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Stretching for Mountain Bikers: 101

Learn what to stretch and how to stretch it

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©Beth Puliti

Do you feel like you need a translator when you speak to your doctor? Ever come away scratching your head after trying to interpret an article about fitness? You aren’t the only one. The good news: you won’t find that here. Two-time “Sports Physician of the Year” and owner of MaxHealth LA, Rob Pomahac, DC, offers his favorite stretches for cyclists--in an easy-to-understand fashion. 

1. Your calf muscles. Both of them. Most people don't realize that you have two calf muscles in each leg: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Also, make sure to hit the inner and outer calf muscles. To hit the gastroc, you need to make sure you keep your leg straight and for the soleus
you need to keep your knee bent. Sit on the floor, use a small towel and place it around the ball of your foot. Keep your knee straight, use both hands to pull towards yourself. First pull with both hands equally, then pull more with your outside hand to hit the outsider calf muscle, then pull more with your inside hand to fire the inside part of your calf. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat this same procedure, except this time bend your knee to 30 degrees.

2. Your hamstrings. You have three of them. They extend from your hips and help bend the knee. Sit down and lift your leg up against a bench or the back of your truck. Lean forward, trying to touch your toes. But the key is your foot placement. You want to position your feet so they are pointing towards you. To stretch your inner, outer and central components of your left hamstring, first, the toes should be pointed directly at you to hit all the hamstring muscles. Then point your toes towards your left shoulder to hit the lateral hamstrings. And finally, point your toes towards your right shoulder to stretch out your inner hamstrings.

3. Your mid back. The cycling position puts your thoracic spine in a flexed or hyper-kyphosis posture. So, to open up your mid back and improve your lung capacity, stand up, place both of your hands on the back of your hips and extend backwards. The great tip: First find your core neutral and
engage your stomach muscle and your gluts and this way you can focus on the stretch through your mid back region and less on your lower back. This will help isolate the stretch and improve its effectiveness.

4. Your neck. Stop with the forward head posture. Two stretches here: extension and then retraction. First, stand up tall. Find your pelvic neutral and extend your head back as far as you can without extending your upper back. Second, once again while standing, retract your neck as if you are trying to make a double chin occur. To visually picture this stretch, pretend like someone is punching you in the chin and your chin is moving straight back.

5. Don't forget your quads. All four quadriceps are powerful extensors of the knee joint. They are crucial in cycling. Stand up tall, engage your core to keep your pelvic neutral and then reach back with your hand and grab your foot at the top of the ankle, and pull up towards your bum. The quads are a very large muscle group, so they deserve a very slow stretch, careful not to pull too hard too fast, then rotate the legs.

All stretch poses should be held for 15 seconds and repeated for three sets.

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