Common stretches and yoga poses ideal for cyclists
1 Calf stretch into a wall
After a gentle warm-up, start the sequence with this stretch/yoga pose favoured by runners and used in numerous disciplines. Stand facing a wall with toes pointing forward. Place your hands ﬂat against the wall at shoulder height. Bring one leg behind you (around half a metre) then place the foot ﬂat on the ﬂoor (making sure your toes are still pointed straight forward).
Slowly lean forward over your front leg, but keep your back knee straight and your heel ﬂat on the ﬂoor. You should feel this stretch in the big muscle of your calf (gastrocnemius). If you then bend your back knee slightly (keeping the foot ﬂat on the ﬂoor) the stretch should be felt lower down your calf (soleus). Hold for at least 15 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
2 Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
A great all-in-one that elongates and releases tension throughout the entire spinal column, opens the hips and stretches the back of the legs. If your hamstrings are particularly tight, step the feet wider apart in all variations and/or bend the knees slightly. The heels can also be placed against a wall. Begin on all fours with your hands slightly in front of the shoulders on the ﬂoor and toes tucked forwards.
On an exhalation, keeping your toes tucked under, lift your knees from the ﬂoor, straightening your legs and raising your bottom while moving onto the soles of your feet and working to press your heels into the ﬂoor. Push through the shoulders so the bottom is pushed back and the stretch can be felt through the back and hamstrings. Repeat a few times. Take at least ﬁve breaths.
3 Expanded leg pose (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Begin with your feet very wide apart (the wider apart the feet, the easier it will be on the hamstrings). Placing your hands on your hips, inhale deeply and then bend forward on the exhale, bringing the torso only as far down as you can while maintaining a long spine. If your hamstrings are particularly tight, the knees can be bent slightly, releasing any tension in your back.
Variation A: Place your hands on a pile of books placed below shoulder level. Work towards eventually placing your hands in between the feet. Variation B: Interlace your ﬁngers behind your back and fold your torso over, allowing the arms to come overhead. A belt held between your hands can be used if your shoulders and arms are initially too tight to yield.
4 Quad stretch
This is one of many preparatory stretches for back-bends – the ultimate cycle posture reversal. This stretch focuses on the quadriceps and hip ﬂexors and eventually the spine, as well as opening the chest and shoulder muscles. Start on all fours with the soles of your feet against a wall. Place a blanket underneath the knees if this is uncomfortable. Take your right knee off the ﬂoor and place it against the wall with your toes pointing upwards on the wall and your shin against the wall.
Slide your knee down towards the ﬂoor, making sure that the shin and knee are in contact with the wall at all times. Re-arrange the left leg so that the sole of the foot is now on the ﬂoor. The left shin and thigh should be making a 90-degree angle. Take at least ﬁve breaths. This is an intense stretch. Gradually take your hands off the ﬂoor and on an inhale, place your hands lightly on your left knee.
5 Camel pose (Ustrasana)
This yoga pose opens the groin, thighs and entire back, as well as stretching the muscles in the chest, the front of the shoulders and back of the neck. With the soles of your feet against the wall and your toes tucked under, sit in a kneeling position. Slowly rise up off your heels, bringing the thighs and torso upright.
Inhale and gradually move your back into an arc on the exhale until the back of your head makes contact with the wall. Bring your hands towards your heels. If you can’t reach them, you can place a pile of thick books on either side of your shins and reach those. Take at least ﬁve breaths.
6 Seated glute stretch and hip opener
This step in the sequence provides a deep stretch in the glutes and opens the hips. Sitting on a chair, have the sole of the right foot on the ﬂoor in line with the right knee. Place your left ankle on and just beyond the right knee. Keeping the spine as long as possible, inhale then fold at the hips on the exhale, bringing your torso over your left shin.
Take at least ﬁve breaths. As you relax into the stretch you may eventually be able to place both forearms on the legs. The right forearm rests on the inside of the left foot while the left forearm is placed at the front of the right knee (over the left foot).
7 Revolved belly pose (Athara Parivartanasana)
This is a good stretch for those with particularly stiff backs. It releases tension in the spinal column, hips and shoulders and relieves discomfort in the lumbar spine. Lying on your back with your knees bent, bring them into your chest. Inhale and, with the next exhalation, roll your knees to the right side and rest them on a pillow.
Stretch both arms outwards along the ﬂoor to open the space between the shoulder blades then, as the lower back gradually releases, straighten the legs out slowly, aiming to eventually have your toes touch the hand nearest them.
8 Supported bound angle pose (Salamba Supta Baddha Khonasana)
This yoga stretch helps alleviate most cyclists’ complaint zones. It’s a completely passive stretch and can be held for as long as you like and, best of all, it feels great. Sit on the ﬂoor directly in front of the end of a bolster (or a few folded blankets), and bring the soles of the feet together so that your legs form a diamond shape. Reclining on your elbows, lie back onto the bolster and stay like that for 5-10 minutes. This stretch releases tension in the diaphragm, chest and shoulders, and the groin and hips.