Your training off the bike is as important as the training you do on the bike. Your core is something you can’t ignore.
This muscle group is essential for an efficient pedalling technique and will help stabilise the hips and legs for greater power transmission to the pedals.
A strong core can also help prevent injuries, develop bike handling skills and improve a riders overall posture.
When you think of core strength you may automatically think of your abdominal muscles, however training your core muscles to be efficient on the bike is much more than this.
The core muscle group relates to the muscles that stabilise the hips and pelvis that wrap around the trunk and lower back. It also includes the gluteals, which are often forgotten about, despite the crucial role they play in stabilising the hips and producing power.
It is crucial that you regularly work on strengthening your core muscles. In turn, your performance on the bike will improve. Try these five exercises that will help condition your core.
– Begin the exercise on all fours and keep and make sure your head is in line with your torso. On inhalation stretch your left leg out so it is straight and in line with your trunk. Exhale and bring your leg back in towards your chest, rounding your back in the process so that your knee is brought in towards your nose. Inhale before extending your leg, back out again.
– Complete six repetitions on each leg.
Progression: If you want to improve your balance and stability further, try the Balanced Quadruped which consists of reaching out with your opposite arm when stretching out with your opposite leg. Complete one repetition by bringing the elbow back in to touch the knee.
However holding a plank in an incorrect position can lead to injuries in the lower back, wrists and neck. Therefore it is important to focus on holding a safe position that maintains an imaginary line from the head to the heels before increasing the intensity of the exercise.
This can be helped by looking down and not ahead, dropping to your knees if your body starts to sag and reducing the potential pressures on your wrists by spreading your palms outwards.
Maintaining these requirements mean that you will get the full benefit from the exercise and can develop the exercise further by focusing on different muscle groups.
Progression: If you would like to increase arm, shoulder and upper back strength, narrow the arms so that the weight baring shifts onto these muscles.
– Begin with the basic clam by lying on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and your head resting on your arm. Making sure your feet stay in contact with each other lift your feet off the floor before lifting and lowering your top knee until you feel a squeezing sensation in your outer hip muscle.
– Complete ten repetitions before moving on immediately to the pedalling clam.
Progression: The pedalling clam consists of maintaining the 90-degree bend at the knee and swinging it forwards and backwards. Squeeze the glute muscles on the backwards phase of the action, repeat ten repetitions before repeating the entire routine on the other hip.
The bridge exercise works primarily on improving glute strength; this underworked muscle is crucial to cycling, as the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body that can produce a hefty amount of power.
– Lie on your back with your hands down by your side and palms facing downwards.
– Position your feet hip width apart and slowly lift the hips up. Hold the position for two seconds at the top of the bridge, this should result in a straight line being obvious from the knees down to the shoulders.
Progression: Increase the difficulty of this exercise by working each glute muscle in isolation. Start the single leg bridge with the same hip width base as the standard bridge.
However this time raise one leg up whilst still maintaining the 90-degree leg bend, before lifting the hips to the raised position. Complete six repetitions on each leg.
However when performed correctly it engages the glute and abdominal muscles, hitting all the crucial muscles used when cycling.
The squat replicates the movement of standing up and sitting down, however it must be performed in a controlled manner otherwise you could cause damage to knee joints.
– Start with your feet shoulder width apart and interlock your hands out in front to maintain balance.
– Slowly bend down ensuring the knees don’t drift over the toes, and dropping the hips back and down to maintain a neutral posture. Return to the starting position and repeat ten times.
Progression: To perform a single-leg squat, shift your weight onto one leg and raise the other leg out in front into a bent position.
Start to bend the standing leg to lower down, ensuring the knee doesn’t drift over the toe. Slowly return to the starting position whilst maintaining a slight bend in the knee so it doesn’t lock out.
Use a rope or a wall during a single-leg squat to help balance during the exercise but not as a lifting aide.