Core Conditioning Exercises For Cyclists
A strong, well conditioned body can have numerous positive impacts on bike riding and general health. It can help prevent injury, increase stability, and cycling efficiency , improve bone health and even reduce the risks of developing diabetes.
Effective strength training should be apart of every cyclists training, but still somewhat ignored, with most people instead focusing primarily on aerobic fitness. Strength training can bring power and muscular endurance into your riding, making you more efficient on the bike and help to support those joints and muscles on those long rides.
So why is the core important?
Core strength is the fundamental part of riding. We spend hours upon hours in the saddle, but while it is the lower body pushing the power through the pedals, it is the core that keeps the body stable in the saddle. Over the course of a long ride our core, more specifically abdominals, obliques, lattissimus dorsi and muscles surrounding the spine such as the thoracolumbar fascia- put on a great deal of pressure.
It is these muscles that 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. A strong core will also aid cycling efficiency. Without the core the stability on the saddle and the lumbar/pelvic position on the bike will suffer, resulting in a side to side movement often referred to as saddle rocking. Thus resulting in less power input from the legs, and can often result in injury within the lower back, or hip/groin area.
Below I have gathered a selection of core strength exercises, with some Yoga inspired back stretches you can use to help ease the muscles after a long ride.
Lay flat on the floor with your feet hip width apart. Pushing through the heels, slowly lifting the hips up to the ceiling, peeling your spine away from the floor. Hold this for the count of 5 and slowly release back to the floor. This exercise is a great way to strengthen the glutes, lengthen the hip flex and activate the core.
On all fours, engage your abdominals obtaining that 'flattened' feeling. Arch your back up towards the ceiling trying to imagine a rope attached from your belly button pulling you up. Hold the arched position for a count of two. Bow down by hollowing your back imagining the rope is pulling you down. Hold for the count of 2. This exercise is great for activating the core while stretching and releasing the muscles in the back.
Lying on your side, stack your feet one of top of the other and support your weight on the forearm and the elbow of one arm. You should create a straight line with the body from shoulder to foot. Hold this for 15-30 seconds on each side. This exercise is great from strengthening the obliques which will support the core during any twisting or sudden movements while cycling.
Single leg raises
This exercises is a great way to focus on that lower core while strengthening those hip flexors to give you support during your pedal strokes. Lying flat on the floor with the arms away from the body. Keep the core engaged and slowly raise on leg up and release back down, alternating sides.
This exercise is a great way to strengthen those core muscles and increase stability in the hips, so you feel stronger on the bike. Step slightly away from the cable machine holding the handle with both arms. Keeping the arms extended, rotate the core so it comes inline with the torso, hold for a few seconds and rotate back round to the side. Throughout the exercises always make sure the hips stay as still as possible by engaging the glutes, this way you will build that strength within the torso and spine.
Back extension/low cobra
Both these exercises are great for strengthening the lower back and opening out the chest.
Back extension- Lying face down, look up and hold your fingertips against your temples. Slowly arch up lifting our chest and upper abdomen off the floor. Pause and slowly release back down.
Low Cobra- a yoga inspired pose working through the lower back extension. Start in the same position as the back extension but this time place your elbows and forearms on the floor close to the body. Inhale as your release up and exhale as your relax the body down.
Also yoga inspired , this is a very relaxing pose and a great stretch for the flexion of the lower back. Kneel down and sit back onto the heels. The traditional childs pose is shown in the first image, with the arms extended behind towards the toes. The second image shows an adaption of the Childs pose with the arms extended infront of the body which elongates the back to feel a deeper stretch.
If you feel like you need any extra support to help you build strength and condition for your cycling please don't hesitate to contact us here at PNF.