Pre-Ride Yoga Warm-Up - Monthly Yoga with Abi

Apr 29, 2018
by Abi Carver  
Pre-Ride Yoga Warm-Up. Photo credit Andrew Campbell

I'm an idiot. Yesterday I went to the gym. I was tired, I wasn't concentrating and it's hot here in Bali so I lazily skipped my usual warm-up. In about 2 minutes, I had managed to tweak a muscle in my upper back with a wonky bench press. So I thought I'd put together a full yoga warm-up so that you don't do the same thing and have to miss out on your ride at the weekend.

A good warm-up can improve your speed, power, agility and reaction time. Save static stretching for your cool-down, as it has been shown to reduce force production and athletic performance. Your aim is to switch on, not off.

Warm-Up Objectives

- Focus your mind
- Activate your central nervous system
- Circulate blood and oxygen to your muscles
- Increase heart rate and body temperature
- Move your joints through full range of motion
- Activate smaller muscles
- Loosen up tight muscles
- Engage neuromuscular communication
- Bring your attention to your body and posture
- Reduce your risk of injury
- Decrease recovery time

Ready, Aim, Fire

I've broken this warm-up into 4 parts: focus the mind, mobilise the joints, activate the musculature and move dynamically. It should take around 10 minutes. This is just one possible set of poses – so substitute in or out the exercises that work for you.

1. Focus the Mind

“A quiet mind is a powerful mind.” Jim Afremow, The Champion's Mind

Box Breathing. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Start with 4 rounds of Box Breathing. Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Inhale through your nose for 5, hold your breath for 5, exhale out your nose for 5, and hold your breath out for 5. Repeat 4 times.

Try to stay focused on your breath throughout the exercise.

2. Mobilise the Joints

Shoulder Rolls. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Warm up each of your joints in turn, with 4-6 circles in each direction – wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck (half circles), hips, knees and ankles. Take it slow, remembering not to hold your breath.

Cat Cow. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Mobilise your spine into extension and flexion with 4-6 rounds of Cat-Cow, then bend your spine laterally – looking over your right and left shoulders 4-6 times on each side, come into Thread The Needle pose for a twist, and then draw circles with your hips 4-6 times in each direction.

Pay particular attention to your thoracic spine – as stiffness here can cause pain in between the shoulder blades.

3. Activate the Core

Bridges. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Glute Bridges

Slowly lift and lower your hips 6-8 times – squeezing your glutes at the top the pose. Inhale to lift and exhale to lower. Be careful not to crunch your lower back.

Bird Dogs. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Bird Dogs

Inhale, reach your right leg forward and your left leg back, exhale, bring your elbow in to touch your knee. Repeat 4-6 times on each side, engaging your core and moving with your breath.

Dynamic Side Planks. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Dynamic Side Planks

Hold Side Plank for 30 seconds on each side, or lift and lower your top leg 4-6 times to intensify core activation. Make sure that your supporting shoulder is in a safe, stable position.

4. Finishers

Downward Dog. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Walk the Dog

Walk out your feet in Downward Dog to warm up your calves and hamstrings, and engage your shoulders. Breathe slowly – in and out through your nose.

Lunge Twist. Photo credit Andrew Campbell.

Lunge Twists

From Downward Dog, step your left foot in between your hands and sweep your left hand up to the sky. Step back to Downward Dog for the other side. Repeat 4-6 times on each side to open up your hips and twist your spine.

3 Pro Tips

- Hydrate properly.
- Warm up barefoot if you can, to activate your feet and ankles.
- Practice 5-4-3-2-1 – a technique to trigger flow state that @snl1200 shared in an article last month. List five sights, four sounds, three sensations related to touch, two smells and one taste (remembered or current).

Please share your warm-up tips and let me know if you have any questions. And if you want more yoga, you can find tonnes of 15-minute vids on my new website, as well as articles and pose tutorials:

MENTIONS: @yoga15app

Author Info:
yoga15app avatar

Member since Feb 18, 2015
47 articles

  • 77 7
 Just got few beers with nachos. Feel myself great.
  • 13 4
 I like your style dude.
  • 7 0
 I figured out my own way to get in biking mode, especially on cold days. Few spinny miles on tarmac, then some short sprints out of the saddle and slaloming and bunnyhopping a bit to get mobile on the bike. If I skip this and start my DH runs right away I tend to stay inactive on the bike for the rest of the day. Think those excercises are a nice addition.
  • 20 0
 Abi bike check please.
  • 8 0
 @chyu: does Abi ride?
  • 19 0
 Everyone, make sure you do all of these poses at the trailhead parking lot in front of all the mountain bikers. They may join in too
  • 2 0
 @Ryanrobinson1984: add cat and cow pose for extra comedy value.
  • 1 0
 @jamesbrant: #teamrumors
  • 2 0
 I need yoga to help counter the beer
  • 28 0
 I'm sure these would do me a world of good but I'm struggling to see me doing the downward dog at the trailhead
  • 17 2
 Thank you @yoga15app I used this before my gym session and it made a huge difference. You are not an idiot btw, I think everyone has done the jump in full tilt before warming up and feeling the pain afterwards. Keep up the posts.
  • 3 0
 Thank you @Mirks. It was humbling! I clearly needed a reminder.
  • 6 0
 I always ride easy for first 10 minutes or so, work into high cadence, exaggerated out of saddle hip motions, hang heels off pedals in a sort of downward dog on the bike. The biking warm up feels like it helps compared to just launching into the climb, especially on cold wet days.
  • 7 0
 Great article again Abi! Question: what is your take on foam rolling? Do you recomend it and if so when - pre yoga session or after?
  • 54 1
 Your supposed to roll one before and after the ride.
  • 12 2
 @fecalmaster: When I look at your nick I'm not sure what we're supposed to think when you mention rolling
  • 1 0
 @nekislav, I’ll give you the best piece of advice possible. Do it and see what happens Wink
  • 2 0
 Unfortunately, I am not an expert on foam rolling but I can give you some thoughts. Myo-fascial release is designed to release tension so it can be useful after exercise and before yoga. I think it is important not to overdo it and bruise sensitive muscles but a little, often and strategically implemented approach can be really useful. The only reason I think before exercise wouldn't be as effective is because it is a fairly calming exercise but it wouldn't be a crazy idea.
  • 1 0
 @yoga15app: James Wilson (@mtbstrengthcoach) from recommends foam rolling before warming up, which is before doing strength and mobility exercises. Indeed to release tension but not so much after exercise but instead before exercise to actually be able perform them better. I think it makes sense. Whether doing yoga or any other form of strength/mobility exercise, it seems like a good idea to make sure the muscles can move freely. Would you agree? Even if it is calming, it precedes the actual warm up that fires them up anyway.
  • 4 1
 But how will this help my Strava stats?? huh?? anyone think of that????? ?
All seriousness...stretching is great for mtb'ing. My wife dragged me into Iyengar yoga...highly recommend for mtbers.
  • 2 0
 Well, I don't do these yoga poses right before my riding... but I have been doing these every night at the gym for my pre-workout stretch routine. Seems to work good for my sciatica. Although if I pulled up to the trail head and saw her doing doing this, of course I'd join in!
  • 2 0
 You do cat/cow, bird dog etc with your feet released (top side down). Other yoga people I know say keep on the toes as in down dog. Is this a personal preference, or is there a reason for one vs. the other?
  • 1 0
 Good question. I actually do both. Toes tucked gives you more of an activation response, keeping them released stretches the tops of your ankles and allows you to relax a little more.
  • 1 0
 Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely certain your correct and warm ups stretches help... I would love to see a trailhead full of completely inflexible people with yoga mats and knee pads trying to do these moves before going for a ride - it would be a truly spectacular sight....
  • 2 0
 You're right. What was I thinking? As you were.
  • 3 1
 I'm too disabled ass to do that shizz. Should have called me 10 years ago, I would have satellite conducted that shit in video format.
  • 4 1
 I completely ignore warmups and cooldowns, and I know it's going to bite me in the ass one day. Not looking forward to it.
  • 2 0
 @yoga15app on bird dogs is it meant to say - reach your right arm forward and left leg back?
  • 1 0
 that would be it
  • 1 0
 Thank you. Good spot. My mistake.
  • 6 4
 Or you just warm up on your way to the trail...
  • 2 1
 i prefer gluten-free bridges and i'm always having trouble to twist my lungs after i've 'mobilised' those joints.
  • 8 6
 A little downward dog makes my bunny hopping the cat's meow.
  • 2 0
 Yep. It’s exactly what I do right at trail head.
  • 2 0
 Go full enduro and pack a yoga mat in your kit....
  • 1 1
 Forth Besser block from top right looks wonky. Otherwise, rest looks okay
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