One of the reasons I got into cycling was because I had formerly been an amateur rower, but a chronic back issue from a lifting accident years ago cut short my dreams of pursuing that sport aggressively. Rowing is a repetitive motion sport that doesn’t cause injury very often, but exacerbates existing issues.
I’ve found that cycling, to my and many peoples’ amazement, has little impact on my back at all. In fact I can be stiff or sore while standing or walking, but on my bike, most of the stiffness or pain goes away.
That is, however, dependant on how hard and long I ride.
The longer the rides, or the tougher the climbs, I have found that my back likes to stiffen; as do my glutes. Sometimes my knees get sore, right under or near the knee caps.
I’ve discussed this with trainers and physiotherapists, and all agree that a concerted (if brief) stretching regimen is necessary both before and especially after a ride.
The stretches that I like to do are one set of back+glute stretches (seated on the ground, one leg straight, the other bent so the knee is up in the air and crossing the straight leg, and then twisting your body in the opposite direction)… One set of knee hugs (either standing or laying on your back, one leg straight, hugging the other leg into your chest)… One set of glute stretches (laying on back, knees at 45 degrees, bring one leg up, cross the foot across the opposite knee and pull in towards your chest)… IT band stretch (like a runner’s lunge but bringing your torso back to near vertical while in the lunge)… Lateral lunge (from squat, shift to one side using one glute, then the other with the opposite)… Cobra pose (laying face-down on floor, squeezing your butt, hands planted on floor, stretching your head and shoulders to the sky)… Child’s pose (helps release your back from the Cobra, and loosens shoulders – from laying face down, sit back on your knees, arms extended outwards, face down and stretch your torso).
My physiotherapist also recommended what she called a ‘dynamic warm-up’ which includes standing knee hugs, then standing knee hugs with a leg twist, and finally, walking lunges + stretching opposite hand into the air. Set of 6 each and I’m more or less ready to roll.
The funny thing is that I never feel the benefit of these stretches – rather I feel when I don’t stretch – especially later in the day once the ride is over, or the next day. And on my next ride I specifically feel how tight my glutes and lower back are. Not fun, so make sure you stretch!