How To: Essential stretching for cyclists

Ex-pro Ben Jacques-Maynes explains proper stretching for cyclists

How To
A regular stretching routine is essential to keeping your body healthy and injury free.

A regular stretching routine is essential to keeping your body healthy and injury free (click to enlarge).

When you see an athlete who is obviously fit, strong and at the height of their abilities, what do you imagine are the major differences between their daily routines and yours? I bet most of them revolve around taking care of their body: eating healthy, training in a focused manner to improve their skills, recovering from the exercises they do, and maintaining their body through rehab of injuries, massage and stretching. That last one is easy to do regardless of ability or schedule, and can help make a serious difference in muscle use and injury prevention.

A regular stretching routine is essential to keeping your body healthy and injury free. Your muscular strength is important, but flexibility and fluidity also play important roles. If your muscles are tight or have accumulated fatigue, any simple motion will hurt more then it should, and you will have a hard time producing power whether on a mountain or road bike. In addition to this, the act of exercising involves an inherent breakdown of muscle tissues and if you do not recover from this process properly you’re more prone to injury, tightness and limited range of motion.

Here is my stretching routine, which I do before and after rides. I hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds, and I am never straining or going deep into the range of motion of a muscle group. You are looking for the natural tension that the muscle has. Go to that point and then just a hair more. Don’t force anything, and keep an even steady pressure throughout the stretch. If you are especially sore or have a muscle that is tighter then usual, try breathing slowly and add pressure slightly as you exhale until 20 seconds or you reach a “normal” tension.

Calf stretch with a straight knee and then again with a bent knee.

Calf stretch with a straight knee and then again with a bent knee (click to enlarge).

I start at the bottom of the leg, with a calf stretch. Do this one first with a straight knee and then again with a bent knee.

Hamstrings stretch sitting on the floor.

Hamstrings stretch sitting on the floor (click to enlarge).

Next I stretch my hamstrings, usually sitting on the floor as opposed to bending over, as you can overdo the stretch with gravity. You are looking for rotation at the hips as opposed to arching the back. Do one leg at a time.

Continue to page 2 for more stretching tips from Ben Jacques-Maynes »

About the author: Ben Jacques-Maynes

Ben Jacques-Maynes is a former U.S.-based pro bike racer who started his career with the Sobe-Headshok mountain bike team before switching to the road in 2002. Over the next 15 years, he was one of America’s best, winning countless races and the King of the Mountain title at both the USA Pro Challenge and Tour of Utah. Jacques-Maynes recently retired from the pro ranks and has “renounced his evil road riding ways,” returning to his roots of riding mountain bikes whenever he can.

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  • Henrik says:

    What are some suggestions if you’ve neglected stretching for the past 5 years or so? For instance, not being able to touch your toes etc? Honestly, I always wanted to, but I just neglect to, and it hurts like heck when I try. Any input would be great!

  • visegripmikey says:

    Henrik, two things: Be consistent and don’t push a stretch to the point of pain.

    If you can’t reach your toes, start at your knees. Work on getting to your toes over a few weeks. Same goes for all the other stretches: modify it to make it easier, and slowly improve over time.

  • Tim Blabbing says:

    Body heat is key. This can be both external and/or internal. The external can come from hot showers, steam rooms, saunas, hot springs/tubs, electric blankets, layering the blankets on in the morning before you get up, and so forth. The internal can be from cardio exercise and even stretching, itself. Sometimes, getting the heat up can be tricky. You can sometimes be exerting yourself quite strenuously, even to the point of sweating, but certain areas of the body may still be quite cold. But, if you have the heat, the motions and subsequently stretching are much more pleasurable and easy.

    Visegripmikey is right. Pain doesn’t help you. Take it easy, do it often, keep the heat up and it’ll feel good.

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