficult at first. To perform this stretch find a chair, railing, or something that you can use for balance. Start with feet shoulder width apart. Slowly squat down until your thighs are resting on your calves. Once you are in the squat position, look ahead to maintain a neutral back. Do three repetitions. Start by holding this position for 30 seconds and work up from there. It’s okay to work into holding this position for four to five minutes.
Benefits: Flexibility in the hips and glutes allows for greater hip flexion, making it easier for you to achieve a hip angle that is more closed while riding in a triathlon position. As your flexibility in these muscle groups increases so does the potential to increase drop and reach from the saddle to arm pads. Greater hip and glute flexibility may also increase stability in the pelvis which limits rocking while pedaling.
Hip & Back Stretch
It's good to open the hips and stretch the muscles of the hips, groin, and lower back. Sitting, even on a bike, causes these muscles to shorten and the opposing muscle group to lengthen. Begin in a forward lunge position with your right leg forward. Drop your left knee to the ground. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat on the other leg.
Foam rolling can help warm, stretch, and provide myofascial release—breaking adhesions and scar tissue within the muscle and fascia that covers it—to prevent and relieve muscle soreness. Give it a try.
Frog Stretch Most of us sit and cross our legs, which can lead to tight hips and result in lower-back pain. This stretch directly target tights spots in the hips/groin and is especially useful for runners. Start on all fours. Slide your knees wider than shoulder-width apart. Turn your toes out and rest the inner edges of your feet flat on the floor. Shift your hips back toward your heels. Move from your hands to your forearms to get a deeper stretch, if possible. Hold for for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Supine cross-leg spinal twist After a day of slouching over in your chair or after a tough ab workout, stretch your spine and abdominals with this move. This stretch could even ease the pain of menstrual cramps. Technique: Lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, stretch your arms out to your sides, palms face down. Think of this as a yoga move and breathe throughout the stretch; inhale and exhale for about four seconds each. Cross your right knee over your left knee, as if you’re sitting in a chair, with your right foot off the floor. Shift your hips to the right about two inches (5 cm), and drop your knees to the left. You don’t need the knees to touch the floor, Come to a natural stop whenever your range of motion is finished. Your right shoulder will come off the floor a bit, and that’s okay, as long as you continue to face the ceiling. Now, turn your right hand so the palm faces up and reach your right arm back and halfway up toward your head. That’s to open up the chest and finish off the rotation of the spine.Hold for one to three minutes; repeat on the other side.
This is one of many preparatory stretches for back-bends — the ultimate cycle posture reversal. This stretch focuses on the quadriceps and hip ﬂexors and eventually the spine, as well as opening the chest and shoulder muscles. Start on all fours with the soles of your feet against a wall. Place a blanket underneath the knees if this is uncomfortable. Take your right knee off the ﬂoor and place it against the wall with your toes pointing upwards on the wall and your shin against the wall. Slide your knee down towards the ﬂoor, making sure that the shin and knee are in contact with the wall at all times. Re-arrange the left leg so that the sole of the foot is now on the ﬂoor. The left shin and thigh should be making a 90-degree angle. Take at least ﬁve breaths. This is an intense stretch. Gradually take your hands off the ﬂoor and on an inhale, place your hands lightly on your left knee.
Sit in a kneeling position with your toes flat on the ground. Slowly rise off your heels bringing your torso upright. While exhaling, slowly arch your back and let your head lean back towards your toes. Grab your heels with your hands for stability. This pose helps to open up the pelvis, thighs, and back while stretching your chest muscles. Hold the pose for 10-15 seconds.