Abi's Lessons From Crankworx - Stretching

Aug 29, 2017 at 22:32
by Abi Carver  
Stretch Release Class Rebagliati Park. Photo credit Boris Beyer

Photo: Boris Beyer, Rebagliati Park, Whistler



I'm back in London after an incredible two weeks teaching yoga in Whistler, for the final leg of the 2017 Crankworx tour. Thank you to all of you who came to my classes. And to those of you who couldn’t make it, that’s ok—I know how tempting saki-margaritas and underground parties can be.

During the event, I grilled amateurs, pros, coaches, support teams, industry professionals and local riders about all things MTB training and I’m going to share what I learned with you over the next few months, as we move into the off-season.


Stretching is not a thing

The first lesson I took away from Crankworx is that mountain bikers do not like to stretch. They WANT to stretch, they know it will make them better riders, they may even know how to stretch but mountain biking could be the only sport in the world that actually encourages stretch shaming! Riders are too embarrassed to stretch out after a ride, let alone go to a yoga class—even if it is designed specifically for their sport.

Alarmingly, this applies equally to pros who have every incentive in the world to treat their bodies like well-oiled machines. One of the highest profile athletes in the sport admitted to me that his hips were so tight that they prevented him from making the whips he knows he’s capable of. Could it really be worth it NOT to spend a few minutes every day working to improve his flexibility?

I started to realize from the conversations I was having over and over that I’ve not done a good enough job at explaining how stretching can benefit you as a rider, as well as when, why and how to do it effectively.


Getting sideways

Here are some good reasons to stretch out after a ride. Stretching:

- Releases muscular tension.
- Increases your range of motion.
- Lengthens muscle tissue.
- Increases muscle elasticity.
- Allows your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature to return to normal.
- Gives you a moment to let your post-ride stoke sink in.
- Allows you to check in with how your body feels and identify the warning signs of an overuse injury.

The point of stretching out after a ride is not to increase flexibility but to restore range of motion.

You can think of post-ride stretching as taking off your mountain biking suit and returning to a fully functioning human being who can twist, turn, squat, jump and move their body with ease in every direction.


Is not stretching holding you back?

When you work out a particular muscle it gets stronger and tighter, and if you don’t stretch or release it after exercise, it will remain in this partially contracted state. Over time, this will limit your range of motion and create muscular imbalances that are likely to lead to pain, especially in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. This can increase your risk of injury and negatively impact your stamina, performance, and ultimately the amount of time you can keep riding at a high level.

The aim of stretching is to stay feeling loose and pain-free. To look and feel like an athlete.

There’s nothing inherently magical about stretching but if you’re tight then whatever you’re doing is not working. And I’m guessing that includes a whole lot of NOT stretching.


When not to stretch

Here are a few times when stretching is contraindicated (not advised):

1. One of the concerns I heard was that you do not want to be too flexible—especially in the hips—and this is a valid consideration. Mountain biking like all physical exercise requires a certain amount of tension in your muscles to generate sufficient power, speed and body control. So if you feel as though you’re too flexible, don’t stretch and certainly don’t over-stretch. However, I don’t know many riders this disqualifies.

2. It’s crucial that you don’t stretch injured muscles that are in the process of healing. Please ask your doctor or physical therapist if it’s safe for you to do these poses. Do not attempt to stretch through the pain as this will delay your recovery and return to the bike.

3. You do not need to stretch muscles that are not tight. In fact, this may exacerbate muscular imbalances. Tune into where you are missing key ranges of motion and focus on freeing up those areas.

4. Static stretching (holding stretches) releases muscular tension which means that you do not want to do it before you exercise or work on building strength.


What to stretch

As I mentioned, you only need to stretch the muscles that are tight. I’m going to give you the top eight poses I recommend to mountain bikers and you can choose which ones you need. The muscles that typically get tight are the:

- Hamstrings
- Quads
- Hip flexors
- Glutes
- Groin
- Neck
- Shoulders
- Chest
- Lower back
- Upper/mid-back


When to stretch

For the greatest benefits, you should spend 10–15 minutes stretching after each ride. If you wait too long to stretch your muscles, they will cool off in the shortened position and you’ll start to lose flexibility. Another good time to stretch is in the evening after work, when you can spend a bit more time on each stretch. Stretching is inherently relaxing. It stimulates the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system, so it should also help you to sleep better.

Experiment with your own optimal stretching frequency. Is stretching out after every ride enough? Do you also need to loosen up your hips before you go to work in the morning? Or throw in a couple of evening stretches? When you become an athlete who stretches it will become intuitive what, how long and when you need to stretch, and this will be different whether you’re on holiday or working flat out, on or off-season. Like everything important in life, practice makes perfect.


How to stretch

• Alignment is crucial. Ensure that your pelvis and spine are neutral (straight).
• Don’t hold your breath. Slow down your breathing and relax into the stretches.
• Think about releasing tight muscles as opposed to stretching them.
• Move around until you find a tight spot and hold that position.
• Use gravity not force to increase the stretch. An inappropriate force will trigger the body's innate reflex reaction and cause your muscles to tighten.
• Be patient and consistent.
• Hold each pose for a minute or two on each side.


The poses

Click on the pose titles for full instructions and beginner modifications.

1. Ragdoll

Ragdoll releases tension in the lower back neck and shoulders.

• Releases tension in the lower back, neck and shoulders and stretches the backs of the legs.

2. Low Lunge with Sidebend

Low Lunge with Sidebend

• Stretches the hip flexors, groin and glutes as well as the side of your torso and lats.

3. Sphinx

Sphinx pose eases lower back pain. Photo credit charleysmith

• Gently reverses the position of your spine, releasing tension at the lower back.

4. Dead Pigeon

Dead Pigeon

• Stretches the glutes primarily. This is going to be the most important pose for many of you. Ensure your pelvis and spine are neutral.

5. Reclining Hand-To-Toe

Modified Reclining Hand-To-Toe pose.

• Stretches the calves and hamstrings. You can use a belt or yoga strap to deepen the stretch.

6. Bridge

Bridge Pose

• Releases the hip flexors, reverses the position of your spine and opens up the chest and the fronts of the shoulders.

7. Reclining Spinal Twist

Reclining Spinal Twist

• Releases tension at your lower back and gently stretches the glutes and IT Band.

8. Happy Baby

Happy Baby opens up the hips and stretches the groin.

• Stretches the groin and hamstrings. You can take hold of your ankles if you can’t reach your feet.


Your gateway drug

Stretching is important but it really is the bare minimum you can do in terms of athletic recovery. The next step is to incorporate consistent, short yoga sessions into your week that move your entire body—especially your hips and spine—through greater ranges of motion. Practicing yoga will also help to improve your strength, balance and body control.

You can go back over the videos I’ve posted over the last two years, or if you want to try something different, I’ve put together a new series of 5 x 15-minute videos of varying difficulty to keep you feeling loose and pain-free. You can practice them in the morning to wake up your body, during the day for an energy boost or in the evening to wind down before bed. Try incorporating yoga into your training for a month and see how you feel.

Here is the link to the series on Vimeo: vimeo.com/ondemand/yogaformountainbikers


Takeaways from Crankworx

I was quite alarmed to see how little attention mountain bikers pay to even the most basic aspects of athletic recovery, compared to any other sport. It’s simple. If you don’t look after your body, how can you expect it to perform optimally? How can you expect it to move how you want it to move? Or get into the positions you want to get into? If you’re serious about winning races, improving your whips, attempting bigger jumps, crashing less and out-riding your mates, looking after your body is where you’ll get the edge.

And if you don’t like yoga, you can't use that as an excuse. There’s no question that focussing on basic body mechanics—your posture, mobility, and flexibility—is going to make you a better, faster and more skillful rider. So foam roll, find a sauna and ice bath, see a physio, get sports massages, meditate, clean up your diet. Just do something, before it’s too late.

I’d love to hear from you about your successes and fails with stretching and why you think looking after your body is so taboo amongst mountain bikers.



MENTIONS: @yoga15app


Must Read This Week

121 Comments

  • + 45
 My impression is that clean living, stretching, looking after yourself, etc is heavily associated with Roadies while mountain biking is relaxed, party, drinking, farting, you name it. It's like an 80's movie where it's the preppy kids vs the punks LOL
  • + 32
 I try my hardest to have a good balance between 90's freerider and Tour de France winners' lifestyles but ultimately only one prevails and I generally wake up with a horrific hangover and have a cold half-eaten kebab for breakfast.
  • + 3
 @haroman666: haha, totally this. Did intervals up the hill today, but rewarded myself with a beer at the top. Fun with a side of fitness!
  • + 2
 @CaptainBLT: yep, this is me and my mates through and through. Do a massive ride / run, burn a days calories, then put it all back on with beer at the end! :-D

All things in moderation, including moderation my friend!
  • + 3
 I'm sure you're right. I just wish you differentiated yourselves in ways that didn't exacerbate your aches and pains!
  • + 2
 @yoga15app: falling off more, coming short on gaps and smashing rough stuff probably doesn't help it either!
  • + 3
 @cunning-linguist: You're right, but being flexible and more aware of your body can help with that too, especially your recovery.
  • + 4
 @yoga15app: too true! Even the boss of the big drop / crash himself Josh Bender once said that your body is the best body armour you can get!
  • + 5
 @cunning-linguist: good name for a yogi!
  • + 4
 @yoga15app: I believe Josh Bender invented the Rag Doll pose, but he did it a lot more dynamically.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: search him out, on the "jaw drop" it'll make your spine tingle just watching it!

I think he went for a 100' drop & needless to say, I think he broke his back and ankles. He's still alive which in itself is testament to the man!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: good you had a watch! Yes he truly is memstrual! Makes my riding a little more tame!
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: He may be a secret yogi! You never know.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: I actually wouldn't be surprised. He takes looking after himself and his body very seriously (although the old school videos show differently!)
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: I'd love to know what he does!
  • + 21
 Abi with the hard truths! This article is amazing. I am usually up for a basic stretch after a ride, but often forget. I always feel better the next day (faster recovery time) when I remember though, and that in itself is enough for me to want to stretch more.
  • + 4
 Just think of it as a gentle reminder! Even a few simple stretches to transition between your ride and jumping in the car are going to be beneficial.
  • + 2
 @yoga15app: I wish I would've taken the time to stretch between my ride and hopping in the car. I went on a glorious 2 week trip through Oregon/Washington/BC last summer and towards the end my lower back and hips were so tight and painful I couldn't walk right without pain for 3 months...you would think I would have learned my lesson.
  • + 1
 @unrooted: I know! Why do we have to learn a lesson so many times before it sticks?
  • + 24
 More importantly @yoga15app did you get up on the hill and do some laps?
  • + 8
 i think one of if not THE biggest obstacle is time and location. finishing a ride and finding the time and place to stretch (gravel parking lot, in the stinking heat, or puddles of rain come to mind) is a challenge. especially when you have other things to do, which may involve a post ride dinner and drinks. but i couldn't agree more with the sentiment!!
  • + 2
 I totally agree. That is why this article is about stretching more than yoga. Even a few simple stretches as a cool-down before post-ride dinner and drinks would be beneficial.
  • + 10
 Stop telling me what to do! You're not my real dad!
  • + 2
 Toby!
  • + 6
 Yoga (or stretching in general) has made my life on and off the bike better this year than any other! Once you start it's hard to stop, it really really compliments and helps riding recovery/ability/strength....use it or lose it y'all!!!!
  • + 2
 Awesome to hear you've made it a habit.
  • + 5
 Great article Abi. When I forget stretching for a while and ride a lot I get symptoms in my lower back. Some basic stretching (I swear by the Sphinx and Dead Pigeon) and it's sorted.

On the Stretch Shaming - I'm the only rider I know who does any stretching and yes people do laugh. No idea why as they do it in all other sports. No point in having pain when the remedy is so simple.
  • + 2
 Sphinx, Dead Pigeon and Reclining Spinal Twist are lifesavers! Good to hear you have found a routine that works for you. I think of other sports like martial arts, boxing and rugby where athletes would not dream of skipping stretching before and after training. I think it's a culture thing but one that is unfortunately incredibly short-sighted.
  • + 4
 @yoga15app I think this is a rational v emotional mind problem - people understand stretching will help but can be too embarrassed to get down and do it in the car park after riding in front of people. To change behaviour I think you need to enlist a riding star like Mackaskill, Fairclough or Rachel (as you are Brit based) and get them in your videos with you.
I have personally found the videos really helpful in loosening tight hip flexors so nice one dude! Keep 'em coming.
  • + 3
 Agreed. You're already starting to see how hard the pros train both on and off the bike. I think there will be a sea change soon when mountain bikers realise that some of their habits are counterproductive to their enjoyment of the sport. Good to hear it's working for you!
  • + 3
 At my workplace gym, they swapped out the lame yoga teachers for a someone who genuinely is into yoga. I started going regularly in October and can now touch my toes for the first time in my life. Things move better and I feel better. I can't say that this has translated into a a better bike experience but I feel better. Not a bad thing to be more flexible! I'm older, so I'm less concerned with what I look like/how crappy I am doing it/etc etc. My workout buddy and I have incorporated it into our workouts, so we're always stretching/handstanding/falling over and we really enjoy it.

Having talked to lots of coworkers (male and female), they're intimidated and embarrassed, guys even more so. They think the breathing is weird, the postures are weird, the indian names are weird, any reason not to go. A me in my 20's wouldn't have been caught dead in yoga, but now...I really enjoy it and look forward to it weekly.

Gotta check the ego and the big balls at the door and have the right mindset.
  • + 1
 It's all legitimate - some of the yoga stuff is intimidating and weird - but hopefully I and the teacher at your gym have found a way to strip all that back so that you have a movement practice that makes you a healthier, fitter and less achey human being!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: it helps that we laugh and giggle a lot during practice. One of the advantages to a work place gym is that a lot of us work with each other on a regular basis, which helps. But by the same token, sometimes it's hard to take your coworkers seriously when you see what them getting dressed in the locker room.
  • + 1
 @oldfut: Maybe that's not such a bad thing!
  • + 2
 Great article with many valid points. I hear the word 'yoga' and get put off as I feel it would be boring, its the opposite of why I mountain bike. Not saying yoga is a waste of time, i can see the benefits and its obvious, Ive just got a poor mentality... along with poor diet
  • + 3
 I hear you. Yoga can be incredibly boring which is why I break it down into 15-minute chunks. The style of yoga I teach is to support your mountain biking not because you have a deep passion for the practice!
  • + 2
 I don't post a lot, but I kinda want to tell people how great this works. Because it migt look lame (lot of guys laught at me) but works great.

Long rides on you bike are demanding (hardtail for life). You body sits in same position for long time and your shoulders and lower back really get worked a lot. When I didn't stretch, I could see that my posture after a ride was different. Lower back felt tight and shoulders kinda leaned forward.

Then I started doing some of the Abby lower back yoga stuff (and expanded it). After a ride I stretch my back, hips and shoulders and just feel 'light again'. There is no-more tight spots and my posture is back to normal. Sure my legs still hurt from cycling but I don't have this tight feeling. And it doesn't have to cost a lot of time. I discovered that some of the stuff you can do on your bike. So when you are riding home and doing a cooldown. You can do some stuff on bike that already makes a difference.
  • + 2
 It's great to hear that the yoga routines and stretches have sorted out your posture. I thought that exact same thing in Whistler. That there are a number of stretches you can do on your bike. Some gentle twists, backbends and upper body stretches to take you out of the riding posture even before you get home. I'll see if I can come up with something for a future post.
  • + 2
 @yoga15app: it would be super helpful if you could write about some of those stretches we can do without a mat, just after finishing the ride! By the way your movies and articles are awesome.
  • + 1
 @Slabrung: I'll do that. Good idea. Check out my comment to @ertman below for some ideas in the meantime.
  • + 2
 I started foam rolling, stretching and doing light yoga somewhere around 7 or 8 years ago. One thing I've noticed is that I can tell when I haven't been stretching a lot more than most of my friends. When you practice regularly, you get used to feeling well stretched and then when you skip a few days it's like someone ran you over with a truck. I always wonder if people who don't stretch just feel that way all the time and don't know any better, haha. Once you've seen the other side, you can never go back!
  • + 1
 You've got a point there! You've set the bar pretty high. I'm the same with food. My diet is pretty clean so when I eat something super unhealthy I definitely feel it more than my friends.
  • + 2
 Thank you for the great videos @yoga15app. Last year I couldn't climb at all without aggravating my lower back pain. During the winter I started practicing your yoga/stretching tips as well as enduroMTBtraining and it was a game changer! I completed the BME race in Santa Fe with almost 6000 feet climb in one day, and no back pain!
  • + 1
 Awesome! That's so cool. I'm glad the yoga has made such a difference to your riding.
  • + 2
 I really need a set of stretches I can do without busting out a yoga mat on a dirt or gravel road, because that's normally where the rides begin end end! I try to remember to throw in a few standing leg stretches after a ride but that's about it...
  • + 2
 Standing hamstring stretch with your foot up on a wall is good, standing quad stretch, standing pigeon to stretch your glutes, standing sidebend, sitting on your bike and twisting to one side and the other, gently stretch the muscles in your neck. You can also do rag doll, wide-leg standing forward bend and side lunge. I hope that gives you some ideas. You'll find a full pose library with instructions on my site: www.yoga15.com.
  • + 1
 Mountainbiking probably does shorten my muscles a bit. I try stretching but I am far from consistent. Especially in cold/wet weather conditions it can be tough. I already cool down a little when riding from the trail back home. By the time I'm there I'm already shaking because of the cold and maybe some hunger kicking in. It makes it hard to relax these muscles and really stretch out. And of course the hunched position you're in when cleaning and lubing the bike isn't too great either. That said, I'm not even sure whether mountainbiking is the biggest cause. Most of my riding (mountainbiking) I'm standing up. When riding to work, bringing the kids to school etc I'm sat down. In fact when I have a kid on the top tube (I've got small saddle there) there is no way I can stand. And that is still a considerable amount if not the majority of my riding. And it is there where I somehow never stretch. Same when I run up and down a flight of stairs there. Is it shame? I don't know, it at least feels silly to ride to work, put your bike in the rack and then spend 10-15 minutes stretching. That said, I'll try to implement some stretching in my lifestyle somehow.

Loosely related, I have a question. I've got quite short hamstrings so when I do a downward facing dog, it is pretty much a plank where I rest on my outstretched hands and feet. It is quite tough to hold such a long plank actually. Of course I could do a childs pose instead but I suppose that's more to wait for the next step than to actually improve somehow. Anyway, when my girlfriend does a downward facing dog, it is much more like you do it with her hands and feet closer together and her hips under about 90 degrees. She also has some grippy yoga mats and I found out that it was actually easier with a mat but it was also different. Instead of pushing both hands and feet into the ground and contracting abs and the front of arms and feet, I could use the mat as a structural member and by pushing hands and feet apart. I could even walk the hands and feet closer together as I stretch the mat. It probably looks better but the question is, what is it that I should feel when doing this pose? Should I use my front muscles to drive feet and hands into the ground (like I could do on a slippery floor) or should I use the grip of the mat and pull with the back side muscles? Of course once the hands and feet are closer together it doesn't matter that much anymore, but when you're almost straight it makes a huge difference.

Thanks!
  • + 3
 It sounds like that's exactly what you should do. Get to work and spend 5 minutes releasing the pressure at your lower back and stretching out your hips. I would recommend Reclining Spinal Twist at the very least. Downward Dog is one of the hardest poses to get right but it is super beneficial so worth taking the time. A mat is essential. I wouldn't even attempt it without one. You need to be in a V-shape but to make sure that your hands and feet are not too close together. The problem is that you are trying to straighten your legs. You may never straighten your legs and that is just fine. You need a straight line from your hands all the way up to your lower back. Ask your girlfriend to check that there is not rounding at your lower back. Bend your knees as much as you need to and drop your chest back towards your thighs. Make sure that your feet are hip-width apart and facing forwards. If you come forward into Plank you should only need to walk your hands forward a few centimetres. This is how you know how far to separate your hands and feet. So bend your knees and stretch all the way from your hands up your spine to your lower back. Make sure that your arms are straight, press firmly into your palms and feel your shoulders supporting you. All your shoulders muscles should work together and feel integrated. Then outwardly rotate your arms to feel a broadening across your upper back. You should not feel hunched up around your shoulders. Check out some tutorials online if this is hard to picture. It is really an important pose to get right.
  • + 0
 @yoga15app: Wow Abi, thanks for writing all this out! You already have some series about the lower back and tight hamstrings here on PB, so I'll look into these too. But I'll start with the Reclining Spinal Twist. Any suggestion what to aim for? At this stage I can't both get that knee on the ground while also keeping my hand on the ground. So I decided to aim for at least keeping the hand on the ground which requires me to keep my knee a fair lot above the ground. At first I tried keeping both shoulderblades on the ground, but it doesn't seem like you're doing that so I let that go. Do you agree? Or do you prefer me to at least get that knee on the ground and see how far I can push that arm back?

My girlfriend did an ashtanga yoga instructor training the past eight months (she's having her exams this weekend) and this summer she tried to teach me the sun salutation A and B which is why I tried the downwards facing dog. Until then she only practiced on fellow students but of course it is good to try it on someone who truly doesn't know how it goes. I have a background in years of soccer, cycling (unicycling, mountainbiking and just to go places), (trail) running and lots of running up stairs and steep hills. She has a background in karate so she was baffled by my limited agility and couldn't really find alternatives that match my ability. The alternative for the downward facing dog was the childs pose but only in case of limited strength, not limited agility. I'll tell her about your suggestion. It is fun though.

"Stand tall, arms next to your body. Relax. HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS!"

Relaxing is different in yoga lingo Wink . Thanks again!
  • + 2
 @vinay: check out this page for Reclining Spinal Twist variations:

www.yoga15.com/reclining-spinal-twist

You may find the 2-knee version more accessible. The aim of the pose is to release tension at your lower back with a gentle twist. It's ok if your knee doesn't come down to the mat. The best thing to do is to prop it up on a cushion on two so that you can fully relax into the pose and let go of tension at your lower back.

Ask your girlfriend to teach you headstand next!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Thanks Abi! I found that the two knee version is less comfortable than the single knee version. Probably because the second knee adds weight to the extend that it forces my back to twist more than I find comfortable at this point. Maybe later. For now I'll stick to the original version. It did feel a bit sore under my shoulderblade today. Not sure whether it was related or just coincidence. But I'll keep going and see where it takes me Wink .

Yeah, my girlfriend has mastered the headstand and loves to teach it to me. But I guess I'd better start with that downward facing dog. Silly thing is I used to be able to do that kind of stuff as a kid but I was just never aware that I needed to maintain it. It was just run faster and longer, jump higher and further, never knew I should have maintained my basic agility. You just don't see any focus on that in competitive sports except maybe in martial arts and gymnastics. So unless you're interested in that, as a kid you just don't see that.
  • + 1
 @vinay: It's a good insight that basic agility is not focussed on in all sports. Fighters and gymnasts definitely work hard on their mobility. I think we can learn a lot from them as some of the best athletes on the planet.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Yeah but even more so, we've never been made aware as kids. Strength and speed were athletic goals to pursue (and rewarded in competition), mobility not so much. Things are changing though. In the school where I worked previously it wasn't exclusively about ball sports and athletics, but also loads of freerunning (parcours) and martial arts. And my kids are getting yoga at school, during a workshop in the zoo (as so much is named after animals anyway) and at parties with friends. Times are definitely changing for the better. I'm just part of the "lost generation" attempting to make things right. But I'm very aware I'm fighting a pattern that causes imbalance. And by far it is not only due to seated work (luckily I mostly work standing and walking) or cycling, but also by running up stairs, carrying a backpack, working on something in front of me (cooking, wrenching, writing). Even when I sleep I'm curled up most of the time. It is all shortening the front core and the back of the legs. And it feels like there is simply no alternative for these patterns (except for attempting to do most of my work standing and raise my workpiece to chest height whenever possible). So if fifteen minutes a day helps that's great. But it is frustrating because I know I'm spending hours a day shortening the wrong side with no real alternative.
  • + 1
 @vinay: I think that standing, sitting and walking with good posture is the simplest and most effective strategy. So that imbalances are not embedded. And as you say, standing and moving about whenever you don't HAVE to sit.
  • + 1
 I started really doing (static) stretching consistetly about 6 years ago, when I was riding BMX almost everyday, and finally realised I was getting worse at it because of not recovering. I was really tight which gave me a bad riding position (too much bent at the knees because my hips, hamstrings and quads would not let me be comfortable in an adequete hip hinge.

Things started to improve and after a the winter the difference was pretty dramatic. Now after moving back to mountainbiking I have neglected stretching once again, because of the less demanding position on the bike. I was able to move correctly without stretching. After the summer I don't feel as athletic anymore and really my range of motion has become a limiting factor again.

So I truly have had a lot of positive effects from static stretching. The problem is you need more than a month of consistent stretching to get anywhere in the beginning.
  • + 1
 Sounds like you need to try some yoga to get back to feeling athletic and nimble. Here's a video you could start with: www.yoga15.com/blog/yoga-for-flexibility
  • + 1
 Since I've started stretching I've noticed if I slouch at computer or just bend over sometimes, I get a real bad tingle in both my hands that I didn't get before. But if I pull my shoulders down and back it goes away. Is this normal? Or do I have bad form stretching. I generally do a routine I found by Reed Stark youtu.be/xkJSpyHnU7w for reference. Sometimes I get the tingling when I'm doing the poses where your on your back pulling your legs towards your chest. I try to keep my back and shoulders flat on the ground but cant reach my legs so some times I use a towel to keep everything in the right position. Or is it my body just saying 'hey bozo, don't slouch!'
  • + 1
 I don't think it is anything to worry about if it only happens when you're not maintaining optimal posture. But you could get it checked by a physical therapist if you have any concerns. It's great to hear that you're paying attention to your imbalances.
  • + 1
 Exelent write up on the bennefits of stretching. Im over 50 ride at least twice a week but i have a physicaly demanding job as well. So i stretch every morning. I dont give cute names and call them poses. I guess im a closet yoga dude.
  • + 2
 I don't know what else you could call Happy Baby!
  • + 1
 All mountain bikers know they should stretch more but they don't prioritize it because being tight usually doesn't stop us from riding. Like most people on PB I will physically do whatever it takes to get myself back on my bike after an injury, however the moment I can ride again I stop rehabbing and I start pushing to be as fast as I was before I got hurt. I've even foregone proper surgery to avoid downtime. The glenoid labrum in my left shoulder has been unattached for 7 years but instead of taking a year off to have it attached I spend extra time in the gym working on it to ensure my shoulder is stable. Why? Because there's a direct connection between that injury and my ability to ride. Until riders can make that direct mental connection with yoga, the majority are not going to spend enough time on it.
  • + 1
 It's always harder to force yourself to act preventatively as opposed to responding to circumstance. And there is definitely a correlation between age and compliance when it comes to recovery techniques. That and other factors including financial and status trade offs. The highest paid athletes in the world are more than happy to take that downtime if they know there's a chance they'll come back stronger.
  • + 4
 @yoga15app this is ace, especially the 15 min yoga vids! Thank you!
  • + 1
 No worries! Let me know how you get on.
  • + 4
 Been waiting for this, time to work out the rigor mortis.
  • + 2
 Where has this article been all my life... just what I was looking for after finding tightness was starting to impact my riding. Thx Abi
  • + 1
 No worries! Let me know which poses work for you.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Loving "2. Low Lunge with Sidebend" - doing it immediately after a ride and a few hours later too.

Finding the Psoas and Iliacus muscles give me the most grief so this stretches them more than other stretches I've tried.
  • + 1
 @bushwacked: Have you tried Half Reclining Hero? That might be a good pose for you too:

www.yoga15.com/half-reclining-hero
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Excellent - just seen this and had a go - certainly hits a spot. I'll add it in to my "routine" Thanks.
  • + 3
 Why can't I look good when I stretch like that? I look like mangled roadkill.
  • + 1
 Oh thanks, after months spent building trails in elevation over 2500m in week and riding on weekends, this really helped my back to get rid off the pain
  • + 2
 Awesome! Let me know if you have any questions.
  • + 2
 Stretching is good. Pizza and beer are good as well, which is hard to give up. If it tastes good, then its good for ya
  • + 3
 I think you can have all of them. Just make sure you do them in that order.
  • + 3
 This is great! Thanks Abi !
  • + 1
 My pleasure!
  • - 1
 Hhmmmm, where to start....stretching is stretching not Yoga....I think this was Abi's first MTB festival...there are plenty of MTB riders who stretch before and after riding...for starters have you seen the pictures of the BCBR coverage?
  • + 1
 You're right. I met a lot of riders who already stretch and tonnes that do yoga. But I came across even more that don't. Some mtb disciplines encourage it more than others. I'm just trying to reach the riders that haven't experienced the benefits yet.
  • - 1
 Stretching has never been proven to aid in either performance or recovery, and most studies dinner on stretching have actually indicated that it does more harm than good. For reference, Google "stretching is bad" and you will see a plethora of recent articles showing the results of recent studies. My experience is that stretching does absolutely nothing to improve my performance or aid in my recovery, and I never get pulled muscles or cramps.
  • + 1
 "Don't stretch injured muscles" My muscles are always injured because I becycle allt the time! Razz
  • - 2
 Seriously, how many times do you all need to be reminded to stretch, eat well, and the benefits of yoga shoved down your throats?

"The first lesson I took away from Crankworx is that mountain bikers do not like to stretch." - What a ridiculous blanket statement about millions of people who mountain bike. And this profound conclusion was reached after speaking to, how many, a dozen or so riders?

Then this - "but mountain biking could be the only sport in the world that actually encourages stretch shaming!" - Give me a break, do you really believe that an entire culture encourages stretch shaming? Who have you seen openly shame another for stretching? I've never once EVER heard someone get shamed or shame another for stretching.
  • + 2
 My apologies folks, I must have woke up on the "cranky jerk" side of the bed this morning. Sorry Abi for the negative vibes. Keep doing your thing girl. Respect.
  • + 2
 Guilty. I need to make time for stretching.
  • + 1
 Biking is not good for my posture , I definitely benefit from the small amount of yoga that I do
  • + 1
 The posture is a little unnatural!
  • + 2
 Literally just blew my lower back out this morning, timely article!
  • + 3
 Aye - It's all true..
  • + 1
 hate to nit pick but... what is releasing "muscular muscles"?
A typo, or tautological term i'm not aware of?
  • + 1
 Just a mistake. I'll ask the editorial team to correct it. Thanks.
  • + 1
 I can teach you how to get stiches if you teach me streches Smile
  • - 3
 Sorry to break it to you all but static stretching (as pictured here) doesn't do anything to lengthen tissue and improve flexibility. Do some research and check out PNF stretching or Dynamic stretching techniques, those actually DO something for your muscles. If you want a recovery technique try intermittent compression or a cold water walk, THOSE techniques actually have some validity....
  • + 0
 You can neg prop him as much as you want, but he is right.
  • + 10
 Sources? Genuinely interested because I find most of these stretches very effective in improving my flexibility and helping recovery.
  • + 13
 Damn, all those times I've released tension on joints or muscles from static stretching must all just be in my mind. Screw it, I'll sit on the couch more.
  • + 6
 @L0rdTom: I think this peer reviewed article contains some very useful information:

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886
  • + 2
 been playing hockey goalie my whole life, dynamic stretching was what's taught. i could do a (near) split pain/injury free while reacting to a shot while still unable to touch my toes with straight knees.
  • - 5
flag kubaner (Aug 31, 2017 at 16:42) (Below Threshold)
 Yeah because when I'm done with a ride I really want to train myself to do a split or scratch my ass with my toe Glad you chimed in
  • + 1
 @pakleni: Thanks, Its not a matter or right or wrong really. It's what works for you and if you "think" it works than go for it. All I am saying is that there is almost no research to prove that static stretching does anything to help you become more flexible. Remeber Yoga is NOT static stretching, it is dynamic and included stabilty and breathing components to it.
  • - 1
 @L0rdTom: Check out the placebo effect! If you think it works than go for it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss but it won't help you get better in the end.
  • + 3
 @drumhellraiser: Thank You! I hate it when someone says "just do some research" like, if your argument is coming from anywhere maybe you could do a better job of showing it?
  • + 4
 @makemymountain: I think you missed something. I think Abi is saying that stretching can prevent riders from becoming less flexible through riding. That is different than saying that stretching makes you more flexible
  • + 11
 It's not true to say that static stretching doesn't do anything to lengthen tissue and improve flexibility. Here is a link to an article that covers much of the research: www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/2013/11/18/stretching

The flexibility gains may be small and other methods may also be effective but my objective with this article is to give you the absolute bare minimum you can do in terms of athletic recovery. It's undeniably important that you cool down after a ride before you get in your car or start drinking heavily - and if all I can get you to do is a few stretches, then my work here is done. If you see the benefits and want to look into other recovery methods that I suggest - yoga, foam rolling, saunas, ice baths, physios, massage, meditation, diet - then I may have actually made a real difference.

With this article, I just wanted to point out the elephant in the room. Riders are sacrificing performance gains and causing themselves immense amounts of pain by neglecting their recovery, and this is the simplest way they can start to fix this.
  • - 1
 @yoga15app: All I am saying is that when you say that decreased extensibility or ROM can be changed by static stretching you are assuming that it is the muscle's tightness that is doing this. This can be a dangerous assumtion. There are a lot of parts work here, it could be a joint impingement, neural tension, fascia restriction, past injury, etc and if you just assume its the muscle you are neglecting all these other factors. If you are talking about recovery applications then yoga (aka dynamic flexibility) or foam rollling is the best, or maybe taking a cold bath for 10 min. If riders who are focused on recovery can't do any of those then they don't really care in my opinion, static stretching is way down on the list of simple things to do post ride for recover sake. Also that article didnt exactly prove your point....
  • + 2
 @makemymountain: I don’t agree that by asserting that stretching out after a ride can positively affect range of motion that I am assuming that muscle tightness is the only mechanism at play here. In the pointers, I indicate that relaxation—slow down your breathing and relax into the stretches, exploration—move around until you find a tight spot and hold that position, and awareness are all part of the process. Unfortunately, the most common word we have for this is stretching which doesn’t express the nuance of the activity. My objective with this article is help riders loosen up. I believe that awareness of what is going on in your bodies is the first step and that stretching is the easiest way to start a process of restoring missing key ranges of motion. That is why I call post-ride stretching a gateway drug to yoga and say that there is nothing magical about it. You may be right that cold baths and foam rolling are more effective recovery methods but I don’t agree that it follows that if riders haven't chosen to invest time in them it means they don’t care. I hope this clarifies my intention with this article.
  • + 1
 Ah yes, Abi, we share the same frustration! Nice work as usual!
  • + 1
 Haha! I bet you have some interesting insights into the reluctance of mountain bikers to focus on athletic recovery. To be fair, stretching is fairly boring!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app is the app on google play I can't seem to find it.
  • + 2
 The best place to go is my site: www.yoga15.com. From there you can get free access to all my vids for a limited period to see if it gives you the benefits you are looking for.
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