Flexibility for cycling performance

Flexibility is so important for cyclists;

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of any repetitive vigorous exercise is the shortening and tightening of muscles. The leg muscles lose their elasticity as they are trained to contract repeatedly.Tight muscles, particularly tight hamstrings (on the back of the thigh) will prevent the leg from straightening on the downward stroke. This leads to a reduction in the force that the legs can put through the pedals and, ultimately reduce cycling performance.

Tight muscles can also lead to injury. For example, tight hamstrings can cause back tightness and, on longer training rides, this can become extremely uncomfortable. Many cyclists compensate for their tight hamstrings by lowering the saddle to a position that reduces force generation even further and overloads the knees causing knee pain.

A consistent programme of stretching may help prevent such problems occurring – and prevention is much less time consuming (and cheaper) than treatment!

The key areas to stretch

• hamstrings • calf muscles • lower back • shoulders / chest • hip flexors • gluteal muscles (in the buttock)Rules when stretching are: • warm-up with some light aerobic exercise for a few minutes before stretching • breathe normally – don’t hold your breath when stretching • apply each stretch slowly and take it to the point that you feel slight tension but not pain • hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds • don’t bounce up and down when stretching as this makes the muscles automatically contract when you want them to relax.

Stretching immediately prior to exercise does not help to prevent injury and may actually reduce your performance.

To increase flexibility, the best time to stretch is immediately after a workout, whilst the muscles are still warm. Try each of the following stretches after most training rides if you can, repeating each exercise 3 times on each side.Stretches for Cyclist :

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