Make a real change in your body and gain more power on the bike.
We sit at our desks all day on the computer, sit to drive our car, and then as cyclist we sit to pedal our bikes. This keeps us in a flexed body position throughout most of our day, and shortens the muscles that are important for cycling.
Adequate hamstring mobility has a direct effect on your cycling performance.
The quadriceps and hamstrings are diametrical muscles: when the one fires the other shuts off. We can see how this is true when you kick a ball: as the leg swings towards its end range of motion, the hamstrings fire, which shuts off the quadriceps to ensure that your leg doesn’t go beyond its range of motion. A limited range of motion means a shorter, weaker, kick. A similar scenario plays out on the bike: when your hamstrings lack range of motion they turn on during the pedal stroke, thus shutting off the quadriceps which robs you of precious power.
The following hamstring stretch can make a real change in your body. At The Cycling Gym we have seen some members change their hamstring mobility within a single stretching session, while others became so much more flexible after a month of consistent stretching that they had to raise their saddle significantly.
To do this stretch you will need something to wrap around your foot, like a towel, a long belt or a resistance band.
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out. With your feet hip-width apart, point your toes to the ceiling and then flex them back in the direction of your shins.
Pulling the toes to the shins like this stretches the fascia, which is what we are trying to change with this stretching.
If you find the stretch intensity lessening through ten leg lowers you can first try slowing the speed at which you lower your leg, or you can increase the angle of the raised leg toward 90 degrees.
Place the towel, belt or band around the ball of your right foot.
Lie down on your back again and start by raising your right leg, keeping it straight, using the towel or band wrapped around your foot to do most of the work. Raise the leg until you feel a stretch that is a 4/10 in intensity— the first sensation of a light stretch.
Use the towel to hold the right leg in place, and raise your left leg to come up beside it: this is your top position.
Slowly lower your left leg. Slowly, because this is how you will feel the stretch in your right hamstring as the left leg comes down to the floor.
Once the left leg is all the way down raise it again smoothly to the top.
Repeat ten times, then switch the towel/band to the other foot and do the same movement to stretch the left hamstring.
Ensure that the movement of the leg that you are lowering is slow and controlled.
Keep both legs straight and both feet flexed up and backwards toward your shins as much as possible.
Keep your feet in the “pointing to the ceiling position” throughout, not rolling out to the side.
Do this stretch consistently and you will see real changes in your hamstring mobility. You may eventually feel that your saddle height is to low and it's necessary to raise it slightly.
How to check the range of motion of your hamstrings
Lie on your back with your legs extended, and your feet both pointing at the ceiling.
Pull your toes towards your shin.
Keeping one leg on the ground, raise the other one slowly.
Take note of a) when the foot on the floor starts to turn outwards (a subtle pull that you might need someone to feel by holding your foot very gently); and b) at what angle do you start to feel a pull in the hamstring of the leg you are raising— the goal is to have a 90 degree range of motion in your hamstrings.