You do not need to be able to fold yourself into a human pretzel, but a certain amount of flexibility is important for all athletes. Cycling in particular can lead to short, tightened muscles because of the lack of range of motion. Not only is the position on the bike restricting, but you also need to be able to maintain the correct posture to prevent injury. Improving your flexibility as a cyclists can help prevent injury and even make you faster as you find comfort in more aerodynamic & powerful positions on the bike.
If you want to improve overall flexibility, but do not know where to begin, look no further. Aaron Griffin created a great guide he calls Starting Stretching that can serve as a excellent general jumping-off point for beginners. If you want to get a little more bendy, this program should help
The Starting Stretching Program
The Starting Strength program covers a series of 9 stretches – 3 upper body, 4 lower body, and 2 torso. Each is to be done for a total of 60 seconds. The stretches are to be performed in succession after every workout. This should take only 10-15 minutes to complete.
For progressions and more detail see the full guide here. The stretches are as follows.
Place your hands on some object that is overhead, while keeping your arms straight. You may bend forward to an object, as long as it is still “overhead”. Attempt to push your head and chest through so that the arms are pressed behind the body.
Underarm Shoulder Stretch:
While seated, place your hands behind you on the ground, fingers pointing away, and slide your butt forward, keeping the arms straight. This can also be done by placing your hands behind you on a tall object, and squatting/crouching down.
Rear Hand Clasp:
With one hand overhead and the other hand behind your lower back, attempt to grasp fingertips behind your back. Make sure to do this on both sides.
Keeping the heels on the ground, squat down as far as your body will allow. Keep your arms inside the knees and press them outward. Feel free to hold on to something for balance, as it should not affect the stretch, but free balancing is preferred.
Bend forward, hinging at the hips while trying to keep the back flat. Do not try to touch your toes – instead, try to touch the ground 1-2 feet in front of your toes. This will help you hinge at the hips and not bend at the back. When you can get decently below parallel with a flat back, then you can grab your calves and attempt to pull your head to your knees.
Kneel on the ground and place one foot in front of you, flat on the ground, in a lunge position with the back knee and top of foot on the ground. Squeeze the glutes and press the pelvis forward, stretching the rear leg. Move the front foot forward as needed to ensure the front shin remains roughly vertical. Ensure the torso remains vertical, and not bending backwards or leaning forwards.
Sit on the ground, and bring the bottoms of your feet together in front of you. Hold your feet together with your hands and pull them slightly towards you. Actively try to press your knees towards the ground.
Backbends are fairly difficult for people who have never done them, so we’re going to scale it with a few other stretches first. With any of these stretches, if you feel pinching in the lower back, you’re doing it wrong. Take a step back and don’t push so hard.
Lie on the ground, facing upward, and extend your arms out to the sides. Lift one leg up at a 90 degree angle (bend the knee as much as necessary). Now lower the leg to the opposite side of the torso while keeping the shoulders on the ground. Attempt to touch the ground with the leg while maintaining shoulders on the floor. Turn the head in the opposite direction of the leg.
Starting Stretching App
If you want to easily see a visual for each stretch and time your movements the Starting Stretch App for iOS is a simple and free way to do so.