If you’re new to cycling, you might not know that it’s always best to do some pre-ride exercises and warmups before you jump on your bike. By completing a proper warm-up that includes relevant stretches, you can help prevent aches and injuries from your ride.
Not only does pre-ride stretching help prevent injury, but it can also improve the performance and enjoyment of your ride. Warming up your muscles ahead of cycling can help increase your blood flow and flexibility. This can make you feel less stiff, and can help with a smoother pedal motion when you first get on your bike.
So, what are the best warm-up stretches to complete before your ride?
Modified Cat-Cow Stretch
The cat-cow stretch has its origins in yoga, and is a great exercise for flexing and extending your spine.
Warm-up exercises and stretches for your back are important before cycling, as you’re going to be spending a lot of time sat down.
To get started, you’ll want to get on the floor on all fours, with a neutrally aligned spine. Try to make sure that your shoulders are in line with your hands, and that your knees and hips align.
Slowly arch your back, pulling in your stomach and bringing your head between your arms. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then return to your neutral position.
This is a great exercise for engaging a lot of the muscles you’ll be using when cycling – your quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings.
To get started, stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
Lift up one of your knees to your chest, before placing it back down on the ground and repeating with your other knee.
Continue this exercise, alternating your legs with increasing speed until you’re at a slow running pace.
Try to do around 30 high knees with each leg.
One of the most common complaints from cyclists is a feeling of stiffness in their hips.
This exercise engages your hip flexors and can help with your hip mobility.
To do this exercise properly, you’re best to find a wall or a lamppost to lean against for support.
Standing up straight, place one hand on your hip, and the other on your chosen support.
Start swinging your outside leg back and forth (almost like a pendulum), keeping your back straight at all times.
It’s best to start slowly and gradually build up the speed and the height at which you swing your leg.
After 60 seconds on one leg, turn yourself around and repeat the exercise on your other leg.
Heel Toe Strides
This exercise engages your calves, and can also help with flexibility in your lower leg.
As a bit of a simplification, this exercise is essentially just walking – but with added emphasis and control on where your foot lands, and how you push off.
Start by taking a step forwards, making sure you land on the heel of your front foot.
Gradually transfer the weight from your heel to the ball of your foot, lifting yourself up as high as you can….and then put your other foot forward and repeat the process.
Try walking like this for around a minute.
Supine Heel Tap
This exercise is great for engaging your core and for working your obliques.
You’re going to need a bit of space for this one, as you need to start by laying down on the floor, with your arms by your sides.
Lift both of your knees up so that your upper legs are at a 90° angle with your body.
Keeping your knee bent, slowly lower one of your legs down so that your foot is a couple of inches from the floor, and hold this for 2-3 seconds.
Then return your leg to its 90° position, and repeat with your other leg.
A word about stretching.
There are only upsides to implementing a pre-ride warm up and stretching routine.
It can help prevent injuries, help your ride be more enjoyable, and it can even help your cycling performance.
But like anything – be careful not to over-do it.
Remember that your muscles are going to be cold when you first start stretching, so you shouldn’t push things too hard. Try to focus on slow, gently stretches that feel comfortable for you.