How many times have you found yourself saying, “I should really stretch more?” It’s common knowledge that cyclists should stretch, but many of us fail to do it enough, if at all.
If it’s not broken then don’t fix it right? If you’re putting in the miles and feeling strong, you may not feel like you need to switch up your routine at all. However, if we truly understood the benefits of stretching, perhaps we would be as disciplined to stretch as we are to get out cycling.
Is stretching important for cyclists?
The most important thing for cyclists, and human beings in general, is to have a healthy range of motion and flexibility to move freely and efficiently. Stretching can aid in aligning the thick and thin muscles back into their ordered state after movement, as well as remove the lactic acid buildup that causes soreness.
Being able to stretch your legs up around your head may not make you a better cyclist, but the more a muscle is able to stretch the better range of motion it will have. For cyclists, the more you can flex your hips, knees, and ankles, the more room for improvement you will have.
Two main types of stretching
- Dynamic – Dynamic stretching takes a joint or muscle through a range of motion. It is best done before cycling as a way to prepare the joints for the repetitive movement, get blood flowing and warm up your muscles.
- Static – Static stretches are designed to be held in one position for at least thirty seconds, and are what most people think of when it comes to stretching. The goal is to relax the muscle and deepen the stretch bit by bit. This is best done after exercise, as static stretching before can actually hinder the muscle’s ability to fire.
The benefits of stretching
Improves posture – As a society that spends a lot of time at our desks, stretching as a means of correcting poor posture has never been so important. For cyclists, you will want to focus on correcting the hunched over position that comes with cycling and ensuring you are stretching out your lower back. By lengthening tight muscles you keep them from pulling areas of the body out of their intended position.
Reduces risk of injury – By supplying nutrients to the muscles through blood flow, stretching can reduce the risk of muscle and joint injury and help speed up recovery.
Improves performance – Your cycling performance is largely based on your mechanical efficiency (range of motion) and power output. Stretching before and after a ride gives your muscles time to relax, enabling them to be more available during those long rides.
Provides relief from muscle stiffness – Post-activity stretching has been shown to reduce Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness (DOMS) by increasing blood flow and getting a much needed nutrient supply to your tired muscles.
While there is some debate as to how long you should hold each stretch, anywhere between 30-60 seconds should be enough. Make sure you are only stretching as deep as it feels comfortable. Any signs of pain, pinching or discomfort signals that it is time to back off a tad.
Check out some of the best stretches for cyclists for more information to get you stretching.