Flexibility work is an integral component of any solid fitness program, and it’s especially important for endurance athletes such as cyclists. Maintaining flexibility not only helps an athlete to avoid injury but also to sustain better body control during athletic performance, according to BikeRadar.com1.
Cyclists tend to develop extra tight muscles due to continuous isotonic and isometric exercise during long rides. Upper-body muscles and the core are continually stressed in their supportive roles during rides, and lower-body muscles are constantly strained during pumping and pedaling. Stretching before and after rides and participating in full-body flexibility routines during cross-training sessions each week can help significantly improve flexibility for cyclists.
Whether you regularly ride a road bicycle, mountain bike or some other type of cycle, daily stretching can improve your flexibility so that you feel more agile and balanced during and after rides. Stretching can also help prevent injuries. When your muscles are tight, you’re more apt to feel sore and stiff, according to “Yoga Journal”2.
You’re also more prone to muscle strains, sprains and tears. Muscles perform better when they’re supple, elongated and sturdy. Tightened, compacted and shortened muscles are weaker and more prone to injury. A muscle works a bit like a rubber band—when it loses its suppleness, it becomes taut and inflexible and can snap or tear easily.
Warm up before rides by performing upper-body and lower-body stretches. Stretching exercises can be simple, such as reaching above your head or down to your toes for 20 seconds, according to the Total Bike website3.
Do standing stretches for your back, shoulders, arms and neck. Stretch side-to-side, forward and backward to increase your range of flexibility. You can also stretch your upper body from a supine position on the floor. Perform several floor stretches for leg flexibility such as forward stretches. Any type of routine stretching will help increase flexibility for cyclists. Stretch for five to ten minutes during riding warm-ups, as well as after rides.
Most athletes understand the benefits of cross-training, but although including extra cardio work in your weekly cross-training routine might help you build more endurance, it won’t help you to elongate your muscles and improve your flexibility. Consider integrating weekly flexibility workouts into your cross-training program, such as yoga, Pilates or martial arts.
Yoga postures are intended to increase muscle flexibility and strength. Yoga practice also improves balance and coordination, and it helps relieve stress and fatigue. Its meditative nature encourages a mind, body and spirit wholeness that automatically relieves body tension and strain. Yoga practice not only increases balance and fall flexibility, but it also improves awareness and clears your head, according to the cycling website CoachLevi.com4. You can get yoga instruction via classes or DVDs, and most routines last between 30 minutes to an hour for a full-body flexibility and strengthening workout.
Pilates exercises were developed specifically to release, elongate and strengthen muscles in a non-impact way through specially-designed gentle calisthenics iterations. Improve flexibility in your leg, foot, core and upper-body muscles with Pilates. The exercises in Pilates support cycling because they provide a whole-body workout that “fosters postural alignment throughout a variety of motions,” says the Spinning News website5, which translates to better cycling performance. Pilates exercise repetitions include leg lifts, arm work and abdominal exercises intermingled with complete body stretching. You can find Pilates at gyms or other recreational facilities, as well as on DVDs for home use.
When most people think about martial arts, they don’t usually think of flexibility training. However, those who practice any type of martial arts know that it requires great muscle flexibility, control and balance. Martial arts practice helps to improve agility and strength, and certain forms, such as tai chi, help stretch and tone muscles similar to the muscle work performed in yoga or Pilates practice. Like yoga, tai chi is a meditative movement art form that can help improve flexibility for cyclists.