Help me get flexible

Back story, been riding and racing since 92 and I have literally never done any stretching, foam rolling or had a massage.

I’m starting to feel tight in the hips and my legs feel like they are made of rock.

I’ve spent a bit of time researching various exercises to do but some of them I’m just not flexible enough to even attempt.

What’s good to get me started and when should I do them.

I am probably very old school here but google the #4 stretch… that’s good for glutes & hips (and ITB). It is also highly progressive: you can just start by crossing your legs ankle over knee. Then gradually over time raise your knee. Then get to point where you can grab your knee and start to pull it all the way up. Just go to the limit of comfort each time and hold for 20 seconds. It is important to repeat it a couple of times in each session as the load-deload-load cycle as well as the relax in-situ effects are important to increasing flexibility. Or at least that was the rules… damned if I know what they are now.

The my usual routine (For about 30 years) is this

1. butterfly stretch
2. Modified hurdler R & L (no way I can get both hands down there any more)
3. #4 stretch above (I usually do a human pretzel stretch instead… don’t normally do stretches on my back but needs must here)
4. Since you are on your back already do single leg raises (point the straight leg vertically or as close as you can and hold with your hands) to stretch the ham… transition into knee to chest to vary the point of tension.

The only group on the chain you would need to stretch standing then would be the calves. One for that is a heel down wall lean but if you did it as a lunge you can add in a hip thrust to add a different hip stretch at the same time as doing the calf. It would also keep some stabilizer groups active which would not be a bad thing. Isolation exercises are not the most efficient use of time.

[Edit] Oops I forgot 5. heel to butt standing stretch for the quads!

I cant recommend ROMWOD enough. Im sure you can guess by the name, but its got a strong CrossFit pull- which is still good for cyclist, as it focuses on athletes.

Its a yin-yoga based app, $10 or $12 a month and quick, 20 minute sessions you can do before bed. Yin is a style of yoga where you hold poses longer and help open joints up. Most poses specifically focus on the hips.

Following this thread since I’m in the same boat of being laughably inflexible.

I just started doing the Sufferfest’s yoga/stretching plan about a week ago - little 15 minute videos (I think the person who does them, Abi Carver, also has a standalone site). So far, it seems pretty decent.

Not to be a party pooper, but I’ve read that you can’t actually stretch any of your body parts; your hamstrings being one of the very few which can be technically lengthened. It’s more about your brain than your body.

That said, I do a lot of “stretching” for hips and hamstrings. General sport stretching is a good place to start; move into yoga poses once you think you are flexible…you’ll quickly find out you are not flexible! :persevere:


Agreed, from what I’ve seen it’s less about the muscle or tendons being “short” as it is your brain being protective and preventing lengthening to stop you from hurting yourself. So stretching is less about making things longer as it is about teaching your brain that you aren’t going to hurt yourself in different positions so that it lets you get there. I’ve read that not matter how inflexible you might be, if you are knocked out or given anesthesia then someone can basically put your body into positions that would make cirque du soleil performers jealous.

One of the best things that I have found for increasing range of motion is longer (30+ second) stretches with deep breathing. On each exhale you try to fall a little bit deeper into the stretch.

EDIT: It is as much about relaxing as anything. A stretching session might be lightly physically strenuous but mentally it should be as relaxing as possible. It may be different for you and may take some time to get here but about 15-30 seconds into a stretch I usually feel my muscles “give in” to the stretch and sort of “fall” into it. But you need to be relaxed and go slowly so your brain’s protective mechanisms don’t kick in.

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I am not sure I follow here if the supposition is that you are not stretching your connective tissues or muscles then yes I agree it is probably a misnomer to declare it a stretch. However you are over time increasing your range of motion. I suppose through the same neuromuscular mechanisms as any other element of training: by stressing and adapting. It is simply another way of loading your muscles. There is nothing particularly special about it. The old relieve the stiffness with a stretch thing is simply improved local blood flow.

In the past I have gained increased range of motion doing ‘stretches’. For example the modified hurdlers position mentioned above. My current status is just able to hold it one hand on foot… This is pretty much where I started as a teenager… When I was in my 20’s I was two hands and not-quite head to knee. So it was just an adaption mechanism up to my genetic limits like everything else.

I’m a huge fan boy of Kelly Starrett and The Ready State. He has both Facebook and Instagram quick stuff daily along with subscription based mobility work. He’s been on the podcast I believe and is an amazing athlete not just a guy that knows how to do stuff. Try his 10 minute squat test and you’ll see how tight your hips really are.

To further the suggestion above, he became well known by putting out a video a day. A PT friend of mine got me started on them years ago, and you’ll learn a lot and feel a lot better. Just do one or a few a day. I think it’s worth it to do them in order, but then also find others down the list to address what’s specifically bothering you that day. This is the list of them:

Things just pop up in the right time Kelly’s YouTube today is cycling specific.

you probably need a foam roller, you’re going to need to massage those out.

in addition, the #4 stretch is good, but that’s also referred to as a “pigeon on the back” yoga pose. Look up the pigeon pose.

You’ll also need to stretch out the hamstrings, quads, and calves. Those are fairly basic. You can do the hamstrings on your back, against a wall, using the wall as leverage. One leg on a door frame, one leg on the floor. Press into the floor and start to move your hip closer to 90 degrees. Once you reach that, you’re going to need to go beyond, and flex the hip as well.

A quick google search turned this up, looks like a good instruction.

I’m a big fan of Kelly Starrett as well but with the amount of content he puts out can be a little overwhelming until you know what you like/want to focus on. A few years ago a friend told me about this youtube channel as I was talking about how I felt like yoga would be beneficial but I hate doing it. Erin’s routines are short, not stereotypical spiritual yoga stuff (not my thing) with plenty of modifications if you’re not flexible. Here’s her beginner hip and hamstring routine:

Most of her stuff is pretty good- some of the core-focused routines are killer. I try to do at least 1-2 a week (more in the off season) and have definitely noticed a difference in my overall posture in addition to feeling a bit better on the bike.

Chek out Athletes for Yoga:

It’s the old platform from jasyoga moved into a new concept. lots of specific stuff for cyclists and triathletes, pre/post workout stuff ~5min as well as specific resets for hips/hamstrings etc etc (~5min routines)

There’s an interview with Erin Taylor on the purple patch podcast