If nutrition is the protein on my sports performance, weight loss plate and cycling and exercise are the carbs, then a good selection of hip opener stretches would have to fill the spot left for healthy fats on my perfect dish.
I can remember having knee issues as far back as my school team goal keeping days and then coming to a head years later as I prepared for my first London Marathon. Post operation I have managed to complete a couple marathons and participated in any other sport I fancied trying my hand at and I would definitely put that down to maintaining strong leg muscles and mobile hips. The four hip opener stretches I do on a regular basis are;
Pigeon pose is a great stretch to open the hips, lengthen the hip flexors, stretches the thighs, gluteals and Piriformis muscles.
Kneeling Hip Flexor
A stretch that you feel at the front of the thighs is very beneficial for those suffering with back pain as the psoas muscles are attached to the lumbar spine.
A deep opening of the hips through strong external rotation, decompresses the lower back when bending forward.
Opens the hips, hamstrings, groin and hip flexors. Strengthens the inner thigh muscles on the front leg. Opens and releases the chest, shoulders and neck.
See the video below for my hip opener routine;
As you can tell by the name of some of these stretches, they have their origins in yoga, I’m not a ‘Yogi myself, but I have been fortunate to have been able to work along side some fantastic Yoga teachers, occasionally attending their classes and have picked out a few of the stretches that I find really beneficial in keeping any knee issues at bay.
Why should all cyclist be doing hip opener stretches?
You know the feeling when your body is tight, especially when you are sitting at your desk, computer or even while watching TV? This is essentially because your hips are less flexible. In fact the more you sit, the more your hips become inflexible, due to the shortening of the hip flexors at the front of the hip, this in turn causes tightness of the hip rotators. You feel locked up or even weighted down because your hips are so tense, oh and your passion is cycling, good luck with that!
In my experience most back and knee pain can be put down to limited hip mobility, oh and while you’re at it check the mobility of the ankles too, knee pain especially is often the result of tightness or immobility in the knee or ankle.
I’m going to be honest here, very rarely do I stretch before or after a bike ride, unless I have some obvious tightness which needs attention. At least twice a week I go to a stretch class at the gym, it’s a mixture of Yoga and Pilates and over the last couple of years I have seen my flexibility and stability improve enough to promote myself up to the middle of the class and away from the cardboard cut outs at the back! All joking aside if you are a relatively active person, but do not stretch on a regular basis it can feel like a bit of an uphill battle. Try out the routine below and let me know how you get on?