Bicycle Network: Health Matters
Geoff Bell's collection of stretches is a perennial favourite.
Stretching not only makes you feel better – it improves the working of the whole muscle, thus reducing muscle fatigue.
What does stretching do?
Stretching pulls the muscle proteins to their maximum length, relieving ‘knots’ in the muscle fibre, and priming it for the next series of contractions. Knots reduce the amount of muscle available, which in turn reduces the force the muscle can generate, and endurance. Stretching out the ‘knots’ primes the whole muscle for action again.
Stretching also lengthens the connective tissue in the muscle, which stimulates repair and strengthening of damaged muscle sections. Not stretching connective tissue may limit the range of movement available at the joint, contributing to tears in the muscle.
Finally, stretching relaxes muscles that are in spasm or contracting involuntarily – in other words it relieves cramps.
There are four basic rules for effective stretching:
1. A muscle must be relaxed in order to stretch. Be in a balanced position so the muscle doesn’t need to work to keep you balanced during the stretch.
2. Sustain the stretch gently. Do not bounce the muscle. Gradually extend the stretch. Relax then stretch it again, holding each time for around 10 seconds.
3. Stretch all the parts of the muscle by varying the angle of movement.
4. Stretch regularly. Always warm up a little first. After the initial stretch, ride a little then stretch again, working out the tight bits (especially in the lower back), so the muscles allow joints to move as they should. Finally, stretch again at the end of the ride to work out knots and to evenly stretch the connective tissue.
Download the whole article for a selection of stretches for you to do.
This article first appeared in the August-September 2005 issue of Ride On.
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