Backbridge Stretch To Reverse The Strain Of Stress, Sitting, and Riding

Cooped up at home for a while? Why not sort out those niggles that hamper your cycling?

By Ashley Mateo |

Despite the beating your legs take on a bike, there’s another area that bears the brunt of a long ride: your back. Back pain actually accounted for the majority—45 percent—of aches and pains in a survey of pro cyclists during training camps.

Time to stretch, then – in particular, try some Backbridge stretches. “The prolonged, hunched over the position of a cyclist’s back is not a natural movement for the human body,” says Todd Sinett, a doctor of chiropractic, founder of Tru Whole Care, and author of Sit-Ups Are Stupid & Crunches Are Crap. “Back pain is inevitable when sitting in that position for so long.”

And it’s not just daily rides that strain your back; it’s all the sitting at work desks or in cars, hunched over computers and phones that adds up, too. “For years, studies have shown sitting at a desk is harmful to our backs,” he says. And most of us do it for the majority of the day, every day.

That’s why stretching should be a mandatory part of your training regimen or daily routine. “A regular stretching routine will help reduce pain, as it reduces the tension of the muscles in the spine and in the surrounding muscles,” says Tiffany Berenberg, a USA Cycling-certified coach and the national program manager of Outdoor Cycle at Life Time. “Tight hamstrings, glutes, quads, and hip flexors can all cause back pain, so it’s important to stretch, open up, and elongate all of these muscles.”

Not great at stretching on your own? Sinett created a tool to help called the Backbridge to make it a little easier. “It helps cyclists counteract the effects of flexion”—that hunched over position—“to improve flexibility, prevent injury, and increase blood circulation, which has its own benefits: increased oxygen delivery, reduction in cramping, and an increased capacity for performance,” he says. Try enhancing basic stretches with the Backbridge for more benefits on and off the bike. You will also need a long strap.

How to use this list: Review the stretches below. Each move is demonstrated by Travis Hawkins, a certified personal trainer and cyclist. The Backbridge Extension can be done every day, twice a day, for two minutes at a time. Do the rest of the exercises on pre- and post-ride days or as needed, holding each exercise for 2twominutes.

1. Back Extension

Sit at the base of the Backbridge. Lie back so that the highest point of the Backbridge is between your shoulder blades and your head touches the floor. Rest your arms behind your head and hold this stretch for 2 minutes. Pick a level that is most comfortable for you (1 is the easiest and 5 is the hardest). As that level becomes more comfortable, you can increase one level at a time.

2. Side-Lying Stretch

Lie on your side with knees bent and stacked, then stretch over the Backbridge so that the highest point of the Backbridge is at your rib cage. With your bottom hand, grab the wrist of your top hand and extend your arms overhead along the ground. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Piriformis and Outer Hip Stretch

Sit on the highest point of the Backbridge then lie back on the mat. With both knees bent, cross right ankle over left knee. Wrap your hands behind left knee and gently pull toward you. Keep the foot of your crossed leg flexed to protect the knee. Switch legs and repeat.

4. Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the highest point of the Backbridge and lie back on the mat. Bring one leg toward your chest and place a stretch strap around your foot just below the ball of your big toe, making sure the strap is flat. Extend your leg straight up above your hip, keeping your other leg extended over the Backbridge and down along the mat. (If this is uncomfortable, it’s OK to bend your bottom leg as shown.) Gently pull the strap down and back towards your head to increase the stretch in your hamstring. Make sure to keep your leg and knee as straight as possible without locking your knee. Switch sides and repeat.

5. Quadriceps Stretch

Kneel on left knee on the highest point of the Backbridge and bring your right foot forward into a lunge position (keeping the knee bent at a 90-degree angle). Bringing your left heel to butt, reach back with your left hand and hold your ankle or the top of your foot, slowly leaning forward and gently pulling heel to butt to feel stretch along left quad. Hold, hen repeat with the opposite leg.

6. Knees to Chest

For a low-back stretch, sit on the highest point of the Backbridge and lie back on the mat with knees bent to 90 degreed. Wrap your hands behind your knees and gently pull your knees to your chest while reaching and lengthening your tailbone down towards the Backbridge. Hold for a few seconds. (If you have trouble wrapping your hands around your knees, you can place them behind your legs on the backs of your thighs.)

7. Calf Stretch

Using level 2 of the Backbridge, place your heels on the mat and your toes on the end of the Backbridge. Press heels into floor until you feel the stretch along the backs of calves. Hold.

8. Shoulder and Torso Stretch

Sitting back on your knees, interlock your hands and fold forward so that your fists rest on the Backbridge. Twist your arms so that one hand rolls on top of the other. Hold and then repeat on the other side, switching your hands and twisting the opposite direction.

9. Pec Stretch

Lying facedown on the mat, place the Backbridge to your left about a foot from left arm. Put your left forearm and elbow on top of the Backbridge, hand facing down with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold, or for a deeper stretch, roll hips to the left as you lift right leg, bend knee, and place right foot on the outside of left hip. Repeat on the opposite side.

10. Wrist and Forearm Stretches

Make two fists and lay the backside of your hands flat on the Backbridge, fists touching. Try to make the arms as straight as possible. Then lie both wrists on the Backbridge, palms up with your fingers facing towards you and lean back gently.

Images: Julia Hembree Smith

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