5 Best Cycling Stretches to Do After a Long Ride
Ever headed out for a long-distance cycling session only to find yourself sore and cramped up before you really get started? Then you may be stretching at the wrong time or stretching the wrong muscles to stay flexible for a long ride.
For years, pre-workout stretching was the bread-and-butter of cycling stretches, but research suggests that pre-ride stretching can actually hurt your endurance performance.
Stretching after a long ride is best for reducing muscle soreness and recovering flexibility. And choosing the right muscle groups to stretch is just as vital to helping you recoup from your workout.
If you’re searching for a new or better post-ride stretching routine, check out our top 5 picks for the best stretches for cyclists.
1. Hamstring Stretch
Since you don’t fully extend your hamstring against the pedal while cycling, cyclists are known for having smaller hamstrings. That’s why hamstring and/or calf stretches are one of the most essential stretches for cyclists after a long ride.
For the perfect hamstring stretch, face a wall with both feet forward. Brace your arms against the wall and stagger your feet, first right foot in front of the left and then the opposite. Your front knee should be bent slightly, but directly above your ankle.
Hold this position for at least 30 seconds, making sure not to bounce your knee to avoid strain. If you don’t feel enough of the stretch, move your back foot further away. If the stretch is too much, move your back foot closer to your front foot. Always make sure both feet are completely flat on the ground and facing forward.
2. Knee Stretch
Calf and hamstring stretches are also highly beneficial for cycling knee pain. But for some cyclists, it may not be enough. A gentle knee stretch can also help reduce the negative effects of not fully extending your hamstring while cycling.
Grab a strap or a belt and sit on the ground, knees extended. Focusing on one knee at a time, place the strap around the top of your foot and use it to pull your thigh toward your core. If possible, press one hand against your thigh to deepen the stretch.
3. Quad Stretch
Cycling is hard on your legs, which is why it’s always a good idea to stretch as many leg muscles as possible after you cycle. A quad stretch is no exception.
While you’ve probably performed the standing quad stretch many times before, try it out lying down instead. Using a gym mat and a pillow or cushion, lie down on your stomach and place the cushion under your stomach. The cushion is meant to support your back, so make sure to adjust until you don’t feel strain. Then, with one leg extended flat on the ground, pull the opposite ankle toward your buttocks as far as you can.
Make sure you aren’t twisting your neck to avoid hurting your spine. And if you can’t reach your ankle to get a good stretch, try pulling on your socks or lower calf instead. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides.
4. Hip and Glute Stretch
Glute and hip stretches for cyclists are another way to relieve tension in your knees. They also help to prevent hamstring strain injuries that are common among cyclists.
To stretch out your glutes and hamstrings, lay flat on your back with one leg extended in front of you and place the opposite ankle over your extended knee. Pull your extended leg closer to your stomach with both hands flat against the back of your thighs. After about 30 seconds, switch sides for an even stretch.
Your neck and shoulders should be completely relaxed during this stretch. If you feel some tension, wrap a towel, strap, or belt around your thigh and use the leverage to pull your thigh toward your belly. Also, make sure both feet are flexed to avoid straining your knees. ‘
5. Lower Back, Shoulder, Side, and Arm Stretch
Also known as the Child’s Pose, this yoga stretch for cyclists is one of the best general stretches to do after a long ride.
For this stretch, place your knees on the floor or a gym mat. Lower your stomach until it touches your thighs with arms extended out in front of you. The fronts of your feet should be pressed flat against the ground with your soles facing upward toward the ceiling.
This stretch is not challenging and can be held for as long as it feels comfortable. Make sure to remain as stationary as possible, avoiding the urge to wiggle or move around. For an added hip stretch, though, you may want to undulate your hips from side to side.
The Importance of Cycling Stretches
Stretches for cyclists after any length of ride are important to keep your muscles flexible. And the more flexible your body, the less likely you are to suffer from an injury that will keep you from doing what you love.
These 5 cycling stretches shouldn’t be painful. If they are, be sure to consult a medical expert about other stretches that may work better for you.
If you’ve been training (and stretching) hard for the next big race, don’t forget to sign up for the Emmitt Smith Gran Fondo on September 14th.