Last week we launched Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, our new 57-page eBook in which my co-author and I 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.
The new eBook was specifically created for the cyclist. Since we cyclists use primarily our lower body, these muscles get used repetitively and are usually tight. Coupled with the fact that many of us sit in an office chair all day (or otherwise sit around), these muscles get even tighter. A tight muscle is a short muscle, and stretching helps lengthen muscles so they can perform at their best. Strengthening the core further improves our ability to ride (and live our daily lives) relatively pain-free.
(My co-author, Amy Schultz, is my daughter; she’s 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.)
We don’t all necessarily want to be faster on the bike. But I think 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.
One of the points I made in last week’s article (click for additonal info on how to put together your own program using the book) is that you can and should choose your favoriate stretches and core exercises for your personal routine(s). In that light, I thought I would share my own personal favorites today and next week. This week, I’ll talk about my favorite stretching exercises and explain why they’re my favorites. Next week, I’ll talk about my favorite core exercises.
Once you go through the eBook and try a variety of the stretches and core strengthening exercises, you will quickly see what you will need to work on and find your own favorites.
My Favorite Stretching Exercises
All of the exercises in the book are good and worth doing (if you’re able; don’t overdo it, and don’t try the advanced exercises unless you’re capable). But after studying pedaling efficiency and pedaling dynamics as part of my training as a USA Cycling level 2 coach, my favorite stretches are the HIP FLEXORS, OBLIQUES and QUADRICEPS (pages 8-10), basically any exercise that stretches and strengthens the hip flexors.
Why? Because the hip flexors are what kick in at the bottom dead center (BDC) of the pedal stroke and are used to drive up the knee until the hamstrings can kick in. Here’s one of those stretches, along with the description from the book on the proper technique.
For this stretch, we will isolate the hip flexors and concentrate on stretching one side at a time. You might also feel a stretch in the quadriceps, the large muscle that comprises the front of the upper leg.
It’s more comfortable for your knees if you kneel on a yoga mat or a pillow. Place one leg in front and bend the knee at 90°. The other leg is kneeling on the mat or pillow with the upper leg slightly rear of vertical. Twist the hips forward and upward. Looking at this picture, the hips would rotate clockwise. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg. Add more repetitions as time permits.
My two other favorite stretches are the TENSOR FASCIAE LATAE & IT BAND (page 17) and the combined BASIC LOWER BACK (page 29 and 31). Most cyclists, myself included, have tight IT bands and a slightly hunched-over posture from cycling as well as spending hours a day in an office chair. These two stretches will address both those issues.
Next Week: My Favorite Core Exercises
My favorite core workout is the PLANK: DOWNWARD DOG (page 44). This great combination exercise not only works core strength but helps stretch the hamstrings and calves – two other muscle groups that are often tight.
I’ll tell you more about why I like this one, and a couple of others, and we’ll show you the photos and provide the text description of Downward Dog next week.
Those are my favorites, what are yours? Use the Comments below the Newsletter version of this article to share your thoughts.
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.
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Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he's a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He's the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick's full bio.