By Rick Schultz & Amy Schultz
We don't all necessarily want to be faster on the bike. But every last one of us roadies would like to maintain the strength we have, or get even stronger, in our core. And we undoubtedly all would like to be pain-free when we ride.
A regular stretching and core strengthening routine can help you achieve any or all of those 3 aims. But there are a dizzying array of stretching and strengthening exercises, so how do you know which ones will help you the most for cycling?
It's this confusion and lack of understanding that helps explain why so few cyclists add stretching and core strengthening to their regular exercise routine – even though they deliver myriad valuable benefits, not just for cycling but for everyday life.
In Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, our new 57-page eBook, Coach Rick Schultz and Amy Schultz clear up the confusion and take the guesswork out of knowing what to do, and how to do it, to implement a stretching and core strengthening program. (Our companion eBook, Strengthening and Stabilization Training for the Cyclist, targets effective overall strengthening and stabilization exercises specifically geared toward cyclists.)
(Amy Schultz is completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, is an accomplished cyclist and has done extensive research on athletes and injury prevention. Amy demonstrates the proper form for all the stretching and core exercises in the eBook.)
They start by walking you through a description of the various "cyling muscles" and what functions they perform in cycling. Example from the eBook:
"Quadriceps: A giant and powerful set of 4 muscles that make up the entire front of the thigh. They start at the hip and femur and end at the kneecap. Their main purpose is to straighten the knee and help bend or flex the hip. In cycling, quadriceps are used to generate the huge downforce/push required to propel the bicycle forward. Stretching and strengthening the quadriceps will allow the muscle to contract further and harder."
Then they discuss the array of benefits of both stretching and core strengthening exercises. Here's one example:
"Bridge: Bridges help to get rid of back pain caused by sitting hunched over all day long (most positions in a daily American routine). Strengthens your spinal muscles, which can prevent slipped discs. Works core, back, glutes, and hamstrings. Conditions the spine in order to prepare for heavy and explosive movements, improves posture, gives the entire front of your body an incredible stretch, results in extra endurance."
And they take you through a series of more than 15 different stretching exercises, with additional variations, and some 32 (including variations) core strengthening exercises. Here's one example:
Hip Flexors & Obliques
The hip flexors and obliques are used in cycling to help lift the legs through the bottom dead center of the pedal stroke. This is where the legs are most extended. In this specific part of the pedal stroke, the legs are neither pushing nor pulling. This is where the cyclist uses the hip flexors and obliques to lift the (lower) leg from about 5 o'clock to about 7 o'clock, where the hamstrings start working again. Due to this fairly limited range of motion, the hip flexors and obliques are often tight, robbing the cyclist of power. Continued repetitive motion and lack of stretching often causes the hip flexors to get tighter and tighter
You will first do this stretch with your right foot forward, then with your left foot forward. Plant your forward foot firmly on the ground then step back with your other foot so that your back foot is on its toes. Raise the hand and arm that is on the same side as the rear foot and slightly bend your body. Feel the stretch in the hip flexors and obliques.
Hold for 30 seconds each side.
Most of the exercises are easy to do (with more difficult ones labeled as such), and all are clearly illustrated with actual photos of my co-author demonstrating the proper technique. (My co-author, Amy Schultz, is my daughter, who is an accomplished cyclist and is getting her doctorate in physical therapy. She's done extensive research on athletes and injury prevention and has taught me an enormous amount about human performance.)
Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, our new 57-page eBook, with with nearly 50 different stretching and core exercises (including variations) is just $14.95 / $12.71 for Premium Members with their automatic 15% discount.
Don't forget to check out the companion eBook: Strengthening and Stabilization Training for the Cyclist, to round out your training.
Note: this is an eBook. Your purchase will be stored as a PDF file in your customer account on the website for downloading and printing.