Cycling is a great sport for people of all ages and abilities. Not only is it low-impact exercise, but it also helps to increase cardiovascular fitness and decrease body fat levels.
It is, however, an extremely repetitive sport that involves you – the rider – repeating the same motion for prolonged periods of time. To help reduce tightness and pain, it is therefore vital that cyclists regularly stretch, specifically targeting the muscle groups that are worked when pedalling.
In this guide we’ve outlined some of our favourite stretches for cyclists. These are all ideal for anyone just getting started, as well as those experienced in the sport.
Best Stretches for Cyclists
Standing Quadricep Stretch
The quadriceps (quads) are the biggest cycling muscle. They are the most developed muscle in cyclists and are often prone to fatigue and cramping, so it’s important you stretch them very slowly, taking care not to pull too hard.
Standing in an upright position with your feet hips-width apart, raise your right foot behind you, grabbing the top of your ankle and pulling up towards your backside.
Hold this for 15 – 30 seconds before repeating on the left leg.
Standing Calf Stretch
Cyclists constantly use their calves while pedalling so this is another muscle that needs stretching.
Stand next to a wall with one foot flat on the ground. With your other foot, place your toes on the wall and your heel on the floor, immediately stretching the calf.
Again, hold this for 15 – 30 seconds before doing the same with your other foot.
You can also achieve the same result on the stairs, by leaning one foot off a step. There are even boxes you can place under a desk if you’d like to stretch your calves while sat at work.
IT Band Stretch
The IT Band runs along the outside of the thigh, from just above the hip to just below the knee. Helping with balance and control, a tight or inflamed IT Band can cause tendonitis or knee alignment issues so it’s crucial you stretch it.
Whilst sitting, cross your left leg across your right knee and gently push down on your left knee. You should feel the outside of your leg stretching.
Hold for 15 – 30 seconds before changing onto your other leg.
Your hamstrings also need to be stretched slowly and carefully. Unlike running, which lengthens hamstrings, cycling develops short and powerful hamstrings, which makes them prone to stiffness.
Sitting with both legs out straight, extend your arms and bend at the waist, reaching for your toes.
Hold for 15 – 30 seconds and repeat two or three times.
You rely on your glutes to generate power during hard efforts like hill climbs. If these muscles become fatigued or tight, you may experience lower back pain.
Sit in a chair and cross your left leg over your right leg, resting your left ankle on your right knee. Keep your back as straight as possible and bend forward at the hips so that your shoulders fall towards the shin of your left leg.
Hold for 15 – 30 seconds before swapping legs.
Your hip flexors refer to a group of muscles that help to bring your legs up. As the motion of pedalling doesn’t enable the hip to fully extend, cyclists often have tight hip flexors, which can lead to muscle imbalance. The below stretch will help them to keep limber.
Starting in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your hips and lunge forward with your right foot until your right leg is bent at a 90° angle (your left knee should be hovering just above the floor). And simply push forward with your hips.
Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds before repeating with your left leg forward.
Benefits of Stretching for Cycling
Stretching provides a whole host of benefits for everyone, not just cyclists.
Activities like cycling are incredibly important for improving our overall health and fitness but our muscles and joints can become tight from such activities. Tight muscles can have a negative impact on cycling performance as well as daily living. Tight IT Bands and quadriceps, for example, can lead to severe knee pain.
Stretching helps loosen these tight muscles and joints, helping promote better flexibility, range of motion and blood flow.
Stretching can’t heal all injuries so if you are feeling sore, or suffering from a long-term injury, it’s always worth seeking professional advice from a GP or sports physiotherapist.
Cycling Challenges with Race At Your Pace
Here at Race At Your Pace, we’re passionate about rewarding you with more than a sense of achievement for getting outdoors, keeping active and feeling great.
Our virtual cycling challenges encourage you to keep fit by cycling in a way that fits around you and your lifestyle. You can complete the rides at your own pace, wherever you are in the world. Everyone who completes the event will get a prestigious medal that you can hang in your home and be proud of.