The weather is starting to warm making it a great time to get out for a bike ride. This article gives you tips to help make your rides fun, safe, and injury free by adding a few cycling warm-up exercises before jumping on your bike and heading out.
Many people don’t think of warming up or stretches before biking but spending a few minutes before your ride to stretch and strengthen can be very beneficial. When you bike ride, you put your body into different and sometimes unnatural positions. You use different muscles in different ways than you would in your day-to-day activities. Spend a few minutes before each bike ride to warm up and strengthen muscles. It will make your ride more pleasant and help you avoid injuries. While there are many different warmups and exercises you can do, this article describes several that target areas and muscles used in bike riding.
A great way to start a warm-up before bike riding is to perform a few stretches. Stretching increases blood flow and gets your muscles warmed up which makes pedaling easier. Bike riding can put extra strain and pressure on neck, wrists, and hands. Hips can become tight which leads to discomfort and sometimes injury. Following are some easy to do stretches for bike riding that specifically target problem areas.
Stretches for hands and wrists. Bike riding puts pressure and strain on wrists and hands. To help improve comfort, flexibility, and prevent injury try these stretches.
Praying position stretch. This is easy to do and can be done almost
- Place your palms together in a praying position.
- Elbows touch each other.
- Hands in front of your face.
- Slowly spread your elbows apart, keeping palms together. Lower hands as far as comfortable. You should start to feel a slight stretch.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat.
Extended arm stretch. This is another stretch you can do easily almost anywhere. This one not only stretches the wrist but it feels good to do so.
- Extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height, palm down.
- Release your wrist, let fingers point down.
- With opposite hand, grasp your fingers and gently pull back toward your body.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
To make bike riding even more comfortable for your hands and wrists you can add special accessories like comfort leather grips.
Stretches for neck. Cyclists often complain of neck problems. When the head and shoulders are forward as is often the case when riding a bike, muscles in the neck can shorten and become tight. Regular neck stretches can help prevent tight muscles and avoid injury.
Forward and Backward Tilt. This one is super easy. Just remember to go slow and smooth.
- Lower your chin toward your chest and hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return your head to the starting position.
- Tilt your chin up toward the ceiling and bring the base of your skull toward your back. Hold for 10 seconds. Return your head to the neutral starting position.
- Repeat several times.
Levator Scapulae Stretch. Hard to pronounce and spell but a great stretch.
- Turn your head to the left. Place your left hand in a comfortable position, elbow to the side, on top of your head.
- Slowly bend neck toward left shoulder. Use hand to support the head and neck in this position.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
- Repeat using opposite side.
Another great tip for protecting your neck and keeping you safe is to use a mirror. This prevents you from always turning to look over your shoulder. An excellent option is a wide-angle rearview mirror.
Stretches for hips. Sitting for much of the day as well as bike riding can give you tight hip flexors. Tight hips can cause lower back pain, hip pain, and injury. Here are a few stretches to keep your hips flexible.
- Sit on the floor, back straight, abs engaged.
- Push the soles of your feet together. Your knees should gently fall out to the sides.
- Relax your knees and allow them to inch closer to the floor.
- Take a deep breath, hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Begin in a plank position.
- Lift your left foot off the floor and slide it forward so that your knee is on the ground next to your left hand, and your foot is near your right hand. Let you knee and toes move into position based on your flexibility. Don’t force the stretch.
- Slide your right leg back as far as you can while keeping your hips square and lower yourself to the floor. If you can do so safely, keep going bringing your upper body down as far as possible.
- Hold the stretch without letting your chest fall. Once you feel like you’ve gotten a good stretch, switch sides.
Low Lunge With Twist
This is a super exercise that hits several areas of the body at one time. It especially targets your upper back which is important for preventing soreness in your neck and lower back. It also improves breathing. If you have knee or arm injuries be careful with this exercise and modify as needed.
- Start in a high plank position.
- Draw right foot to right hand. Hold for a second or two to stretch the front of your left hip and inner thigh.
- Rotate your upper body and extend the right hand up to the ceiling
- Focus on the rotation in your upper back while keeping your hips square. Hold for three seconds, then repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate for one minute.
Supine Heel Tap
This is a great all-around core exercise. Core strength is important to prevent injury and help you maintain a smooth pedal stroke. Think of the smooth pedal strokes of Tour de France riders versus the guy hammering down on the pedals or wobbling all over the road. If you have any problems with your waist or lower back be sure to take precaution with this exercise and modify as needed to avoid putting strain on your back.
- Lie down on your back. A flat, comfortable surface is best. Bend your knees. Lift lower leg so that your shins are parallel to the floor.
- Lower one heel until you can lightly tap the floor. Return to starting position with slow and smooth movement. Repeat the heal tap on the other leg.
- Protect your back by keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.
- Use slow and controlled movements when raising and lowering each leg.
- Perform 10 reps with each leg.
This is an excellent exercise to loosen muscles around legs and hips. You can do this holding onto your bike or a railing, chair, fence – whatever is most convenient.
- Stand with the support to one side, holding for stability.
- First, swing your outside leg using a forward and backward motion. Make sure to keep your leg as straight as possible. Try to extend the length of the swing with each repetition.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Next, turn to face the support and swing your leg side to side. You should feel a stretch in your outer hip and thigh muscles and your groin muscles.
- Repeat 10 times, and then switch to your other leg.
While we are talking about legs, we can’t forget the importance of protecting your knees. This is true when you are doing your exercises and while riding. Knees are so important that we’ve dedicated an entire article to the topic. Read about 6 Tips to Protect Knees When Biking.
Glute Bridge With Resistance Band (H2)
Many people think their power comes from the legs but it is your glutes that are the real powerhouse. This exercise helps to strengthen your glutes which can not only make you a stronger rider but also prevent low back soreness.
- Lie down on your back. Always try to keep a flat back.
- Slide a small resistance band loop to just above your knees.
- Bend your knees, keeping feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Try to position your heels about six inches in front of your glutes but don’t force them. Use comfort as your guide.
- Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips straight up. Hold for three seconds.
- Slowly lower back to the starting position. Continue to repeat for one minute.
If you are new to bike riding or plan to increase your mileage, it is important to warm up, stretch and strengthen muscles to get peak performance and help prevent injuries. A good cycling warm up before each ride and daily exercise program that includes stretches for bike riding will be well worth your time. If you want a few more ideas on how to prevent potential injuries you will want to read the article, 4 Tips dealing with Cycling Ailments.