One way to make indoor cycling workouts even more effective is to focus on your warm-ups and cooldowns. That’s where stretches for cyclists come in, especially if you focus on key moves that target your lower body.
“Stretching before cycling increases performance by preparing the body for the stress of working out, and post-cycling stretches can decrease risk of injury by helping you recover better,” says BODi trainer Dyan Tsiumis.
That’s because stretching increases blood supply to muscles and joints, she says, which boosts nutrient transportation and circulation throughout your entire body. With these six stretches for cyclists, you can release tension in muscles built up during your ride, providing a great cooldown.
1. Bodyweight Squats
Opt for slow, dynamic squats as a warm-up, and keep them static (hold ’em) as a post-cycling stretch. Tsiumis says these can be great for the hips, which is important since cyclists tend to lean forward on a bike, which can tighten hip flexors.
There are plenty of squat variations, but for stretching, a bodyweight squat is usually ideal:
- Stand tall with your hands by your sides, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You want to “sit” into the exercise, pushing your butt back like you’re lowering yourself onto a chair or bench. Never bend forward at your waist — that will only increase the stress on your spine and throw you off balance.
- Optional: For the post-cycling version, drop all the way down into malasana (aka “ass to grass”) with your glutes as close to your heels as is comfortable (turn your toes outward if you need to). Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.
2. Leg Swings
These may look simple, but they also open the hips in a powerful way. Simply swing one leg back and forth with control.
For post-cycling stretching, add a few seconds of hold to the backward swing to give your hip flexors a good stretch.
- Holding onto a sturdy chair, pole, or countertop, shift your weight to your left foot.
- Keep your right leg straight as you swing your right foot forward and up as high as you can comfortably.
- Keeping your right leg straight and your chest up, swing your right foot down and behind you. That’s one rep.
- Complete 10 to 20 reps on one side before switching legs.
3. Low Lunge with Rotation
Cyclists can sometimes experience pulls on lower back muscles, Tsiumis says. A low lunge will help hip mobility; adding a twist toward your bent front leg gives your back muscles a nice stretch.
- Get into high plank and step your right foot forward between your hands.
- Lower your left knee to the floor and untuck your toes so the top of your left foot is flat on the floor.
- Lift your chest and sink your hips as low as is comfortable. Slide your left knee back if you need more of a stretch.
- Keeping both hips level, sweep your arms toward the ceiling, and lift your chest. Try to sink your hips deeper toward your front heel.
- Open your arms and twist your torso to the right.
- Hold for a minute before switching sides.
4. Forward Fold
An easy forward fold can be done anywhere, and it stretches the hamstrings, says Tsiumis. Feeling super tight, either before or after a ride? Bend your knees a little to take the pressure off.
- Start at the top of your mat in mountain pose.
- Inhale, raise your arms straight up turning the triceps forward. Exhale, hinge at your hips and reach for the floor.
- Bend your knees slightly, fold your torso over your legs, and lengthen your spine the whole way down.
- Bring either your fingertips or palms to the floor, fingers in line with your toes.
- Look between your legs, and keep your legs engaged by lifting your kneecaps.
- If you can, begin to straighten your legs. Otherwise, keep a bend in your knees and hold for at least 30 seconds.
Although you spend most of your time sitting on the bike, your glutes are firing with each pedal stroke and can become tight as you ride. Show them some love with the figure 4 stretch.
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee and keep your right foot flexed.
- Bring your left knee slightly toward your chest until you can reach your right hand through your legs and interlace your fingers just below the crease of your left knee.
- Using your arms, pull your left knee toward your chest, pausing when you feel a stretch in your right glute and hip.
- Hold there for at least five breaths (though you can hold the stretch for up to 2 minutes) then release and repeat on your left side.
6. Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, using a chair or wall for balance if necessary.
- Bend your right knee and lift your foot behind you, grabbing the top of it with your right hand.
- Keeping the pelvis tucked and the right knee pointed toward the floor, use your arm to pull the heel toward the glutes until you feel tension in the quad muscles.
- Release your leg, and repeat on your other side.