With the warmer weather, I've been more active outside and have been clocking a lot more miles on my bicycle. And gauging by all the bikes I've been seeing on the roads, a lot of you have been doing the same.
With more riding comes tighter leg muscles, especially the quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings and hip rotators. As these muscles tighten, they act like shrink wrap on the lower back, pulling at the spine and pelvis, and this tightness can result in low back tension.
The kicker here is that as the lower body gets tighter, it can become difficult to stretch the muscles effectively. I've met lots of cyclists who do stretches that focus on the low back yet they continue to suffer back pain.
That's because they are often missing the cause of the pain; especially for stronger, less flexible athletes, it's caused by tightness in the muscles of the pelvis and legs. If stretching doesn't center in the hips and thighs, and if stretches are felt primarily in the low back, they are likely further tightening those muscles, and will get very little in the way of long-term relief.
The best time to stretch is after a cardio workout, while your body is warm. Below is my essential stretching regimen for cyclists, and a video on how to modify the stretches for tighter bodies.
Keep cycling, but most importantly, keep stretching!