The Best Cooldown Exercises for Cyclists

Kickstart recovery with these top mobility moves.


If your typical postride cooldown involves hopping off the bike and heading right for the shower or the next item on your calendar, you may want to add a couple of minutes to slow your roll. Quick and easy cooldown exercises offer tremendous benefits to your recovery and can set you up for a successful next ride.

That’s because immediately after a workout, your heart beats faster than normal, your body temperature is high, and your blood vessels are enlarged, according to the American Heart Association. A cooldown gradually decreases these stressors to preworkout levels, which, while uncommon, can help prevent lightheadedness and nausea from stopping too abruptly, according to 2021 research published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.

Instead of rushing from your high-intensity workout back to your regular life, look at a short cooldown as a relaxing transition that benefits your body and mind.

The Benefits of Cooldown Exercises for Cyclists

“The best cooldown is a 10-minute easy ride or walk to help flush metabolic waste from the workout out of the muscles,” Marisella Villano, kinesiologist, and indoor cycling instructor tells Bicycling. Metabolic waste is the buildup of substances left in the blood and muscles after creating energy during your workout. Light activity keeps the blood circulating to help remove those waste products.

According to Jason Lupo, cycling coach and owner of Full Armour Swim and Sports Teams, our bodies adapt to meet the demands placed on them. This is known as SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) and it’s one of the foundational principles of exercise.

“In a sport like cycling, [the SAID principle] means your body will start to adapt to the requirements of being hunched over on a bike,” Lupo explains. Mostly this leads to improved performance, but it can also cause tightness in the muscles that power your workout, such as the quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thighs), hip flexors (the muscles in front of the hips), hamstrings (the muscles in the back of the thighs), and calves (lower legs).

If you don’t address this muscle tightness, your body will compensate in ways that cause pain in the lower back and neck, Lupo says. It may also show up as knee or hip pain.

To counteract these potential issues, cyclists should try a few static stretches after a ride to help your muscles return to their optimal length. Moreover, a 2021 Sports Medicine review suggests that static stretching can improve range of motion, which may boost your movement quality on and off the bike.

To the benefits of a cooldown, add these easy cooldown exercises to your postride routine, which will help return your body to its preworkout state.

5 Postride Cooldown Exercises

Pedal slowly on the bike or walk for at least five minutes, preferably 10, to lower your heart rate. Then, finish your postride cooldown with the following stretches. Each move restores the length and range of motion of the muscles and joints used in cycling. These stretches are even gentle enough to do on a non-cycling day to keep your body working smoothly.

1. Cat/Cow

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Why it works: Lupo says this stretch improves flexibility and mobility in the mid and lower spine. In it, you move your spine from a rounded (flexed) to an arched (extended) position, helping to lengthen it. The stretch also moves the pelvis through various angles, which helps loosen it after being stuck in one position on your rides.

How to do it:

  1. Start on hands and knees on the floor, shoulders over wrists and hips over knees.
  2. On a slow exhale, tuck chin toward chest and push hands into the floor, rounding the back and tucking the tailbone.
  3. On a slow inhale, lift tailbone and chest up, lengthening neck and letting belly drop toward the floor.
  4. Continue alternating for 1 minute.
  5. Rest then repeat for 3 sets.

2. Pelvic Tilt

Why it works: Many cyclists develop an anterior pelvic tilt, which leads to arching of the low back. This can occur if your saddle is angled downwards, your handlebars are low, and/or your core muscles are too weak to maintain proper position on the bike. An anterior pelvic tilt can compress your spine and put pressure on your hips and hands when riding. This exercise helps reverse it, Lupo says.

How to do it:

  1. Lie faceup with feet flat and hip-width apart on the floor.
  2. Engage abdominals and press lower back into the floor.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds before releasing.
  4. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

3. Glute BridgePause Icon

Why it works: In this exercise, you’ll continue practicing the pelvic tilt action, but add a hip bridge. By lifting your hips into a bridge, you will activate the hamstrings and glutes while moving the hip muscles through a full range of motion, Lupo says. It also offers a gentle stretch for your hip flexors, which are heavily recruited during cycling.

How to do it:

  1. Lie faceup, with knees bent and feet planted. Press low back into floor.
  2. Drive through feet and engage glutes to lift hips up. Keep core engaged and avoid lifting with low back.
  3. Hold the top position for 5 seconds before lowering hips back down to the floor with control.
  4. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

4. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

couch stretch for hip flexor relief

Thomas Hengge
Why it works: This move offers a more targeted hip flexor stretch. It also stretches the quadriceps, which contract when you push the pedal down.

How to do it:

  1. Start half-kneeling on the floor with both knees bent 90 degrees, left foot forward. Place back foot on chair, bench, or couch for added intensity.
  2. Tuck tailbone slightly forward, engage glutes, and gently push hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch in right hip and quad. Keep both hips facing forward the entire time.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Release and repeat for 3 sets.
  5. Then switch sides.

5. Doorway Pec StretchPause Icon

Why it works: Cyclists often forget that cycling puts stress on the upper body. Maintaining a bent-over position can make the chest muscles (pectorals) tight, leading to stiffness and pain in the upper back and neck, Lupo says. This stretch helps lengthen the chest and front of the shoulders after spending prolonged periods in a shortened position.

How to do it:

  1. Stand in an open doorway. Place one arm on each side of the door with elbows bent 90 degrees and palms flat on the wall. (Or start with one side at a time.)
  2. Slowly step forward with one foot until you feel a gentle stretch in shoulders and chest.
  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Release and repeat. Do 3 sets.



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