Warm-ups fall into the category of practices that "people get their knickers in a twist over”. The research is inconclusive, the benefits, or lack thereof, are highly individual, and I think, some people just like to be tricky.
The key objectives of an effective warm-up include preparing your body and mind, transitioning your mental and physical state, increasing endurance, preventing mtb-related aches and pains, and reducing your risk of injury. It's essential for maximising each and every ride. Not even the most seasoned pros can roll out of bed, jump on the bike and set world records without some sort of mental and physical preparation. Key elements of a warm-up
There are a number of components that you can incorporate into a well-designed warm-up that cover the physiological, neurological and psychological aspects of your preparation. These include:
- Raising core body temperature.
- Elevating heart and respiratory rate.
- Increasing blood flow and oxygen uptake.
- Mobilising the joints.
- Activating key muscles.
- Rehearsing key ranges of motion.
- Modulating the central nervous system.
- Visualisation and/or meditation.
The aerobic components of a warm-up are outside the scope of yoga but there are other aspects of training and race preparation for which a short session can be highly effective.Muscular engagement
In a warm-up, activating your primary cycling muscles allows you to recruit more muscle fibres and increases your muscles’ ability to contract. This can result in greater speed, strength and power right out of the gate. It’s also important to engage/stiffen up weak or disengaged muscles to reduce your risk of injury. One of the advantages of yoga is that you not only warm up the primary pedalling muscles—the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors but also the smaller muscles in the feet, ankles, hands and wrists. In yoga, we integrate muscle groups to work together rather than targeting muscles in isolation.
pose, the posterior chain is activated—connecting the lower back, glutes and hamstrings, and engaging the muscles that support the shoulder blades. It also opens up the chest and hip flexors.
Holding Side Plank
switches on the obliques and transversus abdominis. Lifting the top leg engages the outer glutes, which help to stabilise you in the saddle. Spider Planks
increase shoulder mobility under load, helping you to maintain a strong position on the bike and reduce your risk of shoulder injury.
And Low Lunge
opens up the hip flexors which allows the glutes, hamstrings and lower back muscles to fire more efficiently. Neuromuscular activation
Then we have the connection between the brain and body. Activating neuromuscular connections and engaging proprioceptors speeds up reaction time, improves coordination and enhances muscular performance. This heightened neuromuscular activation allows your muscles to respond more rapidly when it’s time to accelerate or sprint. Warming up with dynamic movement also re-familiarises your brain with the muscular engagement patterns that you are about to perform, allowing you to ride more smoothly from the get-go. This is especially important for the glutes, that can easily become deactivated—the neural pathways connecting your brain to the muscles become less sharp—especially if you go straight from sitting (or sleeping) to riding. When the glutes are disengaged, the quads, hip flexors, lower back and hamstring have to work harder to compensate, which can lead to tightness and lower back pain. Central nervous system modulation
Yoga really excels in this area, especially through the use of specific breathing techniques. It’s never going to get you amped up and aggressive, but it can generate feelings of calm and clarity that you might find useful. Take a few moments to get into the zone with a breathing retention exercise like Box Breathing, in which you breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale out your nose for 5 seconds and hold the exhalation for 5 seconds. This calms the central nervous system and brings your mind into focus. It can help also with releasing tension in the jaw and neck that can burn up energy you want to save for your ride. Furthermore, paying attention to the sensations of breathing—the expansion and contraction of your belly and chest—engages the connection between your body and mind, heightening your perception and allowing you to fully lock in. Give it a shot
A proper warm-up has the potential to make you a fitter, stronger, and more competitive rider, all the while significantly reducing your risk of injury. If you want to experiment with incorporating some yoga poses into your routine, you can check out the 15-Minute Pre-Ride Activation
sequence on my site. I’ll make it available for free for you guys for a month.