6 Stretches to do pre- and post-spin class
Group cycling classes deliver the rock-hard glutes and thighs you've always dreamed of, but they can leave you feeling tight and sore. Prevent injuries and maximize your workout recovery by cycling through these six static and dynamic pre- and post-class stretches.
Brandon Mills, a group cycling instructor at one of Los Angeles' premier cycling studios, Cycle House, stresses the importance of stretching out, especially post-class, "Be honest with yourself — you just dedicated 45 to 50 minutes to strenuous physical activity — you have five minutes to stretch. Focus on both static and dynamic stretches from head to toe, making sure to spend time on your hamstrings, quads and glutes."
Toy soldier toe touches
The toy soldier toe touches can help get you warmed up before your spin class, and cooled down after. The exercise focuses on limbering up the hamstrings, glutes and lower back, but also targets your upper body. Just make sure you perform the exercise with complete control, only kicking and reaching as high and as far as your range of motion allows.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent, your arms at your sides. In one motion, kick one of your legs in front of your body, keeping your knee relatively straight, as you reach your opposite arm across your body, as if you were going to tap your toes with your hand. Return your leg to the ground and your arm to your side, repeating with the opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating between legs until you've performed the exercise 10 times on each side.
External hip rotation
The external hip rotation helps loosen up your abductors (outer thigh) and your glutes. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your hands on your hips.
Draw your right knee up in front of you to hip-height. With your knee bent, abduct your hip outward as far as you can, so your knee and thigh are pointing to the right. Return your foot to the ground in the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Perform the exercise 10 times to each side.
Dynamic hip flexor stretch
Stretch out the front of your hip (your hip flexor), your quads, your core and even your chest with this dynamic hip flexor stretch.
Start by kneeling on the ground, your torso straight and tall. Step your right foot forward and plant it on the ground a few feet in front of your left knee — as if you were proposing to someone.
Push your hips forward, extending through your left hip as you reach your arms up and over your head, looking toward the sky. If you can, lean back as you stretch upward to open up the chest and shoulders and stretch the core. Reverse the movement, stepping your right leg back so you're kneeling on both legs again. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform the exercise five times to each side.
The Angry Gorilla
According to Mills, the Angry Gorilla does great things for your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors — although when done correctly, it can also help limber up your lower back.
Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Reach down and grab under your toes with both hands, bending your knees slightly if you must. Leverage yourself by pulling on your toes as you shoot your hips back and drop your glutes down to your heels, keeping your knees behind your toes throughout the movement.
Push your chest forward and tall. With your hips forward, press your knees outward with your elbows, so you're sitting like a gorilla.
Dynamically press your hips and glutes back and up as you straighten your knees and return to standing. Repeat the exercise three times.
Downward Dog to glute stretch
The Downward Dog to glute stretch is a great, full-body stretch that targets everything from your shoulders to your hamstrings to your glutes.
Start in a plank position, your arms fully extended under your shoulders, your legs fully extended behind you. Press your hips up and backward as you extend your shoulders, your body forming an inverted "V." Push through your heels, trying to drop them to the ground as you let your head hang between your shoulders. In one motion, push back into a plank position as you draw your right knee forward toward your right hand, rotating your knee outward so your foot crosses in front of your body. Place your right shin on the ground and press your hips forward to feel a stretch through the outside of your right thigh and into your glute. Hold for a second, then lift your right leg off the floor and return to plank. Repeat on the opposite side, alternating between sides until you've performed three full cycles with each leg.
Static figure four glute stretch
Finish up your stretching routine with a final, static glute stretch. Mills suggests doing this stretch while standing next to your bike so that you can hold onto the saddle for balance, if needed.
Stand tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left knee as you rotate your right hip outward, creating a "4" with your legs. Shoot your hips back as you lower your glutes toward the floor, trying to get them parallel to the ground. Press against your right knee with your hand or elbow to deepen the stretch through your butt. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Perform the stretch two or three times.