Cycling is an activity that challenges both endurance and strength, especially in the core area. The core, or centre of the body, is critical to maintaining optimal posture and efficient cycling performance.
A strong core provides stability, improves balance and more effectively distributes energy during pedalling. Core exercises are an essential part of cyclists’ training to improve performance and prevent injury.
The classic plank is a core exercise that works the abdominal, lumbar and shoulder muscles intensely. To perform it, lie on your stomach, placing your forearms on the floor and raising your body to form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Hold this position, making sure your back remains straight and your abdomen is contracted. This exercise not only strengthens the core, but also teaches trunk stability, which is crucial for cyclists.
Russian rotations are excellent for working the obliques and improving flexibility and trunk stability, vital for cyclists when cornering and manoeuvring. Sitting on the floor, lean your torso slightly backwards, lift your feet slightly off the ground and hold a light weight or medicine ball in both hands. Rotate your torso from side to side, making sure you feel the work on your oblique muscles.
This exercise is ideal for strengthening the lower abdomen and hip flexors, which are essential for efficient pedalling. Lie on your back, with your hands under your buttocks to support your lumbar spine. Keeping your legs straight, raise them to a 90-degree angle with your torso and then slowly lower them without touching the ground. It is crucial to keep your back flat on the floor throughout the movement.
Bicycles in the air
Bicycles in the air are a dynamic exercise that simulates a pedalling movement, simultaneously working the abdominals, obliques and hip flexors. Lying on the floor, place your hands behind your head and slightly raise your shoulders off the floor. Alternatively, bring each knee towards your chest while twisting your torso to touch the opposite knee with your elbow…
The one-legged bridge is a great exercise for strengthening the glutes and lower back muscles, as well as improving pelvic stability. Lie on your back, with one leg bent and the other extended. Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your extended leg in line with your torso. Hold the position for a few seconds before lowering. Repeat with the other leg. This exercise is especially useful for cyclists, as it mimics the pedalling action and improves power with each pedal stroke.
Science speaks: Core improves cyclists’ balance and stability
The science behind core training in cyclists is a topic of ongoing interest in the sporting world. A study by EJ Weijmans and S van Berkel, from the Department of Sports Medicine, Isala, in Zwolle, the Netherlands, delves into this area. Published in 2014 in the Journal of Science and Cycling, the study entitled “Do core stabilization exercises enhance cycling efficiency?” specifically examines whether core stabilisation exercises can improve cycling efficiency. Through an eight-week training programme, which included exercises such as the plank and bird-dog, the study focused on measuring cycling efficiency in terms of oxygen consumption and trunk balance.
The results of the study were mixed. Although no significant improvement in gross cycling efficiency was found, improvements were observed in aspects such as balance and trunk stability. These findings suggest that, although core training did not show a direct and significant impact on cycling efficiency in this particular study, it has the potential to contribute to improved cycling posture and technique. This research reinforces the idea that a strong and stable core is crucial for cyclists.
To incorporate these exercises into your training routine, it is important to be consistent and progressive. Start with a few repetitions and gradually increase the intensity and duration. It is advisable to do these exercises at least three times a week, complementing them with your regular cycling training. Also remember the importance of correct breathing and stretching before and after each session to maximise the benefits and prevent injury.
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