Simple Stretching for Mountain Bikers

Lives today seem to be lived at warp speed, filling each minute of the day with either work, kids or some other activity that we love to do. For most of you reading this, the ‘other activity’ is mountain biking—getting out onto the trails at the weekend is what makes the daily grind worthwhile. Stretching probably isn’t high up on the list of prioritised activities; it may sit somewhere between food shopping and cleaning the bathroom!
However I am here to tell you that it should be much higher up on that list. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an onerous task and it doesn’t require a lot of time.
Stretching will offer the following benefits:

  • Reduce risk of injury to tendons and muscles.
  • Increase range of movement.
  • Reduce muscle soreness and tension.

Static stretching will also help calm the nervous system, help you relax and should promote better sleep.
The program outlined here will take no more that 10-15 minutes to complete and I’ve selected stretches that can be completed while taking some downtime in the evening, whilst watching TV or before you go to bed.
Hold each of these stretches for a minimum of 20 seconds; this will overcome the ‘stretch reflex’ which is an automatic reaction from the body in response to a stretch. The reflex momentarily contracts the muscle to protect it from being damaged by a rapid stretched beyond its limit.

Important Points

  • Do not bounce during any of the stretches.
  • Do not stretch to the point where it hurts, if there is pain then you are stretching further than you need to.
  • You may feel mild discomfort or tension in the targeted muscle.
  • Every move you make should be smooth and controlled.

 

 

Downward Facing Dog
Taken from yoga, this one is designed to stretch the hamstrings, open up the chest, shoulders and hips, and release tension from your spine.
Hold this stretch for 20 to 60 seconds.

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your hand directly below your shoulders. Move your knees about 10cm behind your hips.
  • Tuck your toes under, lift your knees off the floor and push your hips up towards the sky.
  • Make sure your hands are firmly rooted to the floor, with fingers spread wide and your index finger pointing forwards.
  • Feet should be hip width apart and parallel to one another.
  • Let your chest push back towards your thighs.
  • Try to roll your biceps away from your ears; this will engage your arms and create space between your shoulders and ears.
  • Push your thighs back and try to stretch your heels down toward the floor. Don’t force it however; for some of you, your heels will not reach the floor, and that is fine—it is not a competition!
  • If you have tight hamstrings then you are much better off bending your knees and pushing your tailbone up and back than struggling with getting your heels down.

 

 

 

Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are the muscles at the front of the hips and they are responsible for moving the leg at the top of the pedal stroke.
Most of us have tight hip flexors from sitting for the majority of the day.
Tight hip flexors can inhibit the strongest group of muscles in the body (the glutes) and prevent them from working to their full capacity. The glutes can create a lot of power in the pedal stroke, so to realise your full potential on the bike, make sure you stretch your hip flexors on a daily basis.

  • Hold this stretch for 20 to 60 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
  • Place your right knee (the front one) directly over your right ankle.
  • Position your left knee directly under the left hip.
  • To get a good stretch in the hip flexor area tuck your tailbone under. You can achieve this by squeezing your glutes (butt muscles) and contract your abs at the same time.
  • If you need more of a stretch then raise your left arm and gently stretch up and over towards the right.

 

 

 

Quads
Many riders have overly strong quads in comparison to their hamstrings and glutes. This has a tendency to pull the hips into a posture where your tailbone sticks out backwards and your hip bones stick out forward.

  • The pressing of the pubic bone in to the floor during this stretch will help to counteract this poor hip posture.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 to 60 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
  • Laying on your front, use your left arm as a place to rest your forehead.
  • Reach behind you with your right hand and grab the top of your right foot. 
  • Gently pull your right foot towards your butt and actively press your pubic bone towards the ground.

 

 

 

Brettzel Stretch
This is a great combination stretch. Many functional movement and mobility coaches would choose this stretch if they had to choose only one stretch they could ever do.
It works on mid spine mobility as well as stretching your shoulder, thighs and hips. It is a stretch that all mountain bikers and desk jockeys should be doing every day.

Brettzel-12.jpg  Brettzel-21.jpg  Brettzel-31.jpg

  • Use a rolled up towel or pillow to support your head.
  • Position yourself as in the first picture, lying on your left side.
  • Your top leg (right leg) needs to be at a 90 degree angle to your torso and hold onto the knee from the underneath with your opposite hand.
  • It is really important to set yourself up correctly in this stretch. Hips should be stacked and shoulders stacked so there is initially no rotation in the spine at all.
  • Next, bend the leg that’s underneath so your heel moves back towards your butt, and take hold of your foot or ankle with your other hand.
  • If you cannot grab your left foot/ankle with your right hand then use a belt to loop round your foot and take hold of the belt.
  • Now for the movement; try to turn your top shoulder towards the right opening up your chest towards the sky. Let your head follow the same movement as your shoulder.
  • Breathe deeply and try to pull each leg away from the hand that is holding it for a couple of seconds, this should create tension in the muscles.
  • Release the contraction of the muscles but still keep hold of the knee and foot, you should be able to sink a little bit deeper into the stretch.
  • Repeat this four or five times and then repeat on the other side.

 

About the Author:

Sarah Hunter is a performance cycle coach for FTP Training and a personal trainer based in Perth. She loves mountain biking and has finished in the top three at the Cape to Cape MTB race. When she isn’t coaching others to achieve their goals, you may find her out on the trails, or mixing it up with some surfing, running and lifting heavy weights!

www.ftptraining.com
www.hunterpt.com.au

 

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