4 Steps To Fixing Tight Muscles For Cyclists – Science-Backed Tips
You are enthusiastic bikers, but have you felt tight muscles recently? Do these 4 steps to fixing tight muscles, and you will feel relieved right away.
Muscle problems are among the most annoying things that threaten your performance on the pedals. Of course, soreness can come and go in a couple of days, if not hours. But when you feel tightness or achiness in your working body parts, that signifies something else.
This article will explain some solutions for this pain in the arse (pun intended).
But before digging into the actual methods to ease your pain, we have to know why you have such tightness. To do that, we have to learn a bit about your muscles, especially those of the lower body.
What Causes Tight Muscles In Cyclists
First thing first, biking is a repetitive exercise. And for the most part, people do it for cardio or endurance/losing weight and general health purposes. It means that it usually takes long (more than 30 minutes) for each working out session.
The nature of the sport requires all the muscles of the legs and some synergist muscles to power each pedal stroke. Whether you are pressing down or bringing your legs up, they all work in harmony.
Also, because of the repetitive movements and the fixed position of the legs for long hours, your muscles will tense up as a reaction of microtrauma in its fibers.
Muscle stiffness is also more likely due to bad techniques, poor recovery, and insufficient nutrition. However, it is usually not as severe as an injury, and you can entirely fix it at home.
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Which Muscles Are Most Prone To Tightness In Cyclists?
Quadriceps: Quads are your front thigh’s largest muscle group for those unfamiliar. The main action of quads is to strike the pedal and extend your legs.
Hamstrings: Hamstrings are the antagonistic group of quads located in the back of your thighs. Hamstrings flex your knees and help bring the pedals up for the next strike. Another hamstring action is that it helps extend your hips, hence one of the hip extensors.
Gluteus maximus: Basically the biggest muscle of your butt and also the largest, strongest muscle in the body. With hamstring, it extends your hips and helps power each strike.
Hips flexors: They locate near your groin and support the legs to lift up to your abs while pedaling.
Muscles worked in cycling.
Calves: Your calves work to thrust your legs down and stabilize your feet on the pedals, so they also work quietly intensely during the exercise.
Lower back: While lower back muscles don’t work much in your biking, they help settle your upper body on the seat. The act of sitting and maintaining a posture for an extended time also stresses your lower back quite a bit.
4 Steps To Fixing Tight Muscles For Cyclists
Warm-Up Before Cycling
That might seem like extraneous advice. However, warming up is always a crucial part of any workout routine. Before getting on the bike, you want to make sure you warm up your muscles a bit by walking or even light pedaling for at least five minutes.
Get on the bike right away without any preparation and go all out for a moderate to high-intensity workout, and your muscles can face cramps, stiffness, or other cycling injuries. Colder weather also requires more warming up.
While some young, well-trained cyclists can get away with a quick warming up, it’s less likely to happen for older trainees. As you get older, the muscles gradually lose their elasticity and ability to recover. So, the older you are, the longer and more thorough a warming up should be as a rule of thumb.
After that, make sure that you have lubricated your joints before stepping on the bike.
You can also do some static stretching and dynamic stretching for a good warming up. They can both help with your flexibility and injury prevention. Also, remember to warm up your upper body too. While it doesn’t do much while biking, it still endures some stress from stabilizing, especially with your shoulders, abs, and back.
Stretching After Cycling
After your workout, it’s essential to cool down and stretch to prevent stiffness. Stretching also helps with blood circulation to bring nutrients and water to your muscles and help with recovery.
- To stretch your quads, stand on one foot.
- Then, flex the other knee to bring your foot back as if you want to touch your butt with your heel while keeping your hip extended.
- Then, hold the feet with your hand for 15-30 seconds. Do that for each leg three times.
- Stand tall, have a seat or box in front of you, then place one of your feet on the object with the leg extended.
- Lower your body (as in a hip-hinge).
- Keep the stretch for 15-30 seconds for each leg, do the exercise 3 to 5 times.
Hip flexors: Simply make a lunge. Switch your legs and do ten reps for three sets. You want to feel the stretch in the hip flexors of the back leg as much as possible and try to extend it at the bottom of the movement fully.
Gluteus maximus: Lie straight down, then alternatively get your knee to your chest while keeping the other leg straight, touching the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Do this for 5 reps for each leg.
Other glutes’ muscles and lower back: Lie on your back, place one ankle on the other knee, then bring that knee up to your chest. You want to bring it all the way in to flex your lumbar spine. Do five reps for each leg.
One great way to relieve the tightness and help with recovery is to massage your tight body part. Massage helps with the blood circulation to the area in question. The blood will then remove all the lactic acid buildup and transfer all the nutrients to assist cells and fibers repairing.
While you can do it at home, it’s best to pay a visit to a professional who knows what they are doing. A massage session once every few weeks is adequate for your routine.
Relax And Recovery
People always talk about training and technique, but recovery is regularly forgotten. Your body needs to relax and rest before it can heal and bounce back.
To preserve and better your performance, pay attention to your diet and sleep. You should also avoid taxing your body too much from overtraining. Have a look at your routine, preferably with a professional, to see if it fits your body, lifestyle, and training goals.
How To Prevent Muscle Tightness
As I have explained above, prevention is as important as fixing the problem, if not more. To fully benefit from your workout, you should incorporate proper stretching techniques and execute the right posture.
While some stretching exercises have been mentioned in the above section, there are a few more notes you should pay attention to:
Don’t just stretch your lower body. Your neck, traps, and mid-back also are prone to stiffness. Try incorporating more stretching exercises to those areas before and after your workout.
Thoracic (mid-back) stretching
You can do these exercises whenever you feel comfortable. They help with stiffness prevention and are an excellent way to move around and get the blood pumping. Doing them in your rest days as active recovery is okay too.
Maintaining Good Posture
Many cyclists have a 9-5 job or work full time by the desk. The act of sitting all day and doing tasks with your computer will stress your back, neck, and shoulders.
It’s crucial to maintain good posture while working and have a proper biking posture.
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To Wrap Things Up
I hope that my article on 4 steps to fixing tight muscles for cyclists is sufficient to give you a brief guideline on dealing with muscle stiffness. While it is challenging to stay away from any injury or problems during your whole training career, listening to your body is essential.
Sometimes, if you feel the strain is unbearable, your best bet is to pay a visit to a professional to check everything related to your training and lifestyle. Most of the time, it’s just an annoying feeling, but you can’t be careless about your health, after all.