We always get the advice to stretch before and after an exercise bike workout. The question is, are you doing it correctly? Can any stretching exercise work?
Buying and using a high-quality exercise bike lets you enjoy good cycling workouts, no doubt.
Still, preparing your body for the activity ahead optimises the results and protects you from discomfort and pain.
So, in this article, let’s understand the value of stretching in your indoor cycling routine.
More importantly, I’ll identify the proper types of stretching when warming up and cooling down.
- What is Stretching?
- How to Stretch Before an Exercise Bike Workout
- How to Stretch After an Exercise Bike Workout
- Final Thoughts
- FAQs About Stretching Before and After Exercise Bike Workouts
What is Stretching?
Before discussing how to stretch before and after your exercise bike workout, let’s unpack the what and why first.
Stretching involves exercises or movements that lengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Some stretching exercises may feel awkward or difficult at first, though.
Over time, you’ll get used to various stretching positions and do them comfortably.
The key to proper stretching is to start with movements that match your fitness capacity and do them without pushing your body too hard.
Different Types of Stretching
Another crucial component of proper stretching is to understand its forms.
That way, you’ll know the best time to perform specific stretching exercises.
Here’s a quick rundown of each type:
- Dynamic stretching is ideal before your exercise bike workout. This type includes active movements without the stretch-and-hold step.
- Ballistic stretching is also best before your exercise bike workout. Compared with dynamic stretches, ballistic ones involve faster, bouncier, and more sudden movements. Athletes who want to push their bodies past the normal range of motion use this stretching type.
- Static stretching is ideal after your exercise bike workout or during the cool-down phase. This type includes moves that let you stretch specific body parts, pause for a few seconds, and then repeat.
Benefits of Proper Stretching
Here are the top reasons why you should stretch before and after your exercise bike workouts:
- To increase your range of motion. A study by Behm and colleagues (2021) showed that passive static stretches can enhance how far you can effectively extend a muscle.
- To boost your blood circulation. Proper blood flow helps in nutrient and oxygen transport within the body during exercise. Researchers Caldwell and team (2023) supported this by concluding that stretching improves blood vessel resiliency, reducing exercise-related stress.
- To enhance your mood state. Sudo and Ando (2019) said that stretching exercises may improve the mood and cognitive function of physically inactive people. Moreover, Montero-Marín and colleagues (2013) previously observed how stretching can reduce anxiety levels and exhaustion among workers.
- To improve your body balance. One research by Vittala and team (2021) noted that active stretching can improve balance and coordination, particularly among seniors.
All in all, stretching preps you physically and mentally so you can be at your best every indoor cycling session.
How to Stretch Before an Exercise Bike Workout
Now that we’ve defined what stretching is and its purpose, the next step is to learn its proper execution.
When stretching before a cycling workout, the goal is to warm up your body, boost your circulation, and increase your flexibility.
You can achieve these with active yet controlled dynamic stretches.
The best dynamic stretching exercises mimic the cycling motion or target muscles involved in biking.
Here are some examples.
1. Alternating Side Reaches
Side stretching is an easy exercise that can loosen your core (obliques) and back muscles. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Place your left hand at your waist while you raise the right hand across your body. Extend your right arm as if you are reaching the sky.
Also, slightly pivot your right leg and foot with your hand as you reach for the top. Lean your left torso a bit.
Next, bring your right hand to your waist and immediately raise your left hand across your body.
Make this move more dynamic by bending your knees slightly as you raise your hand from side to side.
2. Hip Rotations
There are two ways to stretch the hips before your exercise bike workout.
One is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on the hips.
Then, move your hips in a circular motion. You can do ten clockwise rotations followed by ten counterclockwise circles.
Another method is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on the hips. Raise your right knee towards your chest.
Then, open up your hip by moving your right knee outward towards the right side of your body.
Repeat it a few times before doing the same exercise to your left hip.
3. Side Lunges
Side lunges work the legs and boost core strength and balance. You can do this by standing with your legs wide apart.
Next, bend your right leg to the side while fully stretching the other leg.
Place your hands on your right knee and position your torso above it.
Then, return to the starting position and repeat the same move to your left leg this time.
Maximise the stretch by bending your knee further.
Remember to keep your back nice and straight when doing this stretching exercise.
4. High Knees
High knee stretching reminds me of jogging in place but more dynamic and heart-pumping.
It’s an excellent exercise to warm up your glutes, hips, and hamstrings.
To start, stand tall with your arms at your sides. Next, bring your right knee towards your chest.
Your raised knee should be slightly higher than waist level.
As you raise your right knee, move your left hand up in a pumping-like motion.
Lower your right knee and left hand, then repeat the same move with your left knee and right hand.
Do this exercise alternately with your right and left legs quickly for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
5. Leg Swings
While this stretching exercise warms the leg muscles, it also targets the hips, groin, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
To do this, stand on one leg, then swing the other forward and backward.
Do this swinging motion alternately with your legs as many times as needed.
This exercise is similar to a moving pendulum.
Ideally, start with small swings, then gradually make bigger ones as you progress. For variation, perform lateral or side-to-side leg swings next.
How to Stretch After an Exercise Bike Workout
According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching after working out does not prevent soreness.
However, it can provide muscle relief, especially after an intense activity.
Relieving muscle tension not only feels good. It also helps reduce recovery time, allowing you to exercise or train the next day.
Since your goal post-workout is to relax and bring your body back to its normal state, doing static stretching is best.
Similar to dynamic stretching, choose static exercises that target the muscles you worked on during cycling.
Here are a few moves you can do.
1. Cobra Pose
The Cobra stretch is a well-known yoga pose that targets the hips and lower back.
It also loosens the shoulders, torso, and abs, which tend to stiffen after a long cycling session.
To do this exercise, lay on your stomach flat on the floor with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Your fingers should be pointing forward.
Next, press into your hands and slightly push your upper body up. Hold the position for about 30 seconds, then repeat a few more times as you see fit.
If you like, try lifting your upper body more up to a point where you can drop your head back. Always keep your hips down as you stretch.
2. Cat-Cow Stretch
The cat-cow stretch is perfect for relieving the stress your back often gets when you cycle in a hunched-over riding form. It also helps elongate the spine.
To start, get on all fours and bring yourself to a tabletop position. Your shoulders should be over the wrists, while the knees are below the hips.
Next, inhale and slowly arch your back, dropping your belly towards the floor. Simultaneously, raise your head, shoulders, and hips. This move is the cow pose.
To shift to a cat-like pose, exhale and round your back, tucking your pelvis. Simultaneously, lower your head, shoulders, and hips.
When doing this exercise, imagine being pulled up with a rope wrapped around your upper body.
Keep doing cow and cat stretches for 1 minute, holding each pose for about 5 seconds.
3. Straight-Leg Calf Stretch
This stretching exercise is perfect for addressing tight calves and ankles after your exercise bike workout.
First, stand in front of a wall. Next, place your hands on the wall, extending your arms fully.
Then, step your right leg forward and slightly bend your knee, keeping your right foot flat on the floor.
Extend your left leg to the back while keeping it straight.
Your position should look as if you are trying to push the wall. Lean towards the wall until you feel the stretch in your left calf.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds before switching to the right leg. Repeat for about three more times.
You can also do this without a wall. Place your hands on your waist and do the same calf stretching procedure.
4. Seated Spinal Twist
The spinal twist stretch is a personal favourite. It is easy to do, and I find it very relaxing.
More importantly, it works on vital muscle groups affected after your cycling workout: glutes, obliques, and lower back.
Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
Position your arms behind your back. Your palms should be flat on the floor with your fingers facing away from you.
Next, lift your left foot and place it outside your right knee. Keep your left foot flat on the floor.
Raise your right arm, then bring it down to your left side. Your right elbow should be outside your left leg.
Finish the stretch by turning your torso, head, and eyes to the left. Breathe and pause for 20 to 30 seconds.
Slowly bring your head and chest back to the centre. Then, switch sides and repeat the same procedure.
You may also try the supine spinal twist variation if you like.
5. Standing Quad Stretch
Your quads get the brunt of your cycling workout. So, it’s a must to give this muscle group extra attention during your cool-down phase.
Quad stretches should give your thighs, hip flexors, and ankles optimum relief. Also, this static exercise helps prevent cycling-related back aches.
To start, stand on your right foot and bend your left leg back towards your butt.
Use your left hand to hold your bent leg, either by grabbing the shin or foot. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
Repeat the stretch up to 5 times on each side.
Also, you can stand next to a wall or your exercise bike for support if needed.
For variation, try doing the kneeling quad stretch.
Exercise-related pain or discomfort can affect your performance and motivation during your indoor cycling session.
However, you should be able to prevent this now that you know how to stretch before and after your exercise bike workouts.
Most stretching exercises are easy to do and adaptable to your fitness capacity. So, you won’t have any issue adding them to your biking routine and making them a habit.
Remember, perform dynamic stretching to warm up, and go for static stretches to cool down.
Choose stretching exercises that you can execute with confidence and start slow, especially when trying new moves.
Also, consult your doctor about stretching and exercise if you have pre-existing pain problems or injuries.
FAQs About Stretching Before and After Exercise Bike Workouts
1. How do I relax my legs after cycling?
Aside from doing static stretching exercises, you can use massaging devices to soothe moderate leg discomfort. You may also use hot or cold packs to reduce inflammation, quicken recovery, and relieve pain. Getting a good night’s rest should help your leg muscles relax, too. Check out our article for other recommended quick fixes for post-workout soreness.
2. Should I use a massage gun before and after my exercise bike workouts?
The best time to use a massage gun depends on your goal. Use a massage gun before your workout to warm the muscles and improve your cycling performance. You can also use the same massager after cycling to reduce soreness and speed up muscle recovery. Each time you use the device, remember to follow the product manual, use the right attachment, and target the proper muscle groups.
3. How do I stop my knees from hurting on an exercise bike?
One way to avoid knee pain during or after cycling is to adjust your bike seat to reduce the amount of knee flexion. Also, consider riding the bike at a more comfortable resistance level. It helps to perform stretching exercises that strengthen your hips, too. You can also read our guides on spin or recumbent bike adjustments for more helpful information.
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