Do you often feel sore after a long mountain bike ride? Do you dream of keeping your body in the best shape possible to be ready for a long-distance trip? Or are you just naturally less flexible than others and are looking for ways to loosen up your stiff muscles? Whichever question applies to you, learning about stretching for mountain bikers would definitely improve your riding experience.
Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’re committed to offering our readers in-depth information about all things outdoors. Lucky for you, this is the right place to pick up tips that could help solve your mountain biking woes. Get ready as this article offers a bunch of useful advice about stretching for mountain bikers. We also discuss why it’s so important to stretch.
WHY STRETCHING FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS IS SO IMPORTANT
Mountain biking is a pretty intense sport. From extended mental focus to exhausting muscle use, it requires a lot from the human body. In fact, it works out the entire body. If you want to go mountain biking, you’ll need endurance, determination, balance and core strength.
Moreover, the way your body is positioned on the bike results in your legs neither being fully bent nor extended. Your knee joints are never taken to their entire range of motion, as noted by Bike Radar. This is also why it’s important to set the mountain bike seat height properly. Mountain biking is one of the handful of sports where muscles contract only concentrically (shortening) and not eccentrically (lengthening).
The rest of your body, except for your arms and head, barely move at all when mountain biking. Instead, these parts stay in the same position for long periods of time which may cause stress as well.
All these things require you to take proper care of your muscles before, after and sometimes even during your ride. Stiff joints and muscles will eventually result in injuries, as shared by Stretch Coach. So, logically, you are able to reduce your chance of getting injured by stretching.
Stretching is a key aspect of warm up and cool down exercises, so it shouldn’t be skipped. You’ll find an overview of the best exercises for stretching for mountain bikers below.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/mel-nik
7 MOUNTAIN BIKING STRETCHING EXERCISES
The following stretches for mountain bikers focus on the lower body, particularly the muscles used most often and most intensively. There are also a couple of exercises for the joints in the upper body.
Always make sure to stretch after a gentle warm up exercise. Stretching cold muscles is a bad idea because these are more prone to tearing and getting pulled. A light jog, laid-back bike ride or other cardiovascular activities could easily get your muscles warmed up.
The classic calf stretch is used in various sports and is one of the most well-known stretching exercises. This is how to do it.
Face a wall with your toes pointing toward it. Place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Stick one leg out behind you and put that foot flat on the ground. This leg should be kept straight. Take a small step forward with the other leg and put the foot flat on the ground as well. This other leg should be bent. Make sure your toes are pointing toward the wall.
Now, slowly lean forward but keep your upper body and back leg straight. You should feel the stretch in the big muscle of your calf. If you don’t feel much, you can try to push against the wall with your hands. Throughout this exercise, make sure that your upper body remains straight all the time. Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15 seconds. Then, switch the positions of your legs and repeat the exercise.
The Achilles tendon is the long tendon that connects your heel to your calf muscle. This is one of the most important (and vulnerable) tendons in your leg, if not in your whole body. It’s used constantly not only while walking but also biking. However, the difference is that walking is a varied activity while pedaling a bike is a monotonous movement. You need to make sure your legs are prepared and strengthened.
Although tendons can’t stretch like muscles as they don’t contract and extend, you can stretch them and the area around them a little bit. Simply stand on a raised object such as a sidewalk or stairs. Put the ball of your foot on the edge of the object. Slightly bend your knee and drop your heel down to the floor. You’ll feel a slight stretch in your heel and your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and switch legs.
The quadriceps is the biggest muscle in your body. It is also the most used muscle when cycling. Everyone who experienced biking uphill has felt the burn in their quads. This is why it’s important to stretch this huge muscle properly.
Quad stretching for mountain bikers is easy, though. Stand up straight and reach back to grab your foot, either one, above the ankle. Lift your lower leg backward to reach it. Once you’ve grabbed your ankle, pull it toward your butt. Take your time for this stretching exercise. It’s an important one. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds before changing legs.
Because of the cyclical motion of pedaling a bike, cyclists, including mountain bikers, develop powerful but short hamstring muscles. Compared with runners, who typically have long hamstrings, cyclists may suffer from tightness in these particular muscles. It is clear that stretching your hamstrings is key to avoid injuries.
This stretching exercise is as easy as they come. Standing up, bend over forward at your waist. Let your hands and arms dangle down while slightly bending your knees outward. You don’t need to touch the ground to make this a good stretch. Just bend over as far as you can. You’ll feel the stretch in both your hamstrings at some point. Hold that position for at least 15 seconds.
Running down the side of your legs, the IT band is responsible for leg control and balance. For mountain bikers, it’s the section between the knee and hip that’s most used. Keeping the IT band flexible is important because it can cause knee problems and tendonitis if it’s inflamed or too tight.
Sit on a chair and put one of your legs across the knee of the other leg. As you gently push down on the knee of the raised leg, you should feel a stretch on the outer portion of that leg. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Your wrists absorb shocks while mountain biking, so it’s a good idea to loosen them up before you start your ride. Stick out your arms and position them parallel to the ground. Simply rotate your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise. Use one hand to pull the other upward and downward.
SHOULDERS AND NECK
Both paying attention to traffic and other mountain bikers as well as focusing on the trail demand a lot from your shoulder and neck muscles. Loosen them up in the same way you would loosen your wrists. Stand and gently let your head roll in a circle. Rotate several times in both directions.
Loosen your shoulders by shrugging and holding that shrugged position for five to 10 seconds. Repeat the movement a number of times.