12 Great Warm Up Exercises For Cyclists

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As with any sport, including a warm up and cool-down before and after your workouts is imperative for optimum performance and injury prevention

Sometimes it can get complicated trying to fit in the time to warm up when you know you have a long ride ahead of you and will be on the bike for hours, or you’re rushed, and the warm up is the easiest thing to cut out. 

However, as pressed for time as you may be, it is still important to try and take even just a few minutes to get your muscles and joints primed for your weekend ride or race.

To help get you in tip-top shape for your next ride, we have compiled a list of warm up exercises for cyclists for your pre-ride routine,

In this guide, we’ll be covering: 

  • Benefits of Warm Up Exercises For Cyclists
  • Cycling Warm Up Routine 
  • The 12 Best Warm Up Exercises For Cyclists

Let’s dive in!

Warm-Up Exercises for Cyclists: Title Image

The Benefits of Warm Up Exercises For Cyclists

We all know warming up isn’t the most exciting part of training, but taking the time to do so will benefit your performance and make your ride even more worthwhile. 

Starting your workout on cold muscles is never fun, as you spend the first part of your ride catching your breath and trying to push through with stiff muscles and joints. Not very fun, is it?

If you warm up beforehand, you’ll be able to begin the ride the way you want to: feeling strong and ready to go.

Performing warm up exercises for cyclists before your ride:

  • Reduces your muscle, joint, and overall stiffness.
  • Prepares your body for the ride by elevating your heart rate and increasing your body temperature.
  • Increases the speed of nerve conduction.
  • Enhances your coordination, mobility, balance, and agility.
  • Prepares the mind for the workout ahead.

Now that we are clear on why warm up exercises for cyclists are essential, let’s check out how to arrange our cycling warm-up routine before each ride. 

A person doing a dynamic warm-up with their bike on the ground next to them.

Cycling Warm Up Routine 

Ideally, before performing our warm up exercises for cyclists, you will want to have warmed up your body just a bit, whether it be 5 short minutes of easy cycling on the road or a stationary trainer

If you would like to avoid going out on the bike, stopping, and then going out on the bike again, you can always do some marching or jogging in place just to get the blood flowing. However, a quick 5-minute spin around the block would be best.

In our warm up exercises for cyclists, we’ve included dynamic stretches that cover each joint and muscle you’ll use during your ride to prepare your body as best you can. 

Dynamic stretches are active movements to warm up the muscles, joints, and connective tissues. In contrast to static stretching, where you hold the same position for a prolonged period of time, dynamic stretches constantly change position.

The dynamic stretches you choose to do before a workout should be functional to the specific sport or type of exercise that you will perform, whether it be running, lifting weights, or in our case, cycling.

Depending on the sport, the movements made in the dynamic stretches should imitate similar motions that will be made during the specific sport and warm up the particular muscle groups used.

For our cycling purposes, we will include dynamic stretches that work your ankles, calves, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, glutes, core, shoulders, back, and neck. 

Ready to warm up for that ride? Here we go!

The 12 Best Warm Up Exercises For Cyclists

For the first few exercises, you may need to hold on to something stable to keep your balance and perform the exercise correctly.

#1: Leg Swings: Front to Back

  • Stand tall on your right leg with your core firm and your shoulders back and relaxed. 
  • Swing your left leg front and back.
  • Continue swinging for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with your right leg.

#2: Leg Swings: Lateral

  • Stand tall on your right leg keeping your core firm and shoulders back and relaxed. 
  • Swing your left leg laterally across your body. 
  • Continue swinging for 30 seconds. 
  • Repeat with your right leg.

#3: Ankle Circles

Ankle circles can be done just about anywhere or in any position.

They can be done while standing, balancing on one foot, or seated on your bike. The following instructions are performing this exercise from a standing position, holding onto something for balance.

  • Stand tall.
  • Lift your right leg off the ground and hold it slightly out in front of you. 
  • Gently draw clockwise circles with your right foot and repeat 10-12 times. 
  • Then draw counterclockwise and repeat 10-12 times. 
  • Bring your right foot back onto the floor.
  • Lift your left leg and repeat on the other ankle, drawing circles in both directions. 

#4: Heel Toe Walk 

This is a great dynamic exercise to continue to loosen up your ankles and warm up your calves and shins.

Remember doing these exercises with cycling shoes or cleats may be a little awkward or slippery, so be careful!

  • Stand tall with your feet at hip-width apart.
  • Step forward with your right foot and land on your heel.
  • Do the same with your left heel. 
  • Then, step again with your right foot but this time land on your tiptoe, pushing upward as far as possible to stretch that calf. 
  • Repeat with the left foot. 
  • Continue walking forward, repeating right heel, left heel, right tiptoe, and left tiptoe. 
  • Repeat for 30 seconds.  

#5: Walking Lunge to Knee Hug

This warm up exercise for cyclists will not only help with hip mobility but will also help improve our balance and stability while warming up our quads as well. 

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-length apart.
  • Take a step forward with your right foot and fall into a lunge. 
  • As you bring yourself back up to a standing position, lift and hug your left knee to your chest.
  • Then, step forward with your left foot and fall into another lunge, and as you bring yourself back up, lift and hug your right knee to your chest.
  • Alternate sides, advancing forward for 30 seconds.

#6: Walking Table Tops

This is a great dynamic warm up exercise for cyclists that will loosen up your piriformis.

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Standing on your right leg, take your left foot in your hands and bend your left leg at a 90-degree angle. Position your left leg so that it is parallel to the floor. Keep your right knee, the one you are standing on, slightly bent for better stability. 
  • Release your left foot and take a step forward with it. 
  • Repeat the same movement with your right leg. 
  • Continue advancing alternating table tops with both legs for 30 seconds.

#7: Bodyweight Squat With Knee Press 

  • Stand tall with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
  • Tighten your core, keep your chest up, and look ahead.
  • Bend at the knees and hips as you sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your arms are in between your knees.
  • Using your elbows, gently push your knees outward, hold for two seconds, and release. 
  • Using your glutes, push yourself back up to your initial standing position. 
  • Repeat 8 times.

#8: Alternating Calf Raises & Drops

Find a step to perform this one of our warm up exercises for cyclists.

  • Stand on a step or curb.
  • Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the step so your heels hang off.
  • Let your right heel drop toward the ground, hold for one second, and while you bring your right heel back up, drop your left heel toward the ground.
  • Continue alternating heels for 30 seconds.

Note: To get the most out of your calf raises and drops, you may need to hold onto a wall for balance. 

#9: Hamstring & Ankle Activation 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  • Step your left foot forward slightly, placing your left heel on the ground and flexing your foot.
  • Bend your right knee slightly. 
  • Bend at the waist and bring your torso toward your extended leg until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstring, keeping your back straight. 
  • Lower your left foot until it is completely flat on the ground.
  • Flex your left ankle and bring your toes toward your shin. 
  • Repeat this movement 8 times. 
  • Repeat on the other leg. 

#10: Cat-Cow Stretch 

This dynamic stretch will help warm up the muscles in your back and around your spine that tend to stiffen up from constantly hunching over during your rides. 

  • Get on your hands and knees, ensuring your shoulders are directly above your wrists and your knees underneath your hips.
  • As you inhale deeply, arch your back and raise your shoulders and face upwards as your hips drop toward the floor. Hold this position for two seconds.
  • As you exhale, round your back, bring your head down to face toward your belly button, and tuck your pelvis. Hold this position for two seconds. 
  • Repeat 8 times.

#11: Thoracic Rotations

This warm up exercise for cyclists will help mobilize your spine and neck while opening up your chest. Having sufficient mobility in your neck is crucial to be able to peek over your shoulder from time to time.

  • Get on your hands and knees, ensuring your shoulders are directly above your wrists and your knees underneath your hips.
  • Place your left hand on the back of your neck while still facing the floor.
  • Rotate your torso, head, and shoulders to your left and bring your elbow up, trying to look up toward the sky.
  • Hold this position for two seconds.
  • Return to your starting position.
  • Repeat 8 times. 
  • Repeat on the other side.

#12: Rolldown to Half Inchworm

This is another excellent dynamic stretch for our backs while also warming up our core and shoulders. With this movement, you will feel each vertebra loosen as you roll down slowly. 

  • Stand tall and beginning with your head, roll down slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, until your hands can touch the floor.
  • Walk your hands forward until you have reached a full plank position, your body in line from head to toe.
  • Walk your hands back toward your feet and slowly roll up.
  • Repeat 8 times. 

Note: You can also perform a full inchworm, and instead of walking your hands back to your feet, you can take small steps and walk your feet toward your hands. This will activate your hamstrings.

Found these warm up exercises for cyclists helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-endurance athlete and UESCA and RRCA-qualified ultramarathon coach hailing from Newton, MA. Alongside her love of long-distance cycling, Katelyn has raced extensively in elite ultramarathons, and is the founder of the 30 Grados endurance trail-running club. Katelyn is also an experienced sports journalist, and is the Senior Editor of MarathonHandbook.

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