We all know we should warm up before cycling, right? If you’re not sure how to warm up, I put together these 5 dynamic exercises which you can use as a cycling warm up for both indoor and outdoor rides.
If there is one thing I never miss when I’m teaching my online classes, it’s the warm up (and cool down). The irony though is that as a fit pro myself, I rarely ever do either especially when cycling!
I’m been known to rock up to parkrun and just run; part of me always felt like a warm up was a waste of energy, yet a bigger part of me knows how important it is especially to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
If you’re the type who is brave enough to cycle through the winter then kudos to you! I find it hard to motivate myself to enter the cold and I don’t enjoy that period of time where your body is adjusting to the temperature before it fully warms up.
So, I pulled together these exercises which can be used as a cycling warm up, focusing on the main joints and muscle groups used. They’re also perfect to do at home before an indoor ride and suitable for runners – as featured on Runners World IG in June 2020.
Here are the cycling warm up exercises (view as web story):
1. Walking Hamstring Stretch
Walking hamstring stretch is a dynamic stretch to activate your hamstrings and increase flexibility. Making the movement dynamic increases the blood supply which prepares the muscles for your ride.
Start by standing with your feet hip width apart. Step your left leg forward whilst you bend at the hips and bend your right knee. Keeping a neutral spine, reach towards the toe of your left foot in a sweeping motion, return to your start position. Step the right foot ahead of the left this time and repeat.
Take 20 steps in total.
2. Thoracic Rotations
If you cycle a fair bit, you’ll spend lots of time in a position that causes your thoracic spine to stiffen. Thoracic rotations will mobilise your mid back by increasing the lubrication of the spinal discs. It also will help with the neck movement which is required to turn back and look over your shoulder on the bike.
Start in a standing position with feet hip width apart. Have a slight bend in your knees and hinge forward (to 45degs) from your hips. Cross your arms across each other and place your hands on opposite shoulders.
Twist your upper body to one side, trying to look towards the sky; keep a neutral spine and make sure your head and shoulders follow the direction of the movement.
Complete 10 twists to each side – 20 in total.
3. Lunge With Side Bend And Overhead Reach
This exercise is to warm up your quads, glutes, ankles, hips and lower back. It’s pretty much an allrounder!
Start from a standing position with feet hip width apart. Take a big step forward with your left leg, then drop your hips down by bending your knees so you create two 90deg angles at both knees. Your right knee should be under your right hip and your left knee should be above your left ankle and also in line with your hip.
From there, raise your arms up above your head, lengthen through your spine and then bend your upper body to the left side. Bring your upper body back to neutral, return your arms to our side and then pushing through the heel of your left leg, return to your start position.
Complete 10 lunges with overhead reach on each side for a total of 20 reps.
Get The Warm Up Guide In PDF:
4. Sumo Squat And Internal Hip Rotation
This exercise is focused on hip mobility; your hip is constantly moving when you’re cycling so warming up the joint without any pressing forces can be beneficial. The sumo squat element adds in glute activation as when cycling we want to recruit as many of the major muscle groups as possible.
Start by standing with feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed to 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Place your hands on your hips or wherever feels comfortable. Drop your hips down so there is a bend in your knees, keeping your upper body upright.
From this position, rotate your right hip internally so your right knee moves towards the opposite ankle. Use your core to stabilise your body, keeping it facing forward while you move your leg. Return to the squat position and repeat with your left hip.
Complete 10 rotations per side for a total of 20 reps.
5. Pelvis Rotations
This one again is about your hips, but also core activation and mobilising your lower back. It’ll probably make you laugh too (no, just me?! lol)
Please note that for the purposes of the images I exaggerated the movements. Start standing with feet hip width apart. Place your hands on your hips. The aim is to rotate your tail bone in one complete circle, engaging your core to control the movement.
Complete 10 rotations in a clockwise circle, and 10 anti-clockwise for a total of 20 reps.
Repeat the set of 5 exercises for 3 rounds to complete the warm up.
I hope you find these exercises useful to help you warm up before cycling; I will definitely be taking my own advice from now on too. If you’d prefer to follow along with the exercises and have someone else do the rep counting then you can get access to the video here. In total, it takes less than 20 minutes to complete.
Also, as we’re all so hot on disclosure these days I wanted y’all to know I did badger the other half who is a Sports Therapist (and MSc Osteopathy student) to help me come up with these exercises.
He’s spent plenty of time as support for stage races across the country so has a more in-depth knowledge of cycling specific anatomy than I currently do. But a team effort none-the-less.
I’m wearing the Liv Race Day Kit which I also took to Lanzarote with me in January. Incase you missed my news, I officially became a Liv ambassador back in January 2019! I’ve loved working with them to promote women’s cycling and help lessen the gender gap we’ve all been made well aware of!
Make sure you follow me on whichever of the socials is your favourite (links are juuust below) to keep up with rides, events and all other adventures on two wheels.
Any feedback… workouts you wanna see, if you loved this set of exercises, whatever it is, just let me know via the comments below or get in touch directly!
I never do any kind of exercises like this before I go for a ride so this made me think! Normally, I just start by cycling slowly and then pick up the pace after a while. But my rides are not that long though normally and it’s only this month I started cycling again after a winter break. Are these exercises meant to be only for when it’s colder and before the longer rides?
Defo not weather dependant… a warm up is just pre-workout to get your muscles and joints ready for the main workout. If it was just a short ride, then maybe I would do 1 set of everything, and do the full 3 sets on longer rides. But I was/am the same… when running or cycling I always “started slowly”, and I mean, that works to a point.
Thanks Elle, I will keep this in mind for the future rides.
Virjinia @ With Purpose and Kindness says
Those are definately all great moves! I’ve been working hard to do warm ups before runs and the walking hamstring is one of my favorite. The pelvis rotations do get me to giggling too, lol.
ha! glad it’s not just me 😉 …I find warming up (and cooling down) defo makes me feel less sore esp after a tough run!