Increase your flexibility—and improve your cycling—with these stretches. – By Joe Lindsey.
These yoga poses are strength moves that double as stretches to warm up. You’ll need a soft surface or yoga mat, a foam support block, and a strap or latex resistance band. Hold each pose for five to 10 breaths (about 30 seconds), remembering to breathe through your nose. After you reach the proper position, concentrate on improving it with each inhalation—flatten your back a little more, stretch your hamstrings a tiny bit further.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
Start on hands and knees. Lift hips into an upside-down V-shape, keeping palms on the floor. Bend your knees if necessary. Don’t focus on putting your heels on the ground, but rather on flattening your back.
Works: Lengthens back muscles and hamstrings, for more power on the pedal backstroke
2. Thunderbolt Pose
From downward dog, walk your feet to your hands and then squat as if you’re sitting in a chair. The tendency here is to have a big ‘C’ curve in your back. But you want to engage your core, so pull your belly up and in, and flatten your back. Reach your arms up over your head and roll your shoulders back and down to open your chest.
Works: Glutes, quads, hamstrings and lower back; also helps open chest for better breathing
3. Crescent Lunge
Step one foot forward into a lunge position, arms still raised. Focus on keeping the heel of your back foot as close to the floor as possible and your back leg as straight as possible, and keeping your shoulders aligned over your pelvis. Never push your front knee past your toes, or you’ll put undue stress on the joint. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch.
Works: Hip flexors, quads, hamstrings
From the crescent lunge, lower yourself to the floor with your forward leg crossed in front of you, rear leg straight out behind. Unless you’re ridiculously flexible, use a block under your hip for this pose. Don’t worry about how low you go–the important thing is to keep your hips level, without letting one sink to one side. Fold forward, if possible. Hold five to 10 breaths, then switch legs.
Works: Hips. “This leads to less hip rock and less knee rotation while pedaling,” says Farmar, so your pedal stroke is more efficient.
Lie on your back, knees bent with feet planted close to your butt, arms by your sides. Exhale and lift your pelvis up in line with your knees and your sternum toward your chin, keeping shoulder blades and head flat on the floor. Join your hands underneath you. NOTE: Never turn your head in this pose. If you have a back or neck injury, skip this exercise or do it with extra care, and place a folded towel under your shoulders at the base of your neck.
Works: Glutes and abdominals; helps strengthen your back and open your chest to make your reach to the handlebar more comfortable
6. Recline Hands-To-Toes Pose
Lie on your back and, using a strap looped under one foot, lift that leg up in the air, leaving the other leg flat on the ground. Don’t worry about keeping the raised leg perfectly straight if you’re not flexible, but do try to pull your heel past your hip. As you hold the stretch, point your toes to the sky and then flex your foot so your heel points skyward. Do this several times; switch legs after five to 10 breaths.