Being a strong cyclist requires more than just strong legs. To prevent aches and maximize power transfer into your pedals, you need a strong core. A strong core will help in your climbing, sprinting, endurance and bike handling.
Yet cycling alone is not enough to build a strong core, and so you should supplement your bike time with off-the-bike strength exercises.
At the beginning of the year, I spent some time in the gym, working on just that. I worked with a strength and conditioning coach who sent me on the right path with a program to follow, and gulp, I even joined my local gym!
I’m not a gym person, and the whole thing was a little daunting for me at first. But after a short time, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, it was fun and the staff was encouraging and helpful.
My trainer Elliot and I have put together a few of my favorite exercises that I and all cyclists can do at home to maintain and strengthen our core –no gym membership necessary!
These exercises can be performed sequentially, 20 reps of each exercise, twice weekly all year-round with great benefits transferable directly to the bike.
Please note that I’m not a trained PT, and I suggest consulting with a health professional prior to starting any program, especially if you are new to training. There are many factors for this disclaimer, though injury and progressive overload are two main ones that spring to mind.
The bicycle crunch
We are cyclists after all! The bicycle crunch is an excellent exercise for building core strength while also working your legs.
- To get into the starting position, lie on your back, with your lower back pressed to the ground.
- Put your hands beside your head, touching the back of your ears. Do not hold your head or strain your neck.
- Now lift your shoulders off the floor, into the start of a crunch position.
- Bring your knees up so that they are in right angles to the floor, your lower legs should be raised, but parallel to the floor. You are now in the starting position.
- Now, as if you are pedalling a bike, push your right leg out while bringing your left leg toward you. Twist your torso so that your right elbow is touching your left knee. Repeat this movement alternating opposite knee to opposite elbow.
- Next, keep ‘pedaling’ alternating legs and arms in the same smooth motion. If you feel the burn in your abs, you’re doing it right.
- Complete 20 reps.
Good old plank, with a twist
The plank is one of the most simple and effective core exercise that you can do, anywhere, any time. This plank has a modification to make it a little different, engaging your abs, obliques, back, shoulders, arms and also your legs.
- Firstly, you need to get into the prone position on the floor, with your arms bent and directly underneath your shoulder. Your weight should be supported on your toes and forearms.
- Keep your body straight at all times, with your core engaged, pivot your weight to one side, dropping your feet to the side and then raising that arm vertically above you as you twist. Turn your head to follow your hand up towards the sky.
- Hold for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting ‘prone’ position.
- Repeat on the other side and alternate between each side for 20 reps each side
This is one of my favorite exercises to do. It gets the heart racing while strengthening and stabilising the core.
- Start in a straight arm plank or push up position, with your weight supported by your hands and toes. Engage your core.
- Bend your right knee up towards your chest.
- And then kick it back in a swift motion back to the starting position.
- Alternate, legs for the left side and then repeat in an alternating fashion 20 reps on each side.
- Your feet will only touch the ground when it is in the starting position.
Note: try to keep your back as straight as possible. If this position moves, take a break reset your position.
I love this exercise, not only for its humorous name, but for the burn I get whilst completing it.
- Start by lying on your back with your hands extended above you toward the ceiling.
- Bring your feet, knees and hips to a 90-degree angle to the floor.
- Then, flatten your back onto the floor, rotate your pelvis and engage your glutes. Breathe. This is the starting position.
- Now extend one leg out, straightening the knee so the leg is just above the ground. As you do this, lower the opposite arm behind your head.
- Engage your core and bring both your leg and your arm into the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side, alternating until the set is complete.
- Repeat 20 times on each side.
Kneeling Superman exercise is great for cyclists as it challenges the back muscles as well as core. The opposite actions make it challenging and will help with your core stability.
- The starting position would be on your hands and knees, so that you are kneeling on all fours. Be sure to have your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Engage your core then, at the same time extend your right arm forward and your left leg backward until they are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds.
- Then, bring your left knee and right hand back to the beginning
- Now do the same using your left arm forward and right leg back.
- Repeat 20 times on each side.
About the author
The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.
She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.