4 Key “Stoplight Stretches” To Reverse Being Hunched Over the Bike
We’ve all been there before:
Hour 4 of your long ride…
You’re feeling worn-out, stiff and sore in your neck, shoulders, legs and back, and you come to a stoplight, or maybe a train. Regardless, you’ve got about 5 minutes of waiting . . .
Whats’ the best options for on-the-bike stretches?
We can all admit that the human body was never designed to be hunched over a bike for hours, so the key component of any on-the-bike stretching routine can be designed to ‘reverse’ the positioning.
Here’s my top 4 go-to, on-the-ride stretches to keep you mobile, fresh, balanced, and in it for the long haul..
- Quadriceps Stretch:
When we pedal a bike, our quadriceps (thigh) mucles work while our hip is in a fairly flexed position, so we start by binging the foot up + behind the top tube, where it meets the seat tube. This ‘extends’ the hip, and allows for a simple ‘lean back’ stretch to the front of your thigh + hip flexors. As you lean back to bend the knee, focus on keeping the knee pointed downwards as able. Hold this stretch for 10–20sec, and repeat on the other leg.
2. Shoulder Retract + Chest Opening + Thoracic Extension
This one may be your new favorite stretch of all time on the bike! Simply stand up and reach backwards to your saddle or seat post with both hands. Allow the chest to open up as you pull back with your hands to increase the stretch. Also thick about lifting ‘up’ with your chest- this allows for upper back ‘back-bending’ which is often very stiff from being hunched over the bike. Breathe deeply for 2–4 full deep breaths, and enjoy reversing the position of your shoulders chest, and upper back! Note: keep your chest up and chin down to avoid straining your neck with this one!
3. Standing twist
This one’s so easy you’ll wonder why you didn't think of this one before! Standing up tall, simply reach across your body to the opposite brake hood, and with this twisting motion, reach back with the other hand to the saddle or seatpost. Using leverage, gently increase your stretch by appying force through the arms. You can add further stretch by breathing in deeply, and then increasing the stretch on the exhale- Repeat 2–3x to one side, then to the other.
4. Neck Retract (i.e. Chin Tuck) + Neck Side-Bend
This one is two separate stretches to the neck, which definitely takes is fair share of abuse by being crunched over the bike for hours! The first stretch is alled the ‘Chin Tuck” and very easy to perform: Keeping your jaw closed, but not clenching, place you fingers to your chin, and push the head and neck straight back, keeping the jaw parallel to the gound. Lightly nodding he head down will also increase this stretch, which can be held for 10–20seconds x3–4 reps- This reverses the ‘turtle neck’ that occurs with cycling, and also helps decompres the occiput (base of skull where it meets the neck).
The second neck stretch is a basic cervical side-bending stretch. The key here is to keep upright and vertical, and gently bring your ear to toe shoulder, paying attention to not let the opposite shoulder shrug upwards- This is a great way to stretch the upper trapezius muscle. Hold stretch for 10sec each side, and repeat 2–4 reps.
The key with these stretches is they are easy to perfrom, don’t take any equipment (other than your bike!), can be performed whenever you have a stop, lunch break, and are the best ‘bang for your buck’ to stay mobile and fresh throughout the day on the bike.
VIDEO AVAILABLE HERE → https://vimeo.com/397511985
Give them a try on your next ride, and reach out / comment if you have any questions!
Kevin Schmidt, PT, MSPT, Cert. Bike-Friendly Physio is an everyday cyclist, entrepreneur, Physiotherapist and Bike Fitter with a passion for elevating the field of healthcare in managing cyclists and Bike Fitting. In 2012 he founded Pedal PT: Bike Friendly Physcial Therapy. He has dedicated himself to the ‘bike life’ and hasn’t driven a car to a single workday in over 12 years. He lives in Portland, OR with his wfe and two amazing kids, ages 10 and 12.
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