Movement, Activation and Stretching for Indoor Cycling

Movement, Activation and Stretching for Indoor Cycling

Unlock better performance in the bike studio by bookending your workout with mobility movements, activation exercises, and stretching. Warming up your body before your next workout helps prepare your muscle tissues for the intense efforts to come. And by stretching after the workout, you help loosen up the muscles and provide space for muscular recovery.

“Dynamic movement pre-lubricates the joints and then primes your big muscle groups for what they are about to do,” Matthew Smith, owner of REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance in Boulder, CO explains. “The activation connects brain to muscle, doing these drills prior to riding can help you be more efficient with your muscle usage. It’s all about setting the foundation for what you’re about to do.”

Smith and his team at REVO work with athletes of all levels to improve strength and mobility off the bike so they can ride harder, chase more PRs, and feel better on the bike. Check out his top recommended exercises to do before and after your next workout and feel the difference that stretching and extra movement can make.

Mobility Movements

Warmup Mobility: In the few minutes before you ride, start by standing next to your bike and pull one knee to your chest, then immediately back into a quad stretch. Repeat this 3-5 times on each leg.

Next, pull your leg up into a cradle position, holding your knee and lower calf with your shin horizontal to the floor. Repeat 3-5 times on each leg. These movements should be fluid and gentle.

Next, reach your hands up and arch your back for a thoracic extension. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently twist your upper body to add some rotation for your spine. 

Activation Exercises

When we ride, we want to use our glutes instead of solely our hamstrings. Cycling is notoriously quad heavy, so balancing this with glute activation is super helpful for cycling efficiency.

Fire Hydrant: Tip your trunk forward just slightly, bending both legs to a half-squat position. Then lift your leg up and out to the side, moving six inches away and lifting to a fire hydrant position to engage your glute. Your knee should move out to the side and back slightly. Start with a static hold for 10 seconds at the top of the movement, then 10 repetitions before you switch sides.

Skate: For the next exercise, stand up almost straight with a very gently knee bend and push your foot out to the side and a little bit back in a skating motion. Again, start with a static hold for 10 second and then 10 repetitions on each side. This should get your glute ready for action! If you’re interested, you can use an elastic band for these two exercises. Use the band above your knees for the fire hydrant movement and around your ankles for the skate movement. 

Now that your lower body is engaged, you’re ready to hop on the bike! 

Stretching

After your workout, one of the most important muscles to stretch is your hip flexor. This muscle stretches from the head of your femur up to your lumbar spine. When we bike, this muscle is contracted by our bent-over position on the bike. This stretch is most effective right before we go to bed, but as Matt reminds us, “Whatever routine allows you to do it consistently is the best routine.” 

Couch Stretch: Start in a lunge position with your right knee on the ground and your left knee in front of you with both knees at a 90-degree angle. Then tuck your tailbone under, raise your left arm, and feel the stretch in the front of your left hip. Push your hip forward and lean into the gentle stretch.

We can make the most of this stretch by sitting in this position for 3-5 minutes in a low intensity stretch on both legs. If you do not feel a stretch in your hip, scootch over to a couch and prop your back foot up on the cushions to add some intensity, pulling your right quad into a deeper stretch. Make sure you do this stretch either on the carpet or with a pillow or matt under your knee. 

If you’re looking for bonus points, move into a long lunge hip opener. With one leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle and the other behind you in a deep lounge, put both hands on the ground inside your front leg. Then lean into your front knee and push out for a deep hip stretch. This exercise should also be held for 3-5 minutes at a low intensity. 

If you are looking for additional warm-up or cool-down exercises, REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance has a great list of other stretches and exercises they recommend, linked here. 

In just a few minutes you can level-up your indoor workout performance and care for your joints and muscles in the process. Happy riding.

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