I've always been unable to touch my toes. This is becoming increasingly problematic for my yoga. Of course focusing on stretching my hamstrings helps and I'm making progress but I'm concerned that my regular cycling — which I'm told tightens the hamstrings — is counteracting my yoga efforts. Is this likely to be the case?

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    Have you tried using a foam roller? See this q/a for info on releasing the hamstrings. Touching your toes also requires back flexibility. Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:40
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    As well as - fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/2164/… and possibly fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/13597/…
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:52
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    As the other questions seem to answer how to increase flexibility, can the question be rephrased to challenge the claim of specific exercise (in this case cycling) tightening muscles and counteracting flexibility?
    – Baarn
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 22:02
  • Unless the question is edited, I vote to close, too. If you choose to edit the question it would be good to know for how long you've been doing yoga (and cycling).
    – Baarn
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 22:06
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    Thank. I've removed the last question and changed the title to specify. I've been cycling to and from work/school/university on an almost daily basis (allowing for weather and a couple of brief periods where the commute was too long) for over 10 years, and I've been doing yoga on a weekly or twice weekly basis for ~2 years. Recently I've started going to yoga (cycling there too!) on a daily basis.
    – Barney
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


Cycling has been shown to shorten the rectus femoris. This happens because its range of motion is smaller than in for example running. The same thing happens to any muscle that is used across a shorter range of motion, so I presume that the exact same thing happens to the hamstring.

There is another factor that plays a role there as well. The hamstring has two functions (and thus two distinct parts, at least the biceps femoris). One part of the biceps femoris only bends the knee, the other part both bends the knee and extends the hip. When cycling, the knee-bending part works at shorter ranges, while the hip-extending part is stretched because we reach forward for the handles. This can eventually lead to impalances, as one part of the muscle becomes tighter than the other.

  • How much cycling would produce a considerable effect? How much the difference is, with regards to shortening the hamstrings, between a casual commute by bicycle, which might even be less intensive than walking, compared to cycling as a sport?
    – BKE
    Commented May 16, 2014 at 17:27
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    There are too many variables to take into consideration. But of course professional cyclists have tighter hamstrings. What drives the change in the muscle is total time under tension, range of motion and force production. If time is increased, range decreased och force increased, the muscle will shorten more quickly. This can of course be counteracted by stretching. Even to the extent that it doesn't influence your yoga sessions. 6 weeks of passive stretching has been shown to improve range of motion by 25%. Commented May 16, 2014 at 20:16

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