The 8 Mobility Exercises Every Cyclist Needs to Ride Stronger

Practicing these moves will pay off with power, better posture, and more comfort on the road.

mobility exercises for cyclists
Joshua Simpson

Think about your body position on the bike. You lean forward from the hips with your arms outstretched but mostly stationary, while your legs are in a constant rotation as you pedal through every mile.

The static position of the upper body and the range of motion needed from your lower half requires mobility of the shoulders, hips, and spine, in order to both keep you strong on the bike and without aches when you’re off it.

“Cycling is very much in the sagittal plane,” Rena Eleázar, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., co-founder of Match Fit Performance in New York City, tells Bicycling. That means you’re moving front to back. “So you want to make sure you’re doing sideways movements in the frontal plane when you’re off the bike.”

This helps to keep the muscles and joints healthy and mobile so you sidestep any imbalances in the body that can lead to injury.

Also, that forward-leaning posture on the bike means cyclists tend to have tight hip flexors and shoulders. (Plus, because most of us sit with rounded upper backs, we carry that from our desks right to our bikes.) So you need mobility exercises that help improve your hips’ range of motion and open up your upper body.

Keep in mind the main goal of a mobility workout: to get the body strong enough to move through a required range of motion.

“You have bones that make up a joint and then through that joint, you have a certain range of motion,” Eleázar explains. “Mobility means you have the strength to support and move your body through the entire range of motion.”

“Mobility is important because if your muscles do not have the strength to move through these ranges of motion, you’ll be relying on passive structures,” Eleázar adds. “Active structures are muscles, and passive structures are joints and ligaments. If your muscles don’t have the strength to move through a range of motion, then you’re passing on a lot of force to these passive structures.” And that’s where you can run into problems—namely, aches and injuries.

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The Best Mobility Exercises for Cyclists

mobility exercises for cyclists
Joshua Simpson

To keep you comfortable and riding strong, Eleázar offers the eight best mobility exercises every cyclist should add to their weekly routine. Try them anytime you need to move your body through different ranges of motion or perform them immediately postride to loosen up all the right spots.

When performing mobility exercises, the most important technique tip is to make sure you’re not pushing past your limitations and therefore, not straining any muscles, says Eleázar. “Pay attention and listen to your body and move in a controlled range of motion,” she says.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below in order for the number of reps listed below. Do 1 set if you’re performing this workout after a ride and 3 to 4 sets if you’re doing this workout on its own. Each move is demonstrated by Eleázar so you can master the proper form. An exercise mat is optional.

Wall Angels

Why you need it: Stretch the chest and the front of the shoulders, while strengthening the rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint) and stabilizers of the scapulae (or shoulder blade).

How to do it: Stand facing away from a wall, with feet, butt, and back against it. Lift arms to shoulder height, with your elbows bent and back of hands against the wall (or as close as you can get), like a goal post. Extend the arms up overhead, aiming to keep them as close to the wall as possible. Then pull the elbows back down to shoulder height. Repeat for 10 reps.

Prone Shoulder CARs

Why you need it: CARs stands for controlled articular rotations which means you’ll work the shoulder joints through a full range of motion—moving nice and slow and with control.

How to do it: Lie facedown, leg extended and arms extended straight overhead palms facing down. Keeping the rest of your body on the floor, including your head, lift arms up. Circle them back behind you, flipping palms to face up at about the halfway point. When arms reach hips, bend elbows to bring hands behind low back, palms still facing up. Pause, then reverse the motion to return to starting position. Repeat for 5 to 8 reps.

Cat Cow

Why you need it: Cat cow works well to target flexion and extension of the spine, so you can maintain a neutral position on the bike, without getting stiff.

How to do it: Start on all fours, shoulders over wrists and knees under hips. Inhale and drop belly button toward floor, arching back to look up toward ceiling. Then, exhale and tuck chin to chest, rounding spine and pulling belly button up toward ceiling. Continue alternating for 10 reps total.

Side-Lying Thoracic Rotation

Why you need it: Target rotation through the upper spine and rib cage, while opening up through the chest—a move that simply feels great for the upper body and will counteract a hunched-over posture.

How to do it: Start lying on side, shoulders, hips, and knees stacked, knees and hips bent about 90 degrees. Rest head on a pillow or yoga block. Extend arms out in front of you, stacked. Keeping hips aligned, open the top arm across your body, like you’re opening a book. Try to get it as close to the floor behind you as possible. Pause, then return to starting position. Repeat for 5 reps, then switch sides.

Lower Trunk Rotation

Why you need it: You want to stretch out the quadratus lumborum (or QL), the deep core muscles on either side of the lower spine, as they can feel tight after long rides. This move also loosens up the low back extensors, as well as the glutes—other common sore spots on cyclists.

How to do it: Lie faceup, knees bent and feet planted, arms down by sides on the floor. Drop both knees to right side. Then bring them back through center and to the left side. Continue alternating for 5 reps per side.

90-90 Seated Hip Rotations

Why you need it: Work rotation of the hips, while stretching the internal and external rotator muscles—another mobility exercise that feels great when your hips get cranky after a long ride.

How to do it: Start seated. Place left leg in front of you, knee bent 90 degrees with shin on the floor, parallel to hips. Place right leg to the right side, knee bent 90 degrees with shin on the floor, perpendicular to hips. This is your 90-90 position. Sit tall, arms lifted. Without placing hands down, lift knees and rotate them to the right, torso rotating to face the opposite direction and legs landing with right leg in front of you and left leg to the side, back to a 90-90 position. Repeat, moving in the other direction. Continue alternating for 5 reps per side.

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

Why you need it: You’ll dynamically lengthen and eccentrically strengthen the quad and hip flexors of the back leg in this lunge position, while also targeting a deeper range of motion when you lower down and flex the hip of the front leg.

How to do it: Start with right foot on top of a step about at shin-level height. Step left foot back into a lunge position. With hands on hips, bend knees to lower down into a lunge, both knees bending 90 degrees. Drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat for 5 to 8 reps, then switch sides.

Cossack Squats

Why you need it: Feel a great stretch in the adductor muscles (the inner thighs) in the straight leg of this exercise, while also strengthening the glutes and quads and targeting better ankle mobility of the bent leg.

How to do it: Start standing with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out and hands held in front of you. Send hips back and bend right knee, shifting weight to right foot. Keep left leg straight and foot planted. Press through right foot to stand back up. Repeat on other side. Continue alternating, feet staying in the same position the entire time, for 5 to 8 reps per side.

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