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8 Cycling Warm-Ups to Improve Performance

Cycling is an active sport, and much like with other sports, if you hop right on the bike without warming up, you’re more likely to get injured or suffer from poor performance. To avoid these issues, establish a solid cycling warmup routine that will prepare your body and mind for any type of ride.

Do I need to warm up before a bike ride?

A male cyclists on the road during sunset.

Although it requires additional time before you start riding, it’s always a good idea to warm up before a bike ride. Warming up prepares your body and mind to cycle. Typically, cyclists who skip the warmup routine compromise their performance.

A warmup should be essential to your workout routine, even if you’re completing a short ride indoors with Vingo or another training app. 

What are the benefits of warming up before cycling?

A male mountain bikers on a wooden trail.

Stretching and warming up is essential for successful cycling. A proper biking warmup will provide the following benefits: 

  • Prepare your muscles for physical activity: Much like letting your car run for a while before driving on a frigid day, you should do the same with your muscles. By warming up, you are turning on your aerobic energy system before starting your workout. As a result, your body will use energy more efficiently, more oxygen will be moved through your body as muscles as your heart rate gradually increases, and you’re less likely to fatigue prematurely.
  • Help prevent injuries while you cycle: As your body temperature increases, your range of motion will also improve, reducing the likelihood of a joint injury.
  • Improve your performance: Your cycling performance will likely improve with a better range of motion and warm muscles. Warming up a little before you ride also prepares you mentally for your ride.

Should you stretch before riding a bike?

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Your cycling warmup routine should also include some stretching. Both static and dynamic stretches are great for cycling.

  • Static stretches are where you sit, stand, or lie down, holding a single position for an extended time.
  • Dynamic stretches are movement-based stretches where each movement is not held for an extended time.

Research indicates static stretching will help improve your range of motion while cycling.1 Dynamic stretching will also improve flexibility but may also help improve your physical performance on the bike.2

How long should my cycling warmup be?

A woman on her indoor bike using an bicycle app.

The length of your cycling warmup should depend on the type of ride you’re about to take on. Typically, the shorter and more explosive your cycling route is, the longer your warmup should be. However, anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes is an excellent start.

8 cycling warmups

A group of people using a indoor exercise bike at a gym.

Wondering what stretches and movements you should incorporate in your cycling warmup? Consider creating a routine using the following physical activities.

1. Light ride outdoors or on your indoor bike

Most cycling warmups include a light bike ride to warm up your muscles. This ride can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes and will get your blood flowing and prepare your cardiovascular system for physical activity. It’s also a good time to think about the ride ahead and prepare mentally.

2. High knee pull to forward lunge

  1. Stand up straight and pull one knee up to your chest.
  2. On the opposite leg, go up onto your toes and step into a forward lunge.
  3. Step back and reset to your starting position.
  4. Repeat five to eight times on each side.

3. Quad pull to lateral line stretch

  1. Grab your ankle with your hand and gently pull it back. You should feel a stretch through your quad (the front of your thigh).
  2. Drop your ankle back down and reach over and up with the same arm.
  3. Repeat five to eight times on each side.

4. Standing calf stretch

  1. Stand about one foot away from a wall.
  2. Extend one leg behind you. Keep your knee straight and make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  3. Lean forward, bending your front knee. Use the wall for support if you need to.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Switch legs and repeat.

5. Hip flexor and psoas stretch

  1. Stand with your right foot forward, and your left foot extended straight back.
  2. Bend your right knee into a forward lunge (so it’s at a 90-degree angle).
  3. Press your hands into your forward knee and move your hips forward. You should feel a stretch on your left side.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Switch legs and repeat.

7. Hamstring scoop to reverse lunge

  1. Step one leg out in front of you, keeping it straight while bending your back knee.
  2. Reach down with both arms in a scooping motion and come back up.
  3. Step your front leg back into a reverse lunge.
  4. Repeat five to eight times on each side.

8. Cycling drills

If you’re heading into a mountain bike race or a challenging cycling course, doing a few mountain bike drills for speed and agility is a good idea. Keep these short and give yourself some recovery time between exercises to avoid getting fatigued before the event.

Alternatively, if you’re warming up for a road race, you might cycle some short hills or sprint drills to prepare for your ride. Again, avoid overworking yourself. Otherwise, you might be fatigued before the cycling event even begins.

Cycling drills aren’t necessary for a basic indoor or outdoor bike ride unless you just want to do them.

Key Takeaways:

Warming up before you go for an indoor or outdoor bike ride is important, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced cyclist. Taking a few minutes to warm up will prepare your body and mind for a ride, help prevent injuries, and enhance your cycling performance.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6370952/ 

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