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Prevention & Rehab for Cycling

Some people will ask “How can I prevent injury while cycling?” While most injuries can be avoided simply by having a professional bike fitting, as well as some careful pre-and post-ride care, if you cycle regularly, encountering an injury or painful area is inevitable, but a worthwhile trade-off for the wonderful hobby that is cycling. In this article, we will highlight some of the most common issues experienced by cyclists as well, some methods of prevention and rehab, and what to do before and after your ride.

Stretching vs Mobilizing

Stretching is just one component of any mobilizing routine. Mobilizing includes soft tissue work using the hands or tools such as a massage ball or foam roller to improve tissue stiffness and sliding capabilities. Active stretching focuses on movement through different positions with breath connection such as yoga, and passive stretching, which is generally done at the end range of a movement to increase the length of tissue.
‘Static stretching’ which is stretching in one position to lengthen muscles has been shown to be ineffective for warming up, producing no benefits to performance or injury risk reduction. A specific ‘dynamic’ warm-up is done through moving in and out of end-range positions by targeted contractions of the muscle at the end range or with fluid movement and focused control, both warming up the body and opening up the joints and muscles for exercise specific movements.

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Priming your body for movement is important no matter what sport or exercise you are engaging in. Warming up increases blood flow and raises body temperature which in turn improves the range of motion in the joints and muscles. The effects of a targeted warm-up help to prevent injuries and will improve performance. There are many exercises for warming up, but for this article, we will identify the 4 muscles and joints which will provide the bulk of the value when mobilizing for a ride.
These exercises can be repeated 2-3 times in a circuit, with 10-15 repetitions for each exercise. As always, consult your doctor or physiotherapist before trying any new exercise routine to avoid issues with any current or underlying condition.


Much of the power generated for cycling comes from the glutes, mainly the gluteus maximus, one of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. Functions of the glutes include stabilization of the pelvis, supporting of the hips, and protecting the lower back. Warming up the glute muscles before a ride will help activate the area and allow them to effectively carry out these vital functions.
The glute bridge exercise with an isometric hold is an excellent way to activate the glutes for your ride. This exercise also helps with core activation and stabilization.


Because we spend a large percentage of our waking hours sitting (a closed position for the hips) we inevitably have tight anterior (front) hips, further accentuated by the time spent sitting on the bike. For this reason, it is important for cyclists to open up their hips both before and after a ride in order to avoid a hip impingement and to help generate maximum efficiency for the ride.

Check out this hip-opening exercise, which can be done in variations with or without the band, helping you to open the hip while also activating the glutes.

Thoracic (mid) spine

Mobilizing your thoracic spine has great secondary benefits for both your neck and lower back, creating more space in the chain and allowing for a more comfortable ride with less risk of strain. Making an effort to dynamically warm up this area will pay dividends for both your enjoyment and your performance while riding.
This lying thoracic opener is a great dynamic exercise to prime the t-spine for activity and teaches core activation throughout movement of the upper back.

Abdominal muscles (core)

Your core muscles provide stabilization throughout the body for almost every movement you do. This means that an active and effective core musculature translates to improved efficiency of each of the connected systems. This results in improved balance increased power through improved energy transfer, and less chance of injury due to better organization and control of the body’s systems.
The ‘dead bug’ exercise is an excellently targeted core activation exercise, with the added benefit of keeping the lower back in a supported position.

Post-ride & rest days

Spending some time mobilizing your body after a ride will keep injuries at bay while also improving the day-to-day function of your muscles and joints. To get the maximum benefits for injury resilience and performance, include some mobility work into your daily routine or at the end of each workday before you sit down to relax.

Work on the same main muscle groups targeted pre-ride when mobilizing post-ride, adding other areas to your daily routine to help maintain good all-round mobility. There are dozens of exercises with different variations of each, but here are three mobilizations with really high return-on-investment.

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The couch stretch

The couch stretch opens up your hips flexors and quads, which tighten and shorten during cycling. This stretch may help prevent injuries and improve performance for your next ride while also counteracting some of the negative effects of sitting. The variation in the link above, which includes isometric contractions, also strengthens the brain’s connection to the glutes with glute activation through movement and conscious breathing.

Elevated pigeon

 A take on yoga’s pigeon pose, the elevated pigeon allows less flexible individuals the opportunity to get the benefits of the position. The stretch not only targets the back of the hip and glutes, but also the front of the hip on the non-elevated leg, a great comprehensive addition to the mobility routine for any cyclist. This is an excellent position to spend some time in passively, freeing up the hands to hold a book and read, catch up on some emails or just watch your favorite TV show.

Lower back & hamstring opener

Lying on your back with your legs flat against the wall is a popular way to achieve a well-supported position to open your hamstrings and lower back while keeping your lower back supported from the stress of gravity. It also helps to prevent blood pooling in the legs following a long ride, making the joints and muscles of the legs more mobile. An excellent way to improve the effectiveness of this position is to introduce a lacrosse or tennis ball by lying on the ball and slowly moving it around the lower back muscles and upper glute muscles. This creates extra pressure which helps to release tight or ‘knotted’ tissue, similar to a deep tissue massage.

Sleep & Nutrition for recovery

To find out more about the importance of good nutrition for performance and recovery, you can check out our guide on cycling nutrition.Sleep is absolutely fundamental to injury prevention, rehabilitation, and general performance both on and off the bike. Getting enough rest in the form of 8 hours of sleep a night improves athletic performance and reduces the risk of injury. Sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep, reduces cognitive ability and reaction times, meaning a greater possibility of an accident on the bike. To give your body the best chance at recovery, make sleep your number one priority when injured or training for competition. To learn more about the power and importance of sleep, check out UC Berkeley’s Dr. Matthew Walker’s TED Talk, or his book ‘Why We Sleep’.

Massage, massage balls, and foam rolling

Massage is widely used in professional sports as it has been shown to aid recovery by improving muscle soreness induced from exercise (DOMS) and increasing mobility. Massage does this by increasing blood flow and hydration to the worked area, as well as freeing up tight muscle tissue and myofascial networks that can restrict movement if not addressed properly following exercise.
For most cyclists, getting a massage regularly after a ride is not practical, however, using a foam roller or lacrosse ball can help us make some of the positive changes that a trained sports massage therapist aims to make from deep tissue massage therapy. Once you know what you are doing, it is easy to take a lacrosse ball or roller and incorporate some soft tissue work into your daily routine.

Yoga for Cycling

Yoga is an excellent way for cyclists to supplement their exercise routine, while also counteracting some of the imbalances that can result from the hours spent in one position, whether it be in the saddle or at a desk.  Another aspect of yoga is that it is centered around connecting breath to movement, which along with having more supple joints and muscles, is a big reason yoga is practiced regularly in the sporting community. Improving breath control and depth during exercise is a fundamental benefit of yoga that translates directly to all other exercise modalities.

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Whatever you decide to do to help improve your chances of staying injury-free and improving performance, it is important to consult with a licensed professional.
Finding the time to ride can be difficult for many people, so to incorporate injury prevention and mobilization into your routine may seem impossible, but if you are creative with your time and use time spent relaxing to do 1 or 2 minutes of mobilization, the benefits add up quickly and can go a long way to preventing injuries and improving your performance on the bike and in your everyday life.

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