Why Stretching for Cyclists is Important: 8 Essential Stretches

Author: Kier

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The Benefits of Stretching

While stretching before and after a workout feels great, doing so can also help prevent injury and keep you cycling further for longer periods. When you stretch before your workout, you’re making your muscles less prone to injury.

Why is Stretching for Cyclists so Important?

When you stretch after your workout, you allow your body to let go of lactic acid buildup. The less lactic acid in your muscles means less soreness the day after your workout. 

You’re setting yourself up for success when you go through the right warmup and recovery processes before and after your workout. Experiencing less soreness means you’ll get back on your bike sooner, and when you do, you’ll be able to work more efficiently.

Stretching is a key part of caring for your body as a cyclist, and getting into solid warm-up and cool-down routines can help you hone your craft.


Key Takeaways

  • Stretching prevents injury and soreness, making cycling more efficient.
  • Cyclists should do specific stretches for the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back, shoulders, calves, IT bands, and neck.
  • Stretch before and after a workout, repeating four to five times.
  • Incorporate a stretching routine into your cycling and strength workouts.
  • Avoid stretches that cause pain and only stretch to the point of slight discomfort.

The Best Stretches for Cyclists

Hamstring Stretch

A sitting or standing forward fold is a great way to stretch your hamstrings before and after your ride. Bend forward at the waist and reach toward your toes (it’s ok if you can’t quite get there–you will find that your flexibility improves over time). A slight bend in the knees is ideal. Only reach far enough to feel some slight tension–not pain or discomfort.

hamstring stretch

Quadriceps Stretch

Your quads work hard with every push of the pedal, and it’s important that you fully stretch out your quadriceps before and after your ride. Stand up and take hold of the inner or outer part of your foot as you use your hand to guide your foot toward your glute. Again, only go as far as feels comfortable (you may find that this stretch is especially rough after you’ve cycled up and down hills). 

quadriceps stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

Your hips can quickly tighten up while you’re cycling, and stretching them out is key to avoiding hip and back injuries. To stretch out the front of your hip flexor (also known as your psoas), kneel with one knee on the ground, the other bent at a 90-degree angle, with your foot placed firmly on the ground (you may want to place a towel or mat under your knee that’s on the ground if you’re on a hard surface). Slightly lean forward at the hips – you should feel the stretch in the front of the hip above the knee touching the ground. 

hip flexor

Lower Back Stretch

Sitting upright without lumbar support while cycling can take a toll on your back. You’ll want to get into child’s pose to stretch out your lower back. Place both knees on the ground, then shift your glutes back toward your heels as you let your head rest on the ground. Place your arms where they fall comfortably–for some, this may mean reaching forward.

lowerback stretch

Shoulder Stretch

Stretching the front of your shoulders is often neglected–but you’ll realize how important it is as soon as you give this stretch a go after a long ride. Go to the room’s corner, place your arms in a T, then bend your elbows (creating a position that looks like a football goalpost). Place one arm on each corner wall, then lean forward to feel the stretch across the front of your shoulders and chest.

shoulder stretch

Calf Stretch

Hit the curb to stretch out your calves before, during, and after your workout. Many cyclists find that their calves cramp up quickly, and stretching them out throughout your ride can help alleviate next-day soreness. Stand on top of a curb (or stair) and shift your weight from foot to foot, allowing the heel of the foot you’re stretching to drop below your toe.

calf stretch

IT Band Stretch

The old IT band is the source of back, hip, and thigh pain for many cyclists. Stretching out this often-forgotten body part is key before and after your workout. One of the best warm-ups before cycling activities for the IT band is the Figure 4 stretch.

Stand on one foot (you may need to hold onto a counter, table, or other surface until you get the hang of this one). Take your lifted foot and cross it over the knee of your standing foot, forming a pose similar to the number four. Bend the knee of your standing leg as your hips sink back to stretch out your IT band.

it band

Neck Stretch

Taking a moment to stretch your neck before and after your workout doesn’t just help to alleviate soreness – it can also prevent headaches that some people experience post-workout. Always be gentle with your neck, and be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if stretching your neck causes pain or unusual discomfort.

To stretch your neck, place your right hand over your head to cover your left ear, then use gentle pressure to press your head to the right. Repeat on the other side. 

A person doing a neck stretch

How to Stretch Safely and Effectively

When to Stretch

Should I stretch before cycling? Stretching both before and after your workout is smart–spending time going through the best cycling warm-up for your body can help to prevent injury, and stretching post-workout can help to prevent soreness that can cramp your style (literally).

How Long to Hold Each Stretch

It’s key to listen to your body when figuring out how long to hold each of the best stretching exercises for cyclists. Generally, holding for 15-30 seconds is a good fit. If you find that a stretch feels especially needed, feel free to hold for longer. 

How Many Times to Repeat Each Stretch

Going through each stretch four to five times is usually a good fit, but listening to your body is important. Don’t rush if you feel a stretch needs more time before or after your workout.

pre work out routine, stretching

Cycling Flexibility Tests

Take a Flexibility Test to Track Progress

Want to know if all this stretching is having an effect? Then do a flexibility test regularly and keep track of your numbers to see if you are improving.

A simple test is the Sit and Reach Test. This measures the flexibility of your lower back and hamstrings. After a good warm-up, you’ll sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, then in a slow, steady motion, reach forward as far as you can and take a measurement at the furthest point.

Along with the Site and Reach Test, there are some other basic tests you can try to give you an idea of how flexible you are. So, after a 10-minute warm-up, try the following tests; if you find your flexibility lacking in certain areas, consider incorporating specific stretches into your routine.

Hamstring Stretch Test

To perform this test, lie on your back and raise one leg straight up. Try to keep your knee straight. Use your hands to pull your leg towards your head gently. Your hamstring flexibility is good if your leg forms an 80-90 degree angle with the ground.

Hip Flexor Stretch Test

Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front so you’re in a lunge position. Keep your torso straight and lean forward, stretching the hip of your back leg. Your hip flexors are flexible if you can lean forward significantly without discomfort.

Lower Back Flexibility Test

Lie on your back and pull both knees towards your chest. Your flexibility is good if you can touch your chest with both knees without feeling a pull in your lower back.

Shoulder Flexibility Test

Stand up straight and reach one arm over your head and down your back. Reach your other arm up your back to meet your top hand. If your hands can or nearly touch, your shoulder flexibility is good.

Tips for Safe Stretching for Cyclists

We know we sound like a broken record at this point–but pay attention to the signals your body is sending to stay safe during stretching. If you’re unsure of your balance, stay near a steady surface that can support you for moves requiring you to stand on one foot.

Pushing to the point of slight discomfort is ok, but you never want to move forward with a stretch that causes pain or major discomfort.

If you’re struggling to move through standard stretching, talk with your healthcare provider about setting up an appointment for physical therapy so you can work with a professional to find exactly the stretches your body needs. 

hamstring stretching for cyclists

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of stretching for a cyclist?

As cyclists, we often perform repetitive actions through a limited range of motion, making our muscles prone to fatigue, cramping, and imbalances. Stretching helps us increase our flexibility, improve muscle balance, and maintain a good riding posture.

By incorporating regular stretching as part of our routine, we can minimize discomfort and stiffness in our muscles during and after a ride, making it easier to stay consistent and enjoy our rides more.

How can stretching improve cycling performance?

Stretching has several key benefits that can directly improve our cycling performance. It helps to increase our joint mobility and overall flexibility, allowing for a more efficient pedal stroke and smoother riding experience.

It also reduces muscle imbalances that could hinder our performance and makes it easier to maintain proper riding form. Additionally, stretching aids in better blood circulation, boosting energy levels and improving recovery times.

In addition to stretching, cyclists should incorporate strength training to improve cycling performance.

Which stretches should be done before and after cycling?

Before starting any cycling activity, focusing on dynamic stretching exercises that increase joint mobility and warm up our muscles is best. Dynamic stretches like leg swings, hip circles, and arm circles are great options to prepare our bodies for cycling.

After cycling, we should prioritize static stretching exercises where we hold stretches for 15-30 seconds to increase flexibility, release muscle tension, and aid in recovery.

Some important stretches to include in our post-cycling routine are the standing quad stretch for the quadriceps and the doorway hamstring stretch for the hamstrings.

Why is it important to stretch your knees as a cyclist?

Knees play a crucial role in cycling as they generate power and maintain stability during our rides. Stretching our knees helps to keep the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons flexible and balanced, reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Focusing on knee stretches also ensures that our knees can move smoothly through their full range of motion, contributing to a more efficient cycling experience.

Can stretching prevent injuries for cyclists?

Yes, regular stretching in our cycling routine can help minimize the risk of injuries. Stretching increases our flexibility and range of motion, helps to maintain balanced muscle development, and promotes good posture, all of which can reduce the likelihood of experiencing injuries.

However, it’s important to remember that stretching is just one part of a comprehensive injury prevention strategy, including proper bike fit, strength training, and a well-balanced exercising routine.

What are some recommended dynamic stretches for cycling?

Dynamic stretches are essential to a cyclist’s warm-up, aiming to increase flexibility and activate the muscles needed for our ride. Some recommended dynamic stretches we can include in our routine are leg swings, hip circles, high knees, and butt kicks.

These stretches target major muscle groups utilized during cycling, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and glutes, and can help us to feel more limber and prepared for our ride.

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Kier focuses on improving all things bike, and is always looking to take his ability to a new average (hopefully a higher one!). When not on the bike Kier is normally downing coffee and cake.