For all the cyclists out there, this is an article which hopes to make your riding experience better. If you perform the set of nine stretches detailed below right after a session of bicycling, the stretches should help reverse some of the stress inflicted by biking on the body. Allow me to explain.
All exercise is a stress on the body. The idea is that a measured amount of healthy movement can be the kind of good stress which makes the body stronger and healthier. Cycling gets you stronger from a muscular endurance and aerobic endurance standpoint, but specializing in it comes at a certain cost. Stress from bicycling or any other activity can rear its ugly head very easily when an exercise is done badly or overdone. In bicycling, the seated position can be hard on the hip flexors, glutes and upper torso. The hip flexors a small but significant group of muscles are in a flexed state throughout a ride. This makes them more vulnerable to strains and excessive tightness.
The hip flexors are involved in the action of pulling the knee towards the chest. The seated position with the shoulders slightly protracted also leave the back and shoulder muscles in a lengthened state and tight.
Similarly the repetitive act of pedalling stresses the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. They work in tandem to drive the pedal down and back up. This repetitive motion also leaves those muscles tight. Such repetitive stresses have two implications:
1. The first is of overuse injury. Repetitive use of a single group of muscles centred around specific joints leave both the muscles and joints vulnerable to injuries such as ruptures, tears, inflammation etc.
2. The second is how specific adaptations to activities like cycling may be counterproductive to the cause of well-rounded everyday movement. Worse yet, the body develops compensations such as excessively tight groin muscles or tight lower back musculature which leaves the person vulnerable to injury when performing everyday actions such as lifting, squatting etc.
Here are nine stretches which are especially useful post-cycling in improving your flexibility, mobility and minimising muscle strain. Here is a quick checklist on how to make these stretches more effective:
1. The stretches should take about 20-25 minutes to complete.
2. Remember to inhale and exhale through your nose through the stretches.
3. Remain relaxed and loose through these stretches.
4. Have a clock positioned directly in front of you at eye level to track the time spent in each stretch.
1. Stand tall with your back straight and your chest up. The neck is in a neutral position as detailed in Figure 1A.
2. Now place your palms behind your head gently tilt your neck down until you feel a mild stretch in your neck. This position is detailed in Figure 1B. Do not apply excessive pressure or try to force the neck to a point of discomfort. Hold this position for 25 seconds. After the time has elapsed, slowly raise the neck to a neutral position.
3. From a neutral position, place your right palm on the left side of your temple. Now gently apply pressure tilting your head towards your right shoulder. Hold this position for 25 seconds. This position is detailed in 1C. After the time has elapsed, slowly raise the neck to a neutral position. Repeat the stretch by placing the left palm on the right side of your temple and tilting your head towards the left shoulder. Once complete, get back into a neutral position.
4. From a neutral position, place your thumb under your chin. Now gently raise your chin such that your neck moves into a flexed position detailed in 1D. Hold this position for 25 seconds. Gently get back into the neutral position.
BACK AND SHOULDER STRETCH
1. Assume the six point stance detailed in 2A.
2. From this position, sit back and down such that your buttocks makes contact with your heels. This position is shown in 2B.
3. Now extend your arms fully pointing such that your fingers are pointing directly ahead as shown in 2C. Now while ensuring that your buttocks and heel remain in contact, inch forward with your fingers.
4. You should feel this stretch run across your shoulders and back. Hold this position for 60 seconds.
LOWER BACK STRETCH
1. Assume a seated position with your heels placed together and positioned 6-12 inches away from your groin. Now place your hands around your ankles. This position is detailed in 3A.
2. Now round your back and pull your chin in towards your heel. This position is detailed in 3B. Hold this position for 45 seconds.
3. It is crucial to not round your back to a point of discomfort. Do not try to get your chin to make contact with your heel if it causes discomfort. The objective of this stretch is to lengthen the lower back.
1. Assume a seated position with your heels placed together and positioned 4-8 inches away from your groin. Now place your hands around your ankles. Ensure that your chest is upright and back straight. This position is detailed in 4A.
2. Slowly tilt your torso forward while maintaining a straight back. This position is shown in 4B. Hold this position for 60 seconds. Once completed slowly get back into the starting position.
3. This stretch is intended to stretch your adductor muscles.
1. Stand tall as shown in 5A.
2. Fold your right knee. Clutch the area just above the right ankle with your right hand as detailed in 5B. Pull your right ankle towards your right buttock as shown in 5C.
3. Squeeze your buttocks and stand tall while performing this stretch.
4. Do not clutch your foot by the below the ankle. Ensure you squeeze your buttocks throughout the stretch. Ensure your back is also straight while performing this stretch.
1. Stand tall with your back straight. Now extend your arms overhead as shown in 6A.
2. Now in a controlled manner, drop your chest and lower your palms towards your shin. This position is shown in 6B. Keep your knees soft but do not bend excessively at the knee. Hold this position for 60 seconds.
3. This stretch is intended to stretch the hamstrings. Do not attempt to get your fingers to reach your toes if you are not comfortable doing so. Find a challenging point where you feel the back of your legs and stay in that position.
1. Get into a push up plank position shown in 7A.
2. Now elevate your buttocks such that your head is positioned between your arms as shown in 7B.
3. During the transition, shift your weight from the balls of your feet onto the entire foot. Try and get your heels on the floor. This is shown in 7C.
4. To make the stretch more challenging, move your feet further away from your torso while trying to drive your heels into the ground as shown in 7D.
5. Hold this stretch for 60 seconds.
HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
1. Assume the push up plank position as shown in 8A.
2. Now move your left foot adjacent to your left palm while maintaining the plank position. This is shown in 8B. Drop your hip down and the extended right knee off the floor. Hold this position for 45 seconds. Move back into plank. Now move the right foot adjacent to the right palm.
3. The shin adjacent to the palm is straight as shown in 8B. The back is lightly arched. Cycle through this for two rounds on each leg.
1. Assume a lying position as shown in 9A
2. Position the left ankle over the right knee. Now use your hands to pull your right leg towards your chest. Ensure the back is remains entirely in contact with the ground.
3. Hold the position for 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat the stretch.
Adarsh Gopalakrishnan is a Trainer at The Quad. The Quad is an outdoor workout experience that redefines fitness through structured training and sustainable nutrition.For more updates on nutrition and fitness, checkout The Quad Website or visit their Facebook Page
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