Best Stretches for Cycling

Keep flexible and limber with these stretches when you cycle

Bicycling is a repetitive motion exercise that can lead to tightness in several major muscle groups. Stretching after cycling can have a variety of benefits for when done properly. Be sure to review safe stretching guidelines.

1
Standing Quad Stretch

Standing Quadriceps Stretch
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The quadriceps (quads) are a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. These muscles are the most developed in cyclists and often prone to fatigue and cramping. Here is a simple standing quadiceps stretch. You may want to have a wall or post handy to touch for balance.

  1. While standing, bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your buttock.
  2. Reach for your ankle with your opposite (left) hand.
  3. Stand up straight and pull in your abdominal muscles, keeping your knees together.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat on the left leg.

2
Standing Calf Stretch

Standing Calf Stretch
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The calf muscle (gastrocnemius) runs along the back of your lower leg. Cyclists use this muscle constantly during pedaling motion. You can do a variety of calf stretches. This one can be done standing:

  1. Stand a foot away from a wall, facing it.
  2. Extend one leg behind you, keeping this knee straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Lean forward and bend the forward knee, feeling the tension in your rear leg's calf muscle. If needed, extend your hand to the wall for support.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.

3
Hip and Lower Back Stretch

Hip and Lower Back Stretch
Hip and Lower Back Stretch. Photo © Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

It's good to open the hips and stretch the muscles of the hips, groin, and lower back. Sitting, even on a bike, causes these muscles to shorten and the opposing muscle group to lengthen. This hip and lower back stretch is also great for golfers.

  1. Begin in a forward lunge position with your right leg forward. Drop your left knee to the ground.
  2. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee.
  3. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left.
  4. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin.
  5. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, then release
  6. Repeat on the other leg.

4
Hip Flexors and Psoas Stretch

man doing hip flexor stretch on beach
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The hip flexors are a group of muscles that bring the legs up toward the trunk. Cyclists often have tight hip flexors because the cycling motion never allows the thigh to fully extend. Keeping the hip flexors limber is essential for avoiding muscle imbalance and post-ride stiffness. Use this hip flexor and psoas stretch, which can be done standing, or a more advanced version taking it all the way down to the floor.

  1. Stand with your right foot forward and your left foot straight back. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle into a forward lunge position.
  2. Place your hands on your forward knee and press down, moving your hips forward to feel a stretch on your left side.
  3. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds, release.
  4. Repeat on the other leg.

5
Simple Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder Stretch
Shoulder Stretch. Photo © Photodisc / Getty Images

Cyclists spend a lot of time hunched over the handlebars. This basic shoulder stretch can help open the chest and loosen tight shoulder.

  1. Begin with relaxed shoulders. Raise your right arm and bend the elbow, bringing your hand behind your head to touch your upper back.
  2. Bring your left arm over the top of your head and place your left hand on your right elbow to gently support your right arm during the stretch.
  3. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat with the left arm.

6
Seated Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretch
Hamstring Stretch. Photo © Vladimir Pcholkin/ Getty Images

Like the hip flexors, the hamstrings don't extend fully while cycling and can be prone to stiffness. This hamstring stretch can help maintain length in the hamstrings.

  1. Sit with both legs out straight.
  2. Extend your arms and bend at the waist, keeping your knees straight. Bend as far as you are able.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Relax.
  4. Repeat three times.

7
Plantar Fasciitis Stretch

foot stretch
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If you have any foot pain while cycling, this plantar fascia stretch can help relieve pain along the plantar fascia, a band of tough connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot to the heel.

  1. While sitting, reach forward and grasp your foot. If it is easier, you can do this by crossing your leg and grasping your foot. 
  2. Pull your toes up towards your shin, feeling the stretch in the bottom of your foot. You may support your foot with your other hand.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Perform this stretch three times on each foot, alternating feet.

8
Piriformis Stretch: Pigeon Stretch

Pigeon Stretch
Noe Montes/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Cyclists need this stretch for the iliotibial band and piriformis. This is a more advanced stretch, that is sometimes called the pigeon pose in yoga.

  1. Start in a push up position on your hand and toes.
  2. Slide your right knee forward, angling it so your right foot is pointing towards your left hand and the outer side of your knee and ankle are touching the floor. 
  3. Slide your left leg back as far as is comfortable, lowering your body down, keeping your hips square to the floor.
  4. Your arms can be at your sides with fingers helping provide balance, or you can fold forward and brace with your forearms on the floor.
  5. Hold the stretch 30 to 60 seconds and release.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.