Cycling is a great way to get outside, have some fun and improve your health. It can however, create some unwanted muscular pain and imbalances for the avid rider. The two most common muscular and postural imbalances that I see with cyclists (myself included) is upper back and hip tightness. This is the result of a relatively static posture while in the saddle that creates rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine) and shoulders, as well as shortened hip flexors. Here are 5 simple stretches that can improve one’s comfort when riding and help prevent repetitive strain injuries from too much time on the bike.
1. ½ Kneeling Quadriceps/Psoas Stretch
Begin on floor, kneeling on one leg. Place a towel or pillow under the knee for comfort. Place your kneeling foot on a wall/door behind you to increase the amount of knee flexion. Gently lean forward without arching you back. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Raise the arm of the kneeling leg to increase intensity.
2. Foam Roll IT Band
Lie on side, supporting upper body with elbow positioned directly underneath shoulder. Place foam roller under outside of thigh and cross opposite leg over so that foot is firmly on floor. Slowly move foam roll throughout outer thigh, from hip to knee as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue. Alternate sides as directed.
3. Foam Roll Glutes
Begin seated on foam roll. Cross one leg over the other, placing ankle on the thigh above the knee. Support upper body with one hand. Press downward on crossed knee with hand initiating a tightening sensation in the hip. Lean slightly to the same side and gently roll forward and back for duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue. Alternate sides as directed.
4. Open Book
Begin lying on your side with a foam roller parallel to your body. Put top leg over the foam roll with knee bent at 90 degrees. Place bottom hand on knee. Stretch top hand out to floor, keeping elbow straight and shoulder 90 degrees to body. Guiding with top hand, roll your back until its flat and top hand is palm down on the floor behind you. Repeat for prescribed sets and reps.
5. Foam Roll Thoracic Spine
Begin seated on floor and lie back, placing foam roller under and across the upper back. Interlock fingers behind the head to support the neck. Lift hips off floor. Gently massage upper back, rolling up and down, as tolerated, for duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue.