AJ Zelinski, DC, ART, founder of Advanced Rehabilitation, says the most common injuries and pain his practice sees from cycling are knee pain, lower back pain and neck pain from being in a forward position for long periods of time. The following stretches will help to avoid the most common complaints of pain from cycling activities.
1. Psoas/Quad Stretch - The psoas and quadriceps group are the largest power muscles involved in cycling and are the greatest cause of hip, lower back and even knee pain. They are also responsible for power generation while pushing down on the pedals. If you have ever experienced back pain or tightness after a ride, it is usually caused by tightness in this group of muscles. The best way to stretch this group of muscles is to lay on your side while on the ground - with the bottom leg forward and the top leg backward, and both knees bent at 90 degrees. While keeping the bottom leg up close to the chest, move your elbow, which is in contact with the ground, backward until you feel a stretch in your hips and quads. Hold for 8-10 seconds and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times before and especially after riding. This stretch is preferable to any other stretch for the IT band as well, and will help to alleviate any IT band pain at the knee.
2. Calf Stretch - Stretching the gastrocnemius and soleus will help to prevent any ankle, foot and Achilles pain. The best way to stretch this muscle group is to stand against a wall, while pushing against it with one leg forward and the other leg backward. Stretch the back leg by pushing the
leg straight and leaning forward. This stretch addresses the gastrocnemius. Then while keeping the heel down, gently bend the knee to stretch the soleus. Hold each stretch for 8-10 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side.
3. Pectoral Stretch - These muscles are tightened during a ride due to the forward bent position. This stretch is accomplished by standing in a doorway with arms outstretched. Keep the elbows below shoulder level and lean forward until a GENTLE stretch is felt in the chest and neck. Add the neck into this stretch by gently leaning your head back during this stretch to a point of stretching. This stretch can be done for 8-10 seconds, 2-3 times before, during, and after a ride.
4. Latissmus Dorsi and Quadratus Lumborum Stretch - These two muscles are not attached, but are able to be stretched in the same manner. Both also start in the lower back and are often strained after a long ride, due to the fact that they are lengthened during cycling and do not get much movement. This will cause them to tighten and cause pain. Start by standing with your feet apart a little wider than shoulder width. Raise one arm over the head and lean towards the opposite side. Reach all the way over your head, until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat 2-3
times on each side.
5. Adductor Stretch - These muscles are also responsible for a great deal of power generation during the cycling stroke. To stretch this group, place your leg onto an elevated service, while keeping your knee bent about 45 degrees. Lean forward into your knee and slowly start to straighten out your leg until a gentle stretch is felt. Then gently turn your body until you are facing 90 degrees from the leg on the table. Gently bend forward until a stretch is felt into your inner thigh. This is actually stretching your adductor group. This group can get very tight after long rides, or when riding in a position where your knees are pulling into the top tube of your bike, such as during a race, or time trial.