Top 8 Stretches for Cyclists -Decrease Discomfort and Risk of Injury

Cycling can be an excellent form of exercise that offers numerous health benefits,  but avid cyclists can often encounter the challenge of muscle tightness which stops them from riding longer or more often. Furthermore these tight muscles can not only lead to discomfort but can also impact performance and increase the risk of injury. So how do we address this issue? By incorporating a regular stretching routine into your cycling regimen is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore effective stretches tailored to cyclists, focusing on the muscles commonly affected by tightness. Read on for our Top 8 Stretches for Cyclists

Bike Fit Canberra Gungahlin Physio Simon & Alysha



Muscles commonly affected by tightness in cyclists:

  1. Quadriceps (Front thigh muscles)

    • Tight quads are a common issue among cyclists, as the constant pedalling motion engages these muscles intensely. Tight quadriceps can often be the cause of knee pain due to the increased compression on the patellofemoral joint.
  2. Hamstrings (Back thigh muscles)

    • The repetitive flexion during cycling can lead to tight hamstrings, affecting flexibility and potentially causing discomfort. Tight hamstrings can be the cause of low back pain on the bike.
  3. Glutes

    • Pushing through the pedals engages the gluteal muscles through the pedal stroke. Tight glutes can cause hip or low back pain.
  4. Calves

    • The continuous pushing motion of the pedals engages the calf muscles, leading to tightness, particularly in the gastrocnemius and soleus.
  5. Hip Flexors

    • The seated position on a bike can cause the hip flexors to become tight. Consequently over time, this tightness can contribute to discomfort and affect range of motion of the hip, but also cause low back pain when not on the bike.
  6. IT Band (Iliotibial Band)

    • The IT band, a thick band of connective tissue running along the outer thigh, can become tight in cyclists, potentially leading to knee and hip issues. Similar to tight quadriceps if it becomes too tight it can create increased compression of the patellofemoral joint.
  7. Lower Back (Erector Spinae)

    • The bent-over position on a bike places strain on the lower back muscles, leading to tightness in the erector spinae. This can potentially lead to localised low back pain.
  8. Upper Back (Trapezius and Rhomboids)

    • The sustained forward-leaning posture on a bike can cause tightness in the upper back muscles, specifically the trapezius and rhomboids. Similar to the low back, the upper back can develop pain as these structures become tight and sore.


More great cycling articles: 3 Stretches for Knee Pain in Cyclists


Now, let’s explore stretches for cyclists to target these muscles and alleviate tightness:

Stretches for Cyclists

1. Quadriceps Stretch

    • Stand on one leg and bring your heel towards your buttocks, holding the ankle with your hand or for a stronger stretch put the bent foot up on a table or back of a couch.
    • Keep your knees close together and ensure your standing leg is slightly bent.
    • Hold the stretch for 60 seconds and switch legs.


Quad stretch sport & Spinal Physio


2. Hamstring Stretch

    • Put one foot on a chair with that leg extended straight. Keep your hips square to the chair.
    • Reach forward toward your toes, keeping your back straight.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch legs.




Hamstring Stretch Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


3. Glute Stretch

    • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, creating a figure-4 shape with your legs.
    • Reach behind your left thigh and gently pull it towards your chest.
    • Keep your head and shoulders on the ground and feel the stretch in your right glute.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch legs.


Glute Stretch Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


4. Calf Stretch

    • Stand facing a wall with one foot forward and the other foot back.
    • Keep the back leg straight and bend the front knee while keeping the heel on the ground.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch legs.


Calf Stretch Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


5. Hip Flexor Stretch

    • Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front, forming a 90-degree angle with the knee. For an extra stretch place your back foot on a step or seat.
    • Push your hips forward, feeling a stretch in the front of the hip of the kneeling leg.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch sides.


Hip Flexor Stretch Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


6. IT Band Stretch

    • Start in the same position as the hip flexor stretch. Reach one arm up and lean toward the side of the front leg.
    • You should feel a stretch along the outer side of the thigh.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch sides.


IT Band Stretch - Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


7. Lower Back Stretch

    • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart grasping a bar or chair in front of you at hip height with both hands.
    • Curl your pelvis under and roll down through the heads and neck. Push back through he lower back.
    • Keeping the opposite knee bent, straighten one leg and push back through that hip.
    • Hold for 60 seconds and switch sides.


Lower Back Stretch - Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


8. Upper Back Stretch (foam roller)

    • Lie with a foam roller under your upper back.
    • Raise your arms above your head and arch backwards over the roller.
    • Work through several spots from the base of the neck to mid spine for 2-3 minutes.


Foam rolling for upper body - Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy


How often should I stretch?

So how often do you do these top 8 stretches for cyclists? The answer is, it depends. Obviously the frequency of stretching for cyclists should be tailored to individual training loads and cycling intensity. As a general guideline, incorporating a stretching routine at least 2-3 times per week can be beneficial for maintaining flexibility and preventing muscle tightness. However, the specific demands of your training regimen play a crucial role in determining the optimal stretching frequency.


We have some great trails in Canberra to explore and being able to ride for longer and more often is very beneficial. Cyclists engaging in intense or frequent rides may find they are becoming sorer and tighter. Hence to counteract the cumulative effects of muscle engagement and contraction they may need to stretch more often. Whereas  those with a lighter training load may find a couple of dedicated stretching sessions per week sufficient. As a general rule use each stretch as a “self check”. For example, if a muscle is feeling very tight then it may be helpful to stretch it more frequently.  Consequently if it is feeling less tight you could get away with stretching less often.


Listen to your body. If you experience persistent tightness or discomfort, consider consulting with physiotherapist to figure out why. Sometimes tight muscles are weak and needs strengthening to cope with the training load that they are being put through. Conversely, sometimes the tight muscle is compensating for another muscle group that is under performing. This is one of the reasons we do a 40 minute assessment prior to performing a bike fit.


About Simon Davis

Simon graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) in 2007. He spent several years working on the far south coast of NSW and enjoying seasonal physiotherapy work at Jindabyne treating ski injuries during the snow season. Simon also specialises in Bike Fitting, and has been involved in bike fits for some prominent cyclists including Ben Henderson and Dylan Cooper.