Dynamic Stretching: The Perfect Warmup to your Rides

These warmup moves help prevent injury and improve performance - a perfect way to start your next ride. 


BY SELENE YEAGER |

Admit it: You don’t warm up before hopping on your bike. Many of us are guilty of just getting on the saddle and getting out there. That means you probably only turn to stretching when you feel a little ache or pain during a ride. But a better idea than waiting to feel discomfort to take care of your body is preventing those knots, aches, and niggles from piping up in the first place with some pre-ride dynamic stretches.

That’s what’s so great about this dynamic stretching routine from Cycling certified coach and physical therapist Ellen Foster, D.P.T., of Beyond Exercise. The whole thing takes about two minutes and can be done in your driveway, living room, or wherever you’re getting ready to ride, inside or out—even on the starting grid of your next race.

“These are moves I prescribe to my clients who are dealing with pain or dysfunction—tight hips, achy knees, back and/or neck pain, those things that come on with longer rides or heavier efforts,” Foster says.

Why Cyclists Should Do Dynamic Stretches Before a Ride

A well-designed warmup routine doesn’t have to take long for it to be tremendously beneficial. A routine like this prepares the body for movement by activating your muscles and taking the joints through their full range of motion, according to Foster. This routine also helps improve performance by counteracting cycling’s repetitive motions and sustained postures that may cause pain and dysfunction.

Sure you can get away without this kind of warmup because cycling isn’t quite like soccer where you’re going to pull a hamstring if you don’t warm up before a spirited ride or Zwift session, but you’ll notice that your legs open up more quickly and your back doesn’t get as sore or stiff if you fire up your muscles and get them ready for action, Foster says.

“I started doing it before races, because you’re just standing around the staging area waiting for your category’s start. It was something I could do right there to get my body ready to perform,” Foster says.

This dynamic warmup is also a good way to tune in to your body and see what joints or muscles might need more attention. For example, if you notice your hips are persistently tight, you can take the time to do the foam rolling and/or stretching and strengthening you need to loosen them up and improve your range of motion before they cause back or knee pain.

“People are using Whoop straps and other technology to give them information about their fitness and recovery,” Foster says. “This is another easy way to check in and get more information about how your body is doing that will help make you a better rider.”

Dynamic Stretching Warmup for Cyclists

1. Standing Quadriceps Stretch

a person doing a standing quad stretch
Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Balancing on the left leg, bend the right leg to bring the heel to the right glute. Keep core engaged and pelvis neutral. Avoid arching the lower back.
  3. Grasp the right ankle with the right hand and gently pull the heel into the glute for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold for 2-5 seconds. Then release.
  5. Repeat on left side.
  6. Continue alternating for 5-10 reps per side.

2. Figure-4/Standing Pigeon

a person doing a standing figure 4

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Balance on left leg and cross the right ankle over the left knee.
  3. Send hips back as though sitting down in a chair until you feel a stretch in right hip and glute.
  4. Hold for 2-5 seconds. Then release and stand up.
  5. Repeat on other side.
  6. Continue alternating for 5-10 reps per side.

3. Air Squat With Chest Stretch

a person doing an air squat with chest stretch

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands interlaced behind head and elbows out the sides.
  2. Send hips back as though sitting down in a chair until the hips are lower than the knees. Keep the core engaged and the upper body as upright as possible. Keep the chest open and gently press the back of the head into the hands for a deeper upper back and neck stretch.
  3. Drive through feet to stand back up.
  4. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

4. Reverse Lunge With Torso Rotation

a person doing a reverse lunge with twist

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Arms in front of chest, stacked at shoulder height.
  2. Step back with the right leg, keeping the core engaged and the pelvis neutral and facing forward.
  3. Bend both knees and lower down until the left leg is at a 90 degree angle and the hips are centered in between both feet.
  4. Twist the torso to the left. Keep chest open and the focus on rotating the rib cage.
  5. Rotate back to center and stand up.
  6. Repeat on opposite side.
  7. Continue alternating. Do 5-10 reps per side.

5. Standing Fire Hydrant

standing fire hydrant

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Balance on left leg and bend right leg at the knee until the shin is parallel to floor, foot behind you.
  3. Keeping the right leg bent, lift the knee up to the side. Engage the right hip and keep the core activated until the right knee is close to hip height.
  4. Lower right knee, keeping the leg bent.
  5. Repeat. Do 10 reps.
  6. Switch sides.

6. Overhead Reach With Side Bend

overhead reach with side bend

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend arms straight overhead.
  3. Grasp the left wrist with right hand and bend over to the right, keeping chest facing straight ahead and gently pulling on the left arm to deepen the stretch of the side body.
  4. Hold for 2-5 seconds. Then straighten back up to stand talk.
  5. Repeat on other side.
  6. Continue alternating for 5-10 reps per side.

7. Dynamic Hamstring Stretch

a person doing a dynamic hamstring stretch

Trevor Raab
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hands on hips.
  2. Step right foot slightly forward, heel down and toes up. Keep knee soft (not locked out).
  3. Hinge at hips, sending glutes straight back until you feel a stretch in the right hamstrings. Bend left knee as you go.
  4. Hold for a 2-5 seconds.
  5. Stand back up and step right foot back.
  6. Repeat on left side.
  7. Continue alternating for 5-10 reps per side.

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