Mountain biking is intense. Mentally and physically. It’s a full body workout. Arms, back, core and of course your legs. It takes a lot of energy out of you to go fast. Sometimes the day after we ride, we feel like we just got ran over by a semi-truck. We’ve all been there. When you are riding your bike, your neck, and upper body usually stay in the same position while your legs are never fully extended and your ankles stay in one place. This couldn’t’t be more true with road biking.
That’s why stretching is so important before and after your ride. Sometimes you may have to stretch in the middle of a ride and that’s compeltely OK. I actually recommend you do that on long rides. I already made an article as to why stretching is so important and you can read the entire article HERE
So let’s just talk real quick about some benefits to stretching:
Increased range of movement
Decrease injury to tendons and muscles
Reduce muscle soreness and tension
Faster recovery between workouts
A great website and also resource that I’ve used over the years is Coach James’ website. Check out which muscles are actually being used when you pedal. It’s pretty fascinating to see that the complete leg and glutes are being used
NOTICE: All of these stretches should be held for 60 to 90 seconds and done to both sides of the body. Take is slow, do not go over your ability and don’t forget to breath and focus. Just like anything. Practice makes perfect.
So, without further adieu…Let’s get to it!
The calf stretch is easiest against the wall. Start with both feet facing the wall. Place both hands flat against the wall and take one foot and step back. Make sure this foot stays flat on the floor. Next, slowly lean forward over your front leg but keep your back knee straight and heel flat on the floor. You should feel the stretch on your calf. By bending your knees slightly you can modify and change the area where the stretch is felt.
A yoga pose or a resistance band will help us stretch out the hamstrings. Our hamstrings are the muscles below your butt and above your knees. A downward facing dog is not only going to help stretch your hamstrings but also helps with your spinal column and opens the hips. If your hamstrings are very tight, open up your legs more and/or bend your knees slightly to make this stretch easier.
Start on all fours with toes tucked forward. While you exhale, lift your knees from the floor, straightening your legs and raising your bottom while attempting to move onto the soles of your feet. Now work until you can press your heels into the floor. Push through your shoulders so the stretch can be felt through the back and hamstrings. Take as many breaths as you wish.
Or you can follow my resistance band stretch pictures.
- Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are the muscles at the front of the hips above your quads. They are responsible for moving the leg at the top of the pedal stroke. The longer we spend sitting down, the tighter these hip flexors will be. Tight hip flexors can hold back the strongest group of muscles in the body (the glutes) and prevent them from working optimally. If you want your glutes to work at 100% then stretch your hip flexors daily.
Start off by getting on your knees and then place your right knee directly over your right ankle. Make a 90 degree angle with your right leg. Position your left knee directly under your left hip. To get a good stretch, squeeze your glutes (butt muscles), tuck in your tailbone and contract your abs at the same time.
Everybody loves to see strong quads! Us mountain bikers, our quads can be overly strong in comparison to our hamstrings and glutes. These muscles are above your knee and below the waist, basically your upper leg. They are my favorite to stretch! If you can, follow this stretching exercise.
Lie belly down and have your pubic bone touch the floor. This will help to counteract poor hip posture. Use your left hand to use as a forehead rest. Now reach behind you with your right hand and grab the top of your right foot. Gently pull your right foot towards your butt and actively press your pubic bone towards the ground. Hold this for 60 to 90 seconds.
- Glutes and Hips
These are your butt muscles. There are numerous ways to stretch all of these muscles we have been talking about and this stretch you can do while sitting down. Have the sole of your right foot on the floor in line with the right knee. Please your left ankle on top and just beyond the right knee. You can press down on your left leg and as you exhale, lean forward, bringing your torso over your left shin. Feel the stretch in your glutes and your hips.
These are just some simple stretches you can do at home and of course most of these don’t stretch the upper body which we still need to address in a future article but these are a great start! So, instead of riding your bike for 3 hours. Ride for 2 ½ hours and take those 30 minutes you have to stretch, foam roll and recover. This will make a bigger improvement to your fitness than another 30 min of pedaling.
If you have any questions, please let me know!