Tight hips and cycling go hand in hand. When we position ourselves on the bike, the upper body gets tucked forward while your legs hammer up and down on the pedals. Your hips are contracting, but the hip flexors never full extended. Over time, this flexed position shortens the hip muscles, and causes tightness and further mobility issues over time. Hip stretches for cyclists can help prevent this shortening of the muscle and even improve positioning and comfort on the bike.
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What are the hip flexors?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles made up of the iliacus, psoas major, and the rectus femoris. These muscles work together to produce the hip flexation which is to say they move the knee up towards the abdomen.
The iliacus starts at the top of the pelvis and runs down to the top of the femus. The psoas major originates on the lumbar vertebrae and attaches to the femur. The rectus femoris is one of four muscles that make up the quadriceps, it plays a part in both knee extension and hip flexion.
What causes tight hip flexors?
Cycling involves repeated hip flexion, but the hip never fully extends. This can cause tightness and even shortening of the muscles over time. Prolonged sitting doesn’t help, so if you have an office job or drive a lot you’re getting a double whammy.
Not only can tight hip flexors cause a lot of discomfort and pain in your everyday life, they can also reduce your performance on the bike. You can end up with lower back pain, sciatica and weakening of the glutes if you don’t attend to correcting issues with tight hip flexors.
The Best Time to Stretch
Once upon a time, stretching was an essential pre-exercise ritual. Recent studies, however, caution that you should not stretch before workouts, as doing so may actually impede your body’s performance. According to this research post-stretch runners run more slowly and weight lifters lift less weight. Additionally, stretching before hand does noting to prevent injury during exercise.
I recommend stretching after exercise or separating stretching from exercise altogether. Stretch in the middle of an eight-hour workday for example. I also find stretching to be a great way to wind down for bed.
Best Hip Stretches for Cyclists
The best plan of attack to treat and prevent tight hip flexors is regular stretching. Here are some of the best hip stretches for cyclists, you should include them as part of your stretching routine. Try holding them for at least 20 seconds to start and do three sets of each, you can add time and/or sets from there.