Completing a few stretching and warm up exercises might not be a high priority before your ride, especially if it’s 6am and you just want to get going, but taking that extra time to stretch before you jump into the saddle can not only improve your performance on the bike but also reduce injury.
And the great news is, it doesn’t need to take that long. Here are ten stretches that get your muscles and joints loose and ready before a ride.
10 Best Warm Up Exercises for Cycling
1. Cat to Cow
This is a great yoga stretch for spinal strength. It helps relax and loosen the muscles surrounding your spine and improve tone and positioning as well.
Kneel on all fours with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. As you inhale gently arch your back, let your belly drop toward the floor, tilt your chin and hips towards the sky. Slowly exhale and reverse so that your shoulders round up (feel the stretch in your ribs), your head lowers, your tummy tucks in and your hips drop. Repeat five to ten times.
2. Butt Massage
For this one you’ll need a foam roller, which you simply sit on top of and roll back and forward slowly. For best results target just one muscle at a time by putting all your weight there (i.e. just your left glute). Move slowly and notice any tight spots that need a bit more attention. Spend up to 60 seconds on each area concentrating on hamstrings, quads, glutes and hip flexors on each side.
3. Slow Squat
Squats are a great addition to any warm up because they work your back, your quads, glutes, calves and engage your core.
If you have trouble with balance grip something sturdy in front of you, like a bar or post.
With your legs shoulder width apart keep your back straight and head up. Bend your knees and gently lower your hips to the ground. Keep both feet flat and hold for one to two seconds at the lowest point before rising again (make sure the strength from the rise comes from your glutes and thighs). Repeat five to ten times.
This one oils up your hip joints to give you flexibility and looseness for those long rides that can stiffen your hips.
Stand sideways to a support, like a bench, table or high-backed chair. Place one hand on the support and the other hand on your hip.
Swing the outside leg (the one under the hand on your hip) forward and backwards slowly (slowly is important so that you don’t engage too much gravity assistance). Start with small motions and increase the length of each swing over ten swings. Next, turn to face your support and move your leg out to the side and back in ten times to work the inner and outer leg muscles and groin. Switch to the other leg and repeat.
5. Calf walk
This one really gets to those cycling muscles, your calves, shins and ankle flexibility.
Standing upright with your hands on your hips, step forward, landing on your heel. Bend over at your waist so you look down directly over your pointed toes and feel that great stretch right through your forward leg.
Return to an upright position and roll your foot forward so you are now standing on the ball of your foot with your heel in the air. Stand as high as you can on that foot before stepping forward with the other leg, landing on your heel to repeat the cycle. Continue for up to a minute.
6. Chest Stretch
Loosen up your chest and back with this easy stretch. Stand in front of a post or pole in a wide stance, with feet hip width or wider apart.
Bend at the waist and flex your elbows as you press your chest downwards. Hold for three seconds before standing up. Repeat five to ten times.
7. Shoulder Stretch
Loosening up your shoulders protects your back and improves your position on the bike. Standing tall, stretch your arms over your head and reach your fingers to the sky, palms facing each other. Shrug your shoulders up and down, keep your arms close to your ears. Repeat five to ten shoulder shrugs.
8. Running Flicks
This one is like jogging on the spot, but you flick your feet all the way back so your heels touch your butt. It’s great for opening the fronts of your legs, quads and hip flexors.
It might take some time to get your heel to actually touch base back there but see how close you can get.
Go for 30 to 60 seconds.
You can move around or stand on the spot for this one.
9. Dynamic Lunge
Great for hamstrings, quads and hip flexors. Standing tall, take a big step forward with your right leg, bending the right knee to 90 degrees. Make sure your knee doesn’t bend over your toes. For a full stretch place your hands on the floor on each side of your front foot. Stand up again with both feet together. Repeat five to eight times before swapping to the other leg.
10. High Knees
Stand tall and lift one knee as high as you can. As you bring your knee down lift the other one. Basically just pretend that you are riding an imaginary bike. Go as fast as you like. This warms your working cycling muscles before you actually get on the real bike.
As always, make sure you listen to your body and go only as far as you need to go to feel the effects. We all have different bodies and range of motion so there is no ‘right’ angle you need to be on, just the one that works for you, so go slow, take it easy and be safe so you can be on the bike for longer.
Warming up correctly so you can ride better and longer? That’s freedom!