You’ve been riding long enough to know that you should probably do a quick stretch or warmup before each ride. But who really has that kind of time? Besides, you’ll roll easy for the first few junk miles, and that should count for something, right?
Wrong. We all know why warming up is important, and yet, most of us fail to do it properly most of the time. But a proper warmup benefits the body by preparing our muscles and joints for optimal performance and helping to ward off little aches or injury. “You’re priming your body as a preventive measure, not just a performance measure,” says Chris Howell, C.S.C.S, C.F.C.S., a personal trainer in New York City.
But what’s arguably even more important is that a solid cycling warmup will also make riding more fun. “Incorporating a dedicated warmup will result in a much more enjoyable start to your ride,” says Kristen Gohr, a USA Cycling level 1 coach. “An appropriate warmup increases blood flow, which raises your body temperature and facilitates increases in the range of motion in your joints. Once warmed up, muscles will feel less stiff and pedal strokes become more fluid.”
The good news is that a solid warmup routine doesn’t have to be a grand production that takes a long time. In fact, it can happen in just three minutes. Yes, three! With these three targeted muscle activation and mobility moves in your training toolbox, the “I don’t have time” excuse will never hold up again.
How to use this list: Perform each move below for one minute total prior to your ride. Each exercise is demonstrated by Lindsey Clayton, certified personal trainer in New York City, so you can learn the proper form.
1. Low Lunge With Twist
How to do it: Start in a high plank position, with hands directly under shoulders and your core engaged. Draw left foot to left hand. Hold here for a second or two to stretch the front of your right hip and inner thigh. Then rotate your upper body and extend the left hand up to the ceiling, focusing the rotation in your upper back while keeping your hips square. Hold here for three seconds, then repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate for one minute.
Why you should do it: This exercise hits several different areas of the body, and especially addresses thoracic mobility, the mobility of your upper back. While increasing back mobility might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a cycling warmup, it has a big impact on performance and comfort.
“Thoracic spine mobility is important for athletes across many sports,” says Christopher Herb, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist with Boston Physical Therapy and Wellness. “If there is not adequate thoracic spine mobility for the demands of a specific activity, it’s possible that this stress can fall on surrounding joints in the neck, shoulders, or lower back.”
Beyond sparing us from a sore neck and strained lower back, thoracic mobility also improves your capacity to breathe.
“Lack of thoracic mobility will typically present as a more rounded spine in the cyclists riding position, which can adversely impact the ribs ability to expand, impeding optimal respiratory function,” says Gohr. “Improving thoracic mobility can enhance posture on the bike, which allows the cyclist to breathe more freely. This should substantially improve cycling performance and enjoyment.”
In addition to mobilizing your back, this move activates the rest of your body as well. “It primes your body for your posture on the bike, helping it not get locked up in this fixed position,” says Howell. “You’re unilaterally waking up your body and activating the hip flexors.”
2. Supine Heel Tap
How to do it:
Lie faceup, then bend both knees and position them directly above your hips so shins are parallel to floor. Slowly lower one heel to tap the floor then raise it back up to the starting position, and repeat on the other side. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor; do not let it arch. Use a slow and controlled three-count tempo when raising and lowering each leg. Perform 10 reps then repeat with other leg.
Why you should do it: This exercise kicks your core into gear. A strong, activated core provides you with a whole host of benefits including improved stability and bike-handling capabilities. “Core musculature is important for athletes because it serves as the foundation for movements of the limbs,” says Herb. “For cyclists in particular, control and coordination of core musculature is essential for maintaining an efficient pedal stroke while on the bike.”
3. Glute Bridge With Resistance Band
How to do it: Start by laying faceup. Place a small resistance band loop just above your knees, then bend knees so your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are hip-distance apart, and your heels are about six inches in front of your glutes. Contract your glutes and push your hips straight up. Hold here for three seconds while actively squeezing your glutes, before slowly lowering back down to the starting position. Continue to repeat for one minute.
Why you should do it: As the name suggests, this move fires up your glutes. “Glutes are the powerhouse of the body,” says Howell. “Especially when you’re out of the saddle and trying to generate maximum power, you want this muscle to be primed for that explosive movement on the bike.”
[Want to fly up hills? Climb! gives you the workouts and mental strategies to conquer your nearest peak.]
“The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body and is a primary hip extensor, so they are critical to cycling,” says Herb. “In certain individuals, limitations at the glutes can lead to increased lumbar extension as a compensation to accomplish hip extension.”
Images: Julia Hembree Smith
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