7 mobility exercises to improve your cycling performance

by Paul Argent


In this post we look at how you can improve your cycling performance with seven key mobility exercises. You’ll find that these will also reduce any ‘working from home’ aches and pains and improve the general performance of your muscular system.

First, what is mobility?

The dictionary definition will give you ‘the ability to move or be moved freely and easily.’ The ability to be moved freely and easily demonstrates how much motion a joint has available. Picture a therapist pushing your hip into flexion whilst you try to relax. The ability to move freely and easily is associated with the function of your muscular system. It’s the difference between pedalling backwards to assess your drive chain, or pedalling forwards with some power to do the same. It’s the latter that will give you more information and is what we’re going to focus on here.

Why is mobility important for cyclists?

With the exception of perhaps the hip and the lumbar spine, there aren’t many joints that are taken to their end range of motion during cycling. Whilst mobility isn’t as important for cyclists as it is for say gymnasts or martial artists, if you want to remain a functioning human being, it’s worth looking at.

We’ve all seen riders who look like they’re still on the bike even when they’re off it. In fact a girlfriend of mine once told me my butt looked ‘saddle shaped’. Needless to say that didn’t last. Aesthetics aside, maintaining the ability to move your joints through their available range of motion is a good idea. This will not only reduce your aches and pains, but improve the performance of the muscles involved.

The best way to improve mobility for cycling

There are various methods to gain range of motion including stretching and so-called myofascial release techniques using foam rollers and spiky balls. Whilst these approaches may produce temporary changes, for longer-term improvements it’s more effective to work on the performance of your muscular system.

We’re going to use isometrics to do this. These are muscle contractions without movement of the joints. Isometrics have been shown to increase range of motion, improve strength, and reduce pain.

Mobility exercises for cyclists

For every exercise note how much motion you have and if the exercise feels more difficult on one side in particular. Becoming aware of these differences will lead you to specific motions that require more attention than others. Use no more than 20% of your maximum effort to start with and increase your effort a little with each contraction.

Knee extension

Lay down on your back with a foam roller or something similar (a rolled up towel works well) placed in the back of your knees. Squeeze your thigh muscles on one side and extend your knee without lifting it off the roller.

Focus on your quadriceps and straightening your knee as much as possible.

Perform six, six-second holds on each leg.

Knee flexion

Lay on your back with your legs straight. Slowly bend one knee and slide your heel towards your butt as far as it will go. Make sure your knee doesn’t fall in or out as you do so.

Place something of appropriate size between your butt and your heel. Now gently pull your heel back into the object whilst focusing on your hamstrings and your calf muscles. Make sure your lower leg doesn’t rotate inwards or outwards as you pull and that your knee remains in line with your hip.

Perform six, six-second holds on each leg.

Bent knee hip extension

Lay down on your front over a small cushion. Bend one knee to 90 degrees and slowly lift the knee off the floor without moving your pelvis. Hold the top position and focus on squeezing your butt.

If holding the entire weight of your leg up is too challenging, place a small towel under your knee to support it in your end range of extension.

Perform six, six-second holds on each hip.

Bent knee hip flexion

Lay down on your back with your legs straight. Place your hands in the small of your back on either side of your spine. Slowly begin to bring one knee towards your chest. When you feel your lower back start to push down on your hand, stop and brace the leg in that position with both hands.

Pull your leg back into your hands as if trying to take your hip further into flexion.

Perform six, six-second holds on each hip.

Hip abduction

Lying on your back, lock out one knee and slowly slide the leg out to the side. Make sure your pelvis doesn’t move and that your knee stays facing towards the ceiling. When you reach your end range of motion, place a heavy object on the outside of your shin to block you in that position.

Gently push out into the object keeping your knee locked. Focus on the muscles at the side of your pelvis as you push.

Perform six, six-second holds on each side.

Hip adduction

Lay on your back with your legs straight and slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lock out one knee and slowly slide that leg towards the other. When you reach your end range of motion, use the foot of the opposite leg to block you in that position.

Now gently push across as if trying to take the leg further to the side. Focus on the muscles on the inside of your thigh.

Perform six, six-second holds on each side.

Trunk side bend

Lay down on your back with your legs straight and your feet together.
Brace down on the floor with your arms and slide both legs to the side a little.

Place a heavy object next to the shin of your outside leg. Keeping your pelvis level, push both legs out into the object. Brace your upper body to keep it stable. Focus on the muscles at the side of your trunk as you push.

Perform six, six-second holds on each side.

Summary

Performing these range-of-motion exercises on a regular basis will ensure you maintain motion around the joints that are most involved in cycling.

This will help reduce your aches and pains both on the bike and off it and improve the function of your muscular system. That’s a win, win … win.

This article was first available exclusively to VeloClub members. To get early access to great content like this, to access a whole host of other benefits, and to support CyclingTips directly, please consider signing up to VeloClub.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Argent is a former Category 1 road racing cyclist from the UK. He now runs an injury rehabilitation and sports performance business in the City of London, Human Movement, which specialises in helping chronically injured athletes and weekend warriors alike get back to doing the things they love better than ever. This article first appeared on the Human Movement website.

Editors Picks