5 Must-Do Stretches for Cyclists

Mar 24, 2020
by Sarah Moore  

Words by: Dr. Karen Roitz, DC

Cycling is a great way to get outside, have some fun and improve your health. It can, however, create some unwanted muscular pain and imbalances for the avid rider. The two most common muscular and postural imbalances that I see with cyclists (myself included) is upper back and hip tightness. This is the result of a relatively static posture while in the saddle that creates rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine) and shoulders, as well as shortened hip flexors. Here are 5 simple stretches that can improve one’s comfort when riding and help prevent repetitive strain injuries from too much time on the bike.


½ Kneeling Quadriceps/Psoas Stretch
Begin on the floor, kneeling on one leg. Place a towel or pillow under the knee for comfort. Place your kneeling foot on a wall/door behind you to increase the amount of knee flexion. Gently lean forward without arching your back. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Raise the arm of the kneeling leg to increase intensity.


Foam Roll IT Band
Lie on your side, support the upper body with the elbow positioned directly underneath the shoulder. Place a foam roller under the outside of the thigh and cross the opposite leg over so that the foot is firmly on the floor. Slowly move foam roll throughout outer thigh, from hip to knee as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue. Alternate sides as directed.


Foam Roll Glutes
Begin seated on the foam roller. Cross one leg over the other, placing the ankle on the thigh above the knee. Support your upper body with one hand. Press downward on the crossed knee with hand initiating a tightening sensation in the hip. Lean slightly to the same side and gently roll forward and back for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with a foam roller. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue. Alternate sides as directed.


Open Book
Begin lying on your side with a foam roller parallel to your body. Put your top leg over the foam roll with your knee bent at 90 degrees. Place bottom hand on knee. Stretch top hand out to the floor, keeping the elbow straight and shoulder 90 degrees to the body. Guiding with top hand, roll your back until its flat and top hand is palm down on the floor behind you. Repeat for prescribed sets and reps.


Foam Roll Thoracic Spine
Begin seated on the floor and lie back, placing a foam roller under and across the upper back. Interlock fingers behind the head to support the neck. Lift hips off the floor. Gently massage the upper back, rolling up and down, as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with a foam roller. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue.

Content Courtesy of SOL Santa Cruz & Juliana Bicycles:

Juliana Ambassador - Karen Roitz, DC - Dr. Karen has worked with many professional cyclists over the years at major events like Sea Otter. When she is not working at her clinic, SOL Santa Cruz, she can be found riding her Furtado or Quincy on the local Santa Cruz trails.

Chris Taquino - DPT is the Director of Physical Therapy at SOL Santa Cruz and a major contributor to this article. Chris is also an avid Santa Cruz cyclist.

Juliana Ambassador - Alex Pavon - Alex Pavon is an enduro racer for the Juliana-SRAM Pro Team and emergency room EMT based in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Author Info:
sarahmoore avatar

Member since Mar 30, 2011
1,197 articles

  • 90 1
 Can't touch my toes, this all looks like jedi shit to me
  • 54 1
 Bend your knees
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Bend THE knee xD
  • 28 1
 "If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, and then continue."... Errrr.... This might take a while.....
  • 20 0
 foam roll IT band gives me as much joy as the Red Bull live feed cutting out
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: But stretching is different than foam rolling.
  • 4 1
 @fullendurbro: if you read this and a few other articles on the subject they say you can't really stretch it. I have been going through IT band syndrome I read a lot, did stretching, rolling, physio some whacky, ridiculous therapy - nothing helped other than changing the way I run, using shoes with less drop and keeping my knees warm. There's different opinions on the subject, but there's some amount of data supporting the theory/hypthesis that neither stretching nor rolling does anything to IT band other than it pisses it off more. Quite a few say that insufficient hip stability is one of primary reasons for issues with it. Cyclist in particular suck at hip stability, not to mention hip flexor shortness/ weakness. In each instance, it takes few months of well targeted physio to really get stabilizing muscles in check. That involves strength training, not doing some whacky balance exercises. You want your muscle to stabilize the leg during eccentric contraction so that knee doesn't go left and right.
  • 2 0
 @fullendurbro: but that article talks about both?

(Not commenting on whether it’s right or wrong, just saying you could at least glance at the article instead of just the url)
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I've found exactly what you are talking about. Working on stability of the minor glutes, hips etc, help with IT and knee pain. All my shit gets so tight it pulls on my lower back and knees.
  • 2 0
 That is a great analogy.
  • 2 1
 There is overwhelming evidence on the topic of stretching. For the most part stretching does absolutely nothing. If you like stretching by all means do carry on, if you are limited in regards to time for training like riding bikes or other kinds of training time is wasted on stretching.
This article sums it up rather nice. www.painscience.com/articles/stretching.php

And while i am at it we might just as well quit core training/stability for all other reasons than if you like it.
www.researchgate.net/profile/Eyal_Lederman/publication/40684089_The_Myth_of_Core_Stability/links/5c3b70d8299bf12be3c52333/The-Myth-of-Core-Stability.pdf or this one link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0597-7?fbclid=IwAR2MzjcaJvSELTKlxQiSKysl7ahXdHmPU_BEgaoUtj-6hFu3lRYECav06AI
  • 2 1
 @jrhines: there’s more to this. Cyclists who sit a lot on their saddles and don’t do strength conditioning, generally have weaker glutes and some even have problmes with utilizing them at all, they need serious introduction to hip hinging. Then they get into running and everything gets messed up because suddenly there are higher posture requirements. Then they try to bunnyhop, ride Dh and their lower backs can’t cope with this. Every time my hip flexor get pissed off it takes 2-4weeks to normalize. Then I already had an issue where all attachments of gluteus medius to the pelvis got imflamed. And then the little basterd piriformis can stab you in the back.
  • 2 0
 @LegendMKI: I'm not sure I entirely understand what he's trying to say in that first article. Stretching prevents problems, it's not like weight lifting where it makes you stronger, it's preventing problems. You know stretching works if you don't have to think about certain problems. And the effects of stretching are long term, not short term. Again, it's not weight lifting. People also tend to write things off if it doesn't give them the benefits they want in the time frame they like. I've been a practicing martial artist for almost 9 years and consistent stretching has given me the level of flexibility I have now. But again that has been consistently stretching and pushing the limits of my flexibility for 9 years.
  • 1 0
 @LegendMKI: Also the statement that says that runners who stretch are more likely to be injured is completely skewed because there are more runners who stretch than runners who don't. And many people don't know how to stretch properly and/or are stretching the wrong muscles. My sensei is trained in physical therapy and is a massage therapist, so he stresses a lot of importance on stretching the right muscles the right way. Personally I trust the advice of a marine whose certified in how to take care of people and whom I've known for nearly a decade more than someone on the internet ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 1 0
 @NotDeadYetMTB: He is saying if you like stretching go ahead and do it. If you stretch for other reasons than that don´t do it, the research literature on the topic is suggests it is a waste of time. However it is true that the research literature in general don´t have followup longer than about a 1 year. Your comment on long term effect might be true, but we do not have data other than personal experience back up that statement.

There have been research done on stretching as injury prevention on Australian military recruits (roughly 3000 participants) which surprisingly found that daily stretching was associated with higher injury rates compared to controls who did not stretch.

Knowing people for a decade does not make them right regardless of education. Often we will be told by healthcare professionals that stretching is key to injury prevention ect. which is in direct conflict with the evidence on the topic. It roughly takes 10-15 years for research findings to pass down in to practice and education, so what we as physios was taught years ago might not be right any more, that is under the assumption that education is based on research in this case physiotherapy.

My first post was an attempt to highlight what the research on stretching can conclude. The link to painscience was to present an easy to understand review of the literature on stretching.

Pyhsiotherapist MSc Ph.D student
  • 1 0
 @LegendMKI: once again, just like the runners, there are many more people in a military setting who stretch than those who don't, so that information can be highly skewed. And I'm not saying that knowing someone for a decade makes them right, I'm saying they've had a very long time to earn my trust and show their knowledge and skill. Also if you look back through the history of science and medicine, they kind of have a way of saying "don't do this thing anymore" and then 20-30 years later coming back and saying "we were wrong."
Thanks, just trying to share what I see and understand, nothing personal too!
  • 1 0
 @NotDeadYetMTB: There’s lots on articles on any angle of a particular subject that’s why we mortals need to check several sources of information, preferably conflicting ones. I can tell you with no medical background that Putting it all into a bag “does stretching make sense yes/no ” is a dumb way to look at it because that question cannot be answered due to the fact that it depends what are you stretching with which goal at what circumstances and every specialist will agree with me because I took it from specialists.

We talked about stretching/ rolling IT band which is barely a muscle in the way other muscles look like.

Let’s take weight lifting. Does it make sense to stretch hamstrings before squatting? No it doesn’t because squatting stretches them in a matter of 2 minutes of a warm up to greater degree than what static stretching would do in an hour. Does it mean we shouldn’t stretch at all before squatting? Depends What do you want to stretch/ mobilize and what is your base range of movement. I need to stretch / mobilize my ankles before I get into low bar squatting and be very thorough with my warm up so that I don’t get butt wink at the end of my goal range of movement in the exercise.

I also foam roll my legs and ass before and after Heavy lifting because it is scientifically proven rolling improves performance as well as increases range of movement almost instantly.

There is enough body of evidence suggesting that In general static stretching increases your mobility only slightly, unsustainably, instead only increasing your tolerance to pain. that is if you see a warm up of a guy like Kolokhov he does Everything! Before hitting the weights. Including a bit of static stretch.

There is however a general consensus in uneducated fitness world that Yoga Is the best way to increase mobility, make you healthier on its own and all that and is perfectly safe.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I do agree that looking at it all in black and white is dumb. I'm just stating my experience in 9 years of practicing 6 different martial arts as well as multiple of sports and also I'm just pointing things I can see that could be skewed or misinterpreted to fit someone's view point. I say we don't know everything, so we can never and should never put a definitive answer to something, especially when it comes to medical knowledge. My sister was born with a rare genetic disorder and at the time the doctors told my mom that she would be lucky to live to be 9. She is now 32 and no longer has to live with that disorder because of a liver transplant. But that's what 20-30 years does. We never have all the knowledge and we should always strive to look at both sides and put a little bit of doubt on both
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns, @LegendMKI: Also I would just like to say I never meant to disrespect or offend anyone in anyway, I was just saying what I thought needed to be said and what I've learned in my life. If I said anything that was disrespectful I deeply apologize
  • 1 0
 @NotDeadYetMTB: I respect your responses, Didn’t find anything offensive in them.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Except maybe my typos...XD Smile
  • 1 0
 @NotDeadYetMTB: Non taken mate!
  • 13 0
 Make sure to stretch your chain
  • 10 0
 Must I though @sarahmoore?
  • 7 0
 Great, now my dick got stuck in the ceiling fan.
  • 3 0
 i did not do any stretches for 8 yrs . then i go perifomis issues from sitting at work then riding a bike. so these are what everyone needs to do even if you think you dont!! do be me.
  • 3 1
 Seriously though, does this stuff do anything? I did most of these for a full year with no apparent benefit. I have since stopped 2 months ago with no noticeable negative result.
  • 2 0
 They release tension in your back, great for lower back pain. If you don't have tension/stiff muscles it doesn't feel like anything is happening though. I worked in the ski industry for a few years, skiing pretty much every day and I wouldn't be able to get through it without these.
  • 3 0
 I always wondered the same thing and had it explained as a preventative treatment. If it works, it seems like nothing happened...and that's the point - nothing happened. That does make it difficult to keep doing these on a regular basis though. Best of luck.
  • 3 0
 Do you work in an office setting, or are you physically active? 30 year old office chump here who also does a bit of road for cardio, and stretching has been by and large the single most beneficial activity for helping my aggressive/bownhill mtb riding. That is beneficial when considering time commitment:results. Your mileage may vary though.
  • 1 1
 These are all passive modalities, so you may get a temporary change in how you feel, but nothing long lasting. You need an active component to actually change how your body feels.
  • 1 0
 @tomoostv: In and out of the office, work out 3-4x week. Had two different types of knee issues in the same knee that improved with unilateral leg exercises. I've also injured a lower back muscle badly and was feeling 90% better after 10 days doing exercises (not stretching).

I know this is one of those topics that could go in circles forever, but having spent a year doing extensive work to get over tendonitis, it's been a major data point that it's exercise, movement and sufficient rest between workouts that heals and prevents injury, not rolling around and stretching. I wanted to believe it, but having put in significant time, Im quite skeptical.
  • 1 0
 I'm a practicing martial artist and have been for nearly 9 years now. I contribute my current level of flexibility to consistent stretching. It's also important to stretch in a way that pushes your limits in a safe way to increase flexibility. If you only stretch within your comfort zone it still helps prevent problems but you're not getting the full benefits.
  • 1 0
 What is the open book stretching?

And do you recommend abductor stretches for adults? Not sure if having a more flexible groin would make me a better rider because I could open my stance up more a less good as my base would be less strong.
  • 1 0
 Inflexibility leads to overuse injuries, full stop.
  • 1 0
 These are the same stretches that I use before I play hockey, and they translate really well to biking. Tight hips are our enemy out there. The best thing I can add is, be sure to stay hydrated too. Tight, dry muscles are a recipe for disaster. Signed, a mid 40's hockey goalie and rider, who is trying hard to keep it all together
  • 1 0
 Stretching definitely helps. These exercises can help alleviate hip and lower/upper back pain before and after rides. Been doing most of these for years.
  • 2 0
 Now. 5 Must-Do Stretches For Staying At Home 2-Weeks-Straight.
  • 1 0
 Alex! Thank you for working the front lines at FMC during these times! Stay safe and know that you are so valued!
  • 2 0
 You can't foam roll your IT band.
  • 1 3
 I appreciate the article, but there is only very little in life that is actually a MUST-DO
(maybe one thing all this Corona crisis is good for is to get your priorities straight again)
  • 9 5
 That one thing we must do is... SLAAAAYEEEER!!!
  • 5 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Seasons in the abyss. Sums up this year.
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Soundtrack to the Charpocalypse !!!
  • 1 0
The latest king gizzard album is insane, and very on point. SUUUPEEERRRRRBUUUUUUUUG
  • 1 0
 This is good shit to supplement with yoga.
  • 1 0
 Where do you get that roller thingy?
  • 1 0
 Show us stretching we can do at the truck before the ride.
  • 1 0
 If stretching doesn’t help you’re doing it wrong.
  • 2 0
 Thumbs up man, couldn't have said it better
  • 2 0
 Size 12 feet for sure
  • 1 0
 Wooo Alex you're famous!
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