Core Training Exercises for Cyclists
by Darren Round on Mar 02, 2015
Effective strength training is useful for cyclist at all levels. A strong, well-conditioned body has a number of benefits for sports performance and general health. Developing a strong core is particularly helpful in preventing injuries, increasing stability, and improving cycling efficiency.
While the legs are doing the pushing and pulling, the core muscles work to keep the body in the saddle. On long rides the abdominals, obliques, latissimus dorsi, and the muscles around the spine are under a great deal of pressure. It is these muscles that help keep the body upright, provide a stable platform for the hips, thighs and knees to work from, and help minimise discomfort and injury in the back.
Back pain is a common complaint amongst cyclists, but a strong core will minimise or even eradicate this. A strong core also aids cycling efficiency by minimising side to side movement. Swaying takes power away from the legs, and forces other muscles to compensate for the lack of stability. Hip and groin pain, overused hamstrings and quadriceps, and saddle sores are all signs of a weak core. Without a strong core, cyclists often rely on a tight handle bar grip to maintain stability, which places stress on the upper body and causes neck, upper body and shoulder pain.
Cycling requires you to create a force in your legs which can be transferred through your trunk to your upper body. The more force endurance riders can create from their hips and extensors, the more efficient they should be when riding.
More cycling isn’t necessarily the best way to develop a strong core, but including specific core strengthening exercises in your training program can be hugely beneficial to improving your performance and reducing risk of injury. These exercises can be done in or out of the gym, and many can be done when while you recover from injury.
Grab an appropriate sized Swiss ball for your height and start working on that core.
What size Swiss ball is the best one for my height?
< 152 cm = 45 cm ball
152 - 173 cm = 55 cm ball
173 - 188 = 65 cm ball
> 188 cm = 75cm ball
1. Oblique crunches
Place the ball away from a wall so that you can lie on your side on the ball, with your feet against the bottom of the wall and your hips on the top of the ball. Cross your arms over your chest, and bend your side down towards the ball.
Target: Internal and external obliques.
Benefit: Stabilise the pelvic girdle while cycling.
2. Prone cobra
Lie face down over the ball with your feet against the bottom of a wall. Roll the ball under you so that only the area between your navel and groin is touching the ball. Turn your palms to face the ceiling and squeeze your glutes. Keeping your head in line with your spine, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift your chest and thumbs upward.
Target: Glutes, trapezius, and lumbar extensors.
Benefit: Especially good for quad dominant cyclists and long rides.
3. Prone jackknife on Swiss ball
From the push-up position, put your feet on the top of the ball, lock your shoulders and have your arms slightly bent. Roll the ball so that your knees come towards your chest, and then roll back out into the starting position again.
Target: Great overall exercise for most muscles.
Benefit: Trains the muscles to activate their “inner units”, and promotes stability and strength for longer rides.
4. Supine lateral Swiss ball walkout
Lean the back of your head and shoulders on the top of the ball, with your feet flat on the ground and your knees forming a 90 degree angle. Stretch your arms outwards in a crucifix position. Keeping your hips and head in position and, squeezing your glutes, gently roll the ball side to side.
Target: Glutes, and spinal and pelvic muscles
Benefit: Teaches the muscles to work in synergy to provide stability.
In the push-up position, roll the ball under your feet. Keeping your body straight, rotate your hips to lift one foot off the ball, crossing it over the other foot to tap on the other side of it .
Target: Advanced exercise for shoulders, abdominals, and obliques.
Benefits: Shoulder stability and trunk strength.