As avid cyclists we tend to neglect our core and instead focus on increasing strength in the legs, thinking this should be the only muscular focus for increasing speed. However, having a weak core could become an injury risk once we start increasing the volume in our cycling regimen. A weak core could lead to instability in bike handling, negative compensation patterns, and low back pain. By incorporating core exercises in our strengthening program we can improve riding efficiency. Additionally, it aids in avoiding over compensation by the hip and leg muscles that could eventually lead to injuries. All factors when combined with a proper training regimen could allow for improvements in overall speed and smoother pedal stroke. By completing 3-4 of the following core maneuvers, 3-4 times a week; we can reap the benefits of this strengthening program.
This is a great exercise that incorporates all the abdominal muscles from your obliques, to rectus abdominis, and intercostal muscles, as well as erector spinaes (back muscles). When completing this exercise, make sure to maintain a flat back and not raise your butt in the air to compensate for weakness. A good tip is placing a straight pole/stick on your back and not allowing it to fall. Also, look straight ahead instead of looking down. You can initially start with 3 sets of 20 seconds and continuously add 15 seconds as you become stronger.
2. Planks with Plate Movement
This variation of the plank is more advanced and engages the obliques more than the standard plank. Females can begin with 4-2.5lb plates and males can begin with 4-5lb plates. In this exercise you stack the plates on the left hand side and while in plank position stack them to the right. Completing one repetition involves moving the plates from the left to the right and back. Make sure to complete 3 sets of 5 repetitions, maintaining proper plank form throughout.
3. Planks with Small Resistance Band Loop
This is a different variation of the plank that also includes strengthening the chest muscles. This plank requires a theraband or resistance band loop that goes around both wrists. Make sure to always maintain tension on the band and not allow it to relax. As indicated in the photos this movement must be completed off a small ledge or stacked foam mats to create a difference in floor height. Start with both hands on the floor, then move them up on top of the stacked foam mats one by one then back down. That is one rep. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
4. Side Planks
This exercise isolates the obliques and minimally engages the hip abductors muscles to keep the hips up during the movement. These should be completed 3 times on each side for 20 seconds and continuously adding 15 seconds as it becomes easier.
5. Glute Bridges with Stability Ball
Most people don’t assimilate glute strength to be related with overall core strength. However, if the glutes are weak it requires more effort from the back muscles causing them to spasm thus, leading to pain. Lift your glutes off the ground by raising one leg in the air and using the opposite leg to lift you in to the bridge. Switch legs and do the same. That is one rep. Complete 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
6.Glute Bridges with Resistance Bands
When completing this exercise make sure to acquire two thick/heavy resistance bands and place them across the bottom of a squat rack. Then, slide under the bands and complete the glute bridge making sure to squeeze your glute muscles and abdominal muscles as your rise up. Complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions and increase repetitions as strength improves.
7. Opposite Arm/Opposite Leg
Maintain a similar position to the plank in this exercise and extend upwards with the left arm and right leg, then the right arm and left leg. Ensure that the back is flat and leg and arm are fully extended. A helpful feedback tool for form is to maintain a stick on the low back, making sure it doesn’t fall. Complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions.
8. Kettle Bell Toss
Using a light kettle bell (5-10lbs) depending on your core strength, stand with your legs shoulder width apart, and a tightened core. Then, toss the kettle bell from one hand to the other engaging your obliques. You can initially complete this for 1 minute straight and increase by 30 seconds as you become stronger for a total of 3 sets.
9. Ab Slides
This exercise is extremely challenging and requires a Sorinex Roller and long resistance band. Loop the resistance band around the roller and tie the opposite end to a pole. Place your feet in the ridges of the roller and maintain a push-up position, stretch out until there is tension on the band, then bring the roller towards your arms, making sure to not let the roller move sideways, rather straight up and down. This exercise incorporates all core muscles (abdominals, erector spinaes, and glutes). Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
10. Abs using Cable Cross Over Machine
This core maneuver requires more equipment involving a cable cross over machine and two ankle cuffs. First you want to lower the arms on the cable cross over machine to the lowest insert and then hook each leg to the respective hook on the machine. Place yourself in a push up position and bring your right foot towards your left wrist and vice versa. Complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions.
These core exercises for cyclists involve beginner to more advanced maneuvers. It is helpful to complete these in front of a mirror or with a partner to correct technique throughout. In addition, it is important to remember to keep the glutes down during all plank exercises and ensure you maintain a flat back. Also, maintain a tight core by squeezing the abs and glutes during the exercises. This will help reduce injury and yield the full benefits of the exercises.