5 Essential Stretches

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1 Reducing knee pain and strengthening your knees takes more than just cycling. Cycling is the lubricant for your knees and strengthens them in many ways. For the best chance at keeping your knees the strongest and healthiest they can be, add strength training, core exercises, and stretching. Why? If you have a muscle weakness, your body is incredibly good at finding a way to compensate. Compensation, however, can lead to other problems by over-using the muscles that are taking on more work. Pretty soon you might have knots and pain in other places. Or find you are always favoring your calf or have a nagging hip injury. The way to keep your knees in tune is by strengthening all of the muscles that help your knees do their work. The exercises I provide are, by no means, an exhaustive list. They are my bare bones must haves for taking care of your knees. They are just the very top crystal of ice in a very large iceberg. There are so many awesome exercises for leg strength, core strength, and stretching! These five essential stretches for cyclists will help your knees (and body) stay limber. If you have a balance issue, please hold on to something! Sometimes simply touching your hands on your own body or pressing your hands together will help you balance better.

2 HK Stretch #1: Calf While standing, step one foot a large step backward. Keep your weight on your bent front leg with both feet pointing forward. Bring the heel of your back leg toward the floor for a calf stretch with a straight leg. Take in a deep breath, raise your arms and eyes to the ceiling, exhale and bring your arms back to your sides. Bring your feet together and repeat on the other side. HK Stretch #2: Hamstring While standing, step one foot forward. With your forward foot, leave your heel on the ground and raise your toes. With a flat back, hinge forward at your hips (keep your hands on your hips or, if you need help with balance hold onto your bike or a wall or rest your hands on your legs). Take in a deep breath and as you exhale, stretch a little more and lift your toe even higher. Step back to standing and repeat on the other side.

3 HK Stretch #3: Glutes While standing, bring one knee to your chest and give it a hug. Cross your knee over your belly and feel the stretch in your glutes. Return to center, lower your leg and repeat on the other side. HK Stretch #4: Quads Depending on your knee range of motion, you may need help with this one. No Assist Quad Stretch: This is only for you if you have the ability to fully flex your knee. If you have limited range of motion, use one of the assists. While standing, bring your heel toward your bottom and grab onto your ankle. Your knees should be side by side and body erect. If you have to go through any gymnastics to do this or your knee is sticking out to the side, or if you are bending one way or the other, DON T! Use one of the assists, below.

4 Quad Stretch Assist with a Towel: Instead of grabbing your ankle as in the stretch above, hold onto a small towel wrapped around your ankle. Use proper alignment with knees side by side, hips pressed forward, standing tall. Quad Stretch Assist with a Chair: Standing in front of a chair like you are going to sit down, raise one leg up behind you and rest your foot on the chair. You may have to bend the leg you are standing on to deepen the stretch.

5 HK Stretch #5: Hip Flexors Hip flexors are the muscles responsible for lifting your thigh, and get tight with cyclists and anyone who sits for long periods of time. Hip Flexor Assist with a Chair: Before you do this, make sure your chair is not going to slide! Start standing, facing your chair, feet about 3 feet away from the chair. Place one foot on the chair, then sink down into the groin stretch. You may need to move your foot on the floor a little farther back to feel it. Inhale and as you exhale, relax, and stretch a little deeper. Hip Flexor on the Floor: Get into a plank position and step one foot to the outside of one of your hands. Let your hips sink down into the stretch, feeling your hips open up. Deepen this stretch by lifting the hand (that is by your foot) toward the ceiling while rotating your upper body to a side facing position. Look up at your hand. Return your hand to the inside of your foot, step your foot back to plank and repeat on the other side.

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