Throughout the athletic community, experts and athletes alike are debating the merits of static stretching. Most experts tend to agree, however, that if athletes are going to include static stretches in their training regimen, they are most useful after a training session. This can be especially true for cyclists. Over much of a race or training ride, the leg muscles are rarely, if ever, fully extended and the shoulders remain in a relatively fixed position. We asked Marty Munson, a triathlete coach and distance swimmer for the past 12 years, for her thoughts on the best warmups and stretches for cyclists.
To warm up, Marty suggests a few minutes of light cycling. “Don’t just go out and hammer from the get-go; let your body get all its engines running.” By allowing your muscles and mind to get in the routine of cycling, you should get a better and more efficient response from your body when you really start to push yourself.
After your training or competition is complete, however, Marty absolutely recommends taking a few minutes to stretch. She says stretching is part of your work out. If you can ride for three or five hours, you can tack on an extra five or ten minutes for stretch time. It doesn’t take much time or a complex stretching regimen to make a big difference. Here is Marty’s three step recommendation:
- Figure-4 Stretch – This will stretch the piriformis muscle, an external rotator muscle of the hip. There are a few ways you can do this stretch, but we’ll go with the most straight-forward approach. Sitting on the edge of our seat, cross one leg over the other, resting your left ankle atop your right knee. Now, with your hands apply a gentle downward pressure on your left knee. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – Do a forward lunge, allowing one knee to reach the floor (preferably on a soft surface such as a mat or rolled towel). Tuck your pelvis a bit so you feel the stretch in your hip flexor. Now, reach your arms forward and toward the ceiling for a more dynamic stretch.
- Shoulder Rolls / Torso Twists – As we stated earlier, your shoulders and torso have been in a fairly fixed position during your ride. Shrug your shoulders up and you rotate them forward and back. Reverse direction and continue. Place your arms in front of you at shoulder height with arms bent, as though you’re going to hug someone. Gently twist your torso to the right and hold. Then, to the left and hold.
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