How To: Essential stretching for cyclists

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

How To
Stretching the adductors.

Stretching the adductors (click to enlarge).

From this position you can also get your hip’s adductor muscles, which are important for stabilizing the knee. Stand up, and do your typical quad stretch. Keep your back still and neutral. This is a good example where overdoing the stretch only twists up your hips and lower back.

Quad and hip flexor stretch.

Quad and hip flexor stretch (click to enlarge).

Now open up those hip flexors. These are easy to ignore but if you ever get lower back pain from hard climbing efforts it’s these muscles pulling on your spine that are typically the culprit.

Back on the floor. Stretch the gluteus max, med, and TFL. These are really powerful muscles that also stabilize your knee through your IT (iliotibial) band.

Stretch the gluteus max, med, and TFL and lower back.

Stretch the gluteus max, med, and TFL and lower back (click to enlarge).

Now is a good time to do a few bridges to engage your lower back.

Planks, cat bends, and chest raises.

Planks, cat bends, and chest raises (click to enlarge).

Flip over, and do some planks, then cat bends, chest raises to first activate your core and then stretch it out a little.

Lats, traps, neck, chest and triceps.

Lats, traps, neck, chest and triceps (click to enlarge).

Finally, stand up and get your lats, traps, neck, chest and triceps moving. Now
you are ready to ride!

There are many people for whom stretching isn’t enough, as they’re already flexible or have tight spots that won’t resolve through stretching alone. For them there are a range of balls, rollers, sticks and other medieval torture devices that can bring the management of muscles to another level. These are good for muscular adhesions or problems with fascia (your typical IT band syndrome), flushing out sore muscles or getting into deep spots in your hips.

You can buy foam rollers and massage sticks just about anywhere (bike shops, PT clinics, Target), but ask your PT, chiropractor or massage therapist about some specific moves that can help you personally before you start.

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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