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STRETCHING FOR CYCLISTS: HOW AND WHEN

Ride Your Life training tips


Stretching is a transversal training method, widespread and applied in practically any sport, and it is used both in the activation phase (increase in body temperature) and at the end of training (injury prevention).

But how does it work? Let's try to understand if, when, and in what way stretching can be beneficial in order to improve sports performance.

Ileopsoas stretching

FLEXIBILITY and ELASTICITY

The term FLEXIBILITY means the ability of a muscle/joint to move within its full range of motion. It should not be confused with the concept of ELASTICITY, that is, the ability of a muscle-tendon unit to stretch (compliance) during the eccentric phase and to contract immediately afterward thanks to an adequate rigidity (stiffness) concentrically, thus restoring the accumulated potential elastic energy.

Depending on the method of stretching used, we can achieve improvements in flexibility, elasticity, or both of these capacities.


DIFFERENT TYPES OF STRETCHING

Stretching can be performed in various ways, each of which has more excellent value and effectiveness depending on the specificity of the discipline practiced.

Here are the main ones:

• PASSIVE STATIC STRETCHING: It consists in assuming a position, helped by a partner, which allows the stretching of a muscle district and maintains it for a specific time (at least 60 seconds). It improves flexibility (even in the long term) but not elasticity (especially in the short term).

• ACTIVE STATIC STRETCHING: It consists of assuming and maintaining a position by relaxing the affected muscle without the help of a partner. It improves flexibility (even in the long term) but not elasticity (especially in the short term).

• DYNAMIC STRETCHING: It stretches the muscle through the continuous movement of a body segment, remaining within the joint ROM, and it allows exploiting the full width granted by the joint. It improves both flexibility and elasticity (even in the short term).

• BALLISTIC STRETCHING: It consists in achieving elongation through rapid movements and impulses of the body segments, bringing the joint beyond its maximum ROM with consequent strong activation of the myotatic reflex. It improves flexibility and full ROM but carries a high risk of trauma and injury to the joint structures.

Stretching

STRETCHING IN THE HEATING STAGE

The activation phase should aim to increase body temperature and decrease joint stiffness to prepare the body in the best possible way for subsequent efforts.

If you want to include stretching in your warm-up protocol, it should be dynamic stretching.

Indeed:

• Various studies have seen how a static type of stretching, especially if continued for a long time, does not cause an increase in body temperature and leads to a decrease in the ability to express strength by up to 10%.

• Performing static stretching during the warm-up phase can reduce the energy economy of pedaling.

• On the other hand, it has been shown that dynamic stretching during the activation phase favors the increase in body temperature and can lead to an improvement in both power and endurance performance, mainly if performed at a reasonable speed.


STRETCHING IN THE POST-TRAINING

Each sport causes, in its specificity, imbalances between the muscles that are most stimulated and those less. This imbalance can be avoided or reduced through specific work on strengthening the less used muscles and stretching the most used muscles. Implementing a recovery stretching protocol in your program can be helpful in a preventive setting.

While it is suggested not to use static stretching in the pre-competition phase, it is nevertheless helpful in the post-exercise phase, especially if you need to improve your flexibility to increase the range of your movements. Static stretching leads to an increase in joint ROM and general muscle relaxation.


CONCLUSIONS

When it comes to stretching, it is vital to distinguish the area in which it is applied:

• During the warm-up phase, it is recommended to use dynamic stretching, avoiding static stretching.

• You should do static stretching in the post-training or post-competition phases.

• For those with muscle stiffness or imbalance, or reduced flexibility, it is helpful to adopt a stretching routine to improve their physical condition and reduce the risk of injury.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Daniele Bazzana - BC Training Athletic and Biomechanical Trainer

in collaboration with Andrea Noris, dr. in Sports Science and Karate Master

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