Flexibility is a game-changer for your cycling performance in so many ways. Read on to discover why flexibility is crucial for cyclists.
When it comes to cycling, riders tend to naturally focus on endurance, strength, and speed.
These are undeniably important, but there's one often-overlooked element that can significantly impact your performance and overall cycling experience: flexibility.
Yes, you read that right. Flexibility plays a crucial role in how you perform on the bike and how comfortable you are during long rides.
Here at Njinga Cycling, we have seen the big impact focusing on flexibility has had on a range of our coaching clients and this is why we ensure flexibility training is now one of the key components of our 360' training philosophy. This becomes even more important when training for an event or challenge with back-to-back days in the saddle.
Why Flexibility Matters?
Unfortunately as cyclists, spending hours in the saddle, repeatedly moving our legs through repetitive and limited range of motion, can lead to muscle imbalances and a lack of flexibility.
This, in turn, can increase the risk of injury and affect your cycling performance. Whether it’s:
- Maximising the force you apply with each pedal stroke, - Being able to ride all day without a sore neck, - Having the flexibility to reach your back pocket for snacks or, - Even ensuring you don’t spend the next few days after a ride walking around the house like a cowboy
your flexibility is essential to you as a cyclist.
Here's why improving your flexibility is a game-changer.
1. Injury Prevention
Cycling, whilst low-impact, isn't entirely risk-free. Due to the repetitive nature of cycling, certain muscle groups are overused more than others. If these key cycling muscles are not flexible enough they will become tight, leading to muscular imbalances, strains and overuse injuries, especially in the lower back, hips, and knees.
For example, tight hip flexors can alter pelvic positioning, leading to lower back pain, while tight quadriceps can cause knee injuries (patellar tendinitis).
Benefits: By incorporating regular stretching into your routine, you can maintain a more balanced body and reduce your risk of injury. This is because maintaining flexibility in these muscle groups helps distribute the stresses generated during cycling more evenly.
2. Improved Comfort Endurance cycling is often about comfort as much as it is about speed. Long rides can be gruelling on your body, leading to discomfort and even pain if you're not flexible enough.
Benefits: A flexible body is better equipped to adapt to various terrains and riding positions such as standing, shifting your weight on the saddle or riding on the drops, without causing discomfort or fatigue.
Switching positions will allow you to relieve pressure on specific muscle groups and reduce the likelihood of cramping or discomfort. This means less strain on your muscles and joints and therefore improved endurance, performance and enjoyment during your rides.
3. Better Performance and Power
Flexibility isn't just about avoiding injuries and staying comfortable. It can also directly impact your performance. When your muscles are flexible, they can move through their full range of motion more efficiently.
Efficient pedalling requires a full range of motion at the hip, knee, and ankle joints. The quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles play a crucial role in extending and flexing these joints during the pedal stroke.
Benefits: Adequate flexibility in these key cycling muscle groups ensures that the joints can move through their full range without resistance, leading to an improved pedal stroke and better power output. This is because you can achieve a more extended leg position at the bottom of the pedal stroke and a more flexed position at the top.
Flexible hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back muscles will also allow you to maintain a more aerodynamic position comfortably, translating into improved speed and efficiency, particularly during time trials and races.
Flexibility isn't something to think about only before and during your rides. It's equally important afterwards when your muscles may be fatigued and start to tighten up.
Benefits: Incorporating stretching and flexibility exercises into your post-ride routine can help to relax your muscles and improve blood flow to them which aids in the removal of waste products such as lactate acid and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissues.
Stretching post-ride will therefore aid in faster muscle recovery and reduce post-ride soreness and DOMS (Delayed onset of muscle soreness), which is essential for all cyclists who train regularly. Who doesn’t want a quicker recovery from each session and improved performance in subsequent rides?
5. Stress Reduction
Cycling is a great way to escape the stresses of daily life. Adding flexibility sessions to your weekly routine can really help with this too.
Benefits: Stretching exercises help relax tense muscles, releasing physical tension and discomfort associated with stress.
Regular stretching and deep breathing can relax your body and mind helping reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. Lower cortisol levels are associated with reduced stress and anxiety.
Discover your Cycling Flexibility Score
Now that you understand why flexibility matters for cyclists, it's time to see just how flexible you are.
In order to do this we've created our Njinga Cycling Flexibility Test. It's a simple tool that gives you insight into your flexibility and how it might be affecting your rides.
How the Njinga Cycling Flexibility Test Works
Our test consists of a series of simple questions and clearly explained flexibility exercises designed specifically for cyclists.
You'll perform these exercises and record your results. Then, with our easy-to-use scoring system, you'll receive your own Njinga Cycling Flexibility Score, which provides valuable insights into your current flexibility. You will also receive recommendations on how to improve or maintain your current flexibility.
The test is free and takes only a few minutes to complete.
You’ll need a tape measure, water and make sure you have some flexible clothes on!