Core training is an essential for cyclists, but something that’s commonly neglected. However, two 15-minute sessions per week will make you faster and more comfortable on the bike.
Let us explain why, and show you a workout to try at home!
WHAT IS YOUR CORE?
It’s quite a common misconception that your core is your stomach, however, it is essentially everything that isn’t your arms and legs, from deep in your groin up to your chest and neck.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO TRAIN YOUR CORE ANYWAY?
Having a strong core is essential for getting you fast, and keeping you injury free. It’s also good for your posture and general wellbeing.
Power and efficiency
On the bike, your core is essential for helping you transfer power through the pedals in as smooth and efficient a manner as possible. If your core is weak it’s likely your back may rock and tilt as you pedal, which is simply a waste of energy.
Furthermore, having strong hips and lower back means you are physically able to transfer more power into the pedals in the first place.
Comfort and injury prevention
It’s common for cyclists to complain of a sore lower back or neck after a long bike ride, and the most likely cause of this is due to a weak core. Strengthening your core means the muscles around these areas are stronger and more resistant to fatigue.
Additionally, as your body is essentially one whole ‘chain’, a weakness in one part of your body, say your lower back, means that other muscles act to compensate for that weakness – so in this example, a weak lower back may lead to tight shoulders and neck.
FIVE KEY MOVES TO CRUSH YOUR CORE
Fortunately, you can easily train your core from your lounge! You don’t need any special equipment, although the purchase of basic items such as a swiss ball means you can develop your routine.
Here are five great moves to get you started with your core training. Try building these into a 15-minute session, and do that twice a week. You’ll feel faster and stronger within a month, we promise!
This one is awesome for working the entire centre of your core, from your shoulders through to your abs and lower back.
If you’re new to this, try holding the plank for 45-60 seconds, before resting and repeating three times. The focus here is on good form, not duration of the hold.
To perform the plank:
- Place your elbows on the floor, directly below your shoulders.
- Ground your toes into the floor, with the heel directly above them.
- Imagine pulling your hips up toward the front of your shoulders, engaging the muscles through your groin and stomach, and imagine trying to pull your toes in toward your elbows – effectively creating a tension in the entire front of your core.
- Keep your back perfectly straight! Imagine you’ve got your post-ride coffee cup balanced on your lower back and you don’t want to spill it!
- Now hold still!
As the name suggests, this is simply a variation on the plank, and works the muscles to the sides of your core.
It’s important to perform side planks and not just rely on the standard front plank, as the side plank helps address muscular imbalances. It’s highly likely that you have one side that is stronger than the other all the way through your body, from your legs through your core and arms. And when you have an imbalance, this can cause excess fatigue in one side as you rotate the pedals thousands of times every bike ride.
It’s not until you isolate one side and assess its strength that you notice any imbalances, and the side plank is a great way to find any weaknesses, and address them accordingly.
To perform the side plank:
- Stack one foot on top of the other, or one foot in front of the other if more comfortable (see image) as you lie on one side.
- Lift yourself up and plant you elbow into the ground, directly beneath your shoulder. As you lift, you should form a straight line through your foot, to your hip and shoulder.
- Keep the uppermost arm against your side.
- Engage the muscles in the lower side of your body. It’s easiest to do this by imagining you're pulling your ‘lower’ hip sideways, up toward your shoulder.
- Now hold still!
This one is great for engaging your glutes, which aren’t technically your core. However, it also works your lower back and abdominals, which are key to your power transfer and comfort when cycling.
The glute bridge also gets your glutes ‘firing’. This is a term referring to how the muscles don’t readily engage if we’re stuck at a desk all day, sitting down. Firing the glutes is a great way for training the muscles to correctly engage and contract.
Try repeating this 10 times to start, and start increasing the reps as you become stronger. Perform two to three sets of repetitions.
To perform a glute bridge:
- Lay on your back and bring your heels up to near your bottom, so your knees are pointing toward the ceiling.
- Lay your arms down by your side, palms down.
- Engage your glutes and core, and lift your hips up, until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips, to your knees.
- Ensure you actively engage your core, and imagine your hips pulling up towards your shoulders as you do so, to create a tension.
- Lower back down to the floor.
This is a great one for working a range of stabilising muscles in your core, in a similar way to the side plank. You need these stabilising muscles to hold yourself steady as you ride, and to prevent your back from rocking and moving as you pedal. Also, like the hip bridges, it’s great for firing up your glutes.
Try doing these 10 times to start (5 on one side, 5 on the other) and increase the repetitions as you become stronger and more stable when you perform them.
Perform two to three sets of repetitions.
To perform bird-dogs:
- Get onto your hands and knees, with your knees directly beneath your hips, and palms directly beneath your shoulders.
- Simultaneously extend your right leg directly away from you, and your left arm directly away from you. From the side, your left hand, back, and right heel should form a straight line.
- The key to this is that you keep your back perfectly flat, don’t tilt either way! Remember that coffee cup on your back when you did a plank? It’s there again!
- Hold the position for a few seconds, and really focus on engaging the muscles in your glutes, back and shoulder. Imagine you’re trying to push the heel and hand away from you.
- Reset to the starting position, then repeat, with your right arm and left leg, and continue swapping sides from there.
As the name suggests, this one’s for your back, as well as your glutes, shoulders and hips. This is a great move for anyone who suffers from a sore back after long rides, something likely to be brought on by weaknesses in the area.
Try doing this 10 times to start, and increase over time. Repeat three times
Perform two to three sets of repetitions.
To perform back extensions:
- Lay face down on the ground, with your legs directly behind you, and either bend your elbows to touch your ears, or keep your arms by your side.
- multaneously lift up your shoulders and chest, and your legs and heels; imagine you’re trying pull your heels towards your shoulders. But only lift up as far as feels comfortable, don’t try going too far or you could cause injury to your neck.
- As you lift up, your head will of course also lift – be careful to keep your neck straight and engaged.
- Hold for a few seconds then release, re-set, and repeat.