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Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling

  • Training and Fitness
Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling

When it comes to road cycling, the positioning of the cyclist while on the saddle requires them to hold their head at an exaggerated curve, to counter the aggressive positioning of the upper back. This creates a strain on the neck and back muscles. The more aggressive the riding position, the more strain on one’s neck and shoulders. Staying in this position for a long period of time can result in muscle imbalances and pain. A common effect of this is muscle tightness and knots in the neck, which can develop on both sides on the neck and thereby limit one’s range of motion, alter posture and therefore, impact one’s performance while on the saddle. However, there are exercises to help ease the pain in one’s neck caused by road cycling. Read on to check them out.


Flexion refers to a bending movement around a joint in a limb that decreases the angle between the bones of the limb at the joint. Flexion can be done in two directions, with respect to one’s neck, i.e. in an up-down movement and a side to side movement.

Up-Down Flexion: Sit/Stand keeping your back straight. Lower your chin towards your chest till you feel a stretch in the muscles at the back of your neck. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and repeat 5 times. This movement stretches out the muscles in one’s neck, elongating them and allowing them to warm up.

Side to Side lateral flexion: Sit/ Stand keeping your spine neutral. Bend your neck so that your ear moves towards your shoulder, do this on both sides in an alternating manner. Hold the bend at each side for 5 seconds, and repeat the movement 5 times.

Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling - Flexion
Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling - Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulder Shrugs

Stand with your back against a wall. Keep your heels touching and your feet hip-width apart, facing straight ahead. Take note of how your shoulder blades are in contact with the wall. Most likely you'll feel only the inner edges in contact. Pull your shoulder blades down and together to flatten them against the wall. Make sure not to bring the shoulders up. You should not feel increased tension near your neck. Also note that your lower back shouldn't exaggerate its arc. Make sure the rib cage stays neutral, not pointing up. Keep the shoulder blades against the wall. Slide them up towards your ears and then push them down towards your feet. Don't let your shoulder blades drop and continue to press through the entire range of motion. This exercise will relax the muscles of the shoulders and upper back. Don't be alarmed by a few pops and cracks, but the movements should not be painful. You should feel some tension between the shoulder blades since you're strengthening this area and opening up your upper back. Complete 30 repetitions.

Upper Spinal Floor Twist

Lie on your side in the fetal position with our lower body at a 90-degree angle. Your knees should be directly out from the hips, and the hips should be aligned beneath the shoulders. Stretch your arms out in front of you with your hands stacked and palms touching. Lift the upper arm and reach behind your body, rotating your spine and head in one movement. Follow your hand with your eyes and try to lay your ear on the floor. Make sure to keep the hand and shoulder aligned. Keep your knees stacked and pelvis level when doing the twist. The rotation should only take place in the upper body. Flex your feet up and hold your knees with your other hand to help you maintain the correct position. This exercise opens the front of the shoulder and chest, and extends the upper back. Focus on deep diaphragm breathing in this position. With each exhale try to increase the rotation. Hold for 1 minute on each side.

Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling - Upper Spinal Floor Twist
Exercises to Combat Neck Pain from Road Cycling - Static Extension Position

Static Extension Position

Position yourself on your hands and knees. Keep your hips aligned above your knees and your shoulders above your wrists. Take a small step 4 to 6 inches forward with your hands. Bring your shoulders back so that they are directly over your wrists. Allow the hips to move in front of the knees. Sway your back and drop your head. Roll your pelvis forward and down to create an arch in your lower back. Collapse the shoulder blades together so that they're touching, if possible. Keep your elbows straight but not locked. This exercise puts you in the reverse position of your bike with your upper and lower back in extension. The forward head position will allow the muscles at the back of the neck to lengthen and release. Hold this position for 1 to 3 minutes.


If road cycling has started to become a giant pain in the… neck, practice the exercises listed above regularly to help ease the pain, stretch your muscles and strengthen them too. You will notice your muscles becoming stronger, and able to hold an aggressive riding position for longer without paining.


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