By Bev Fentiman at Morzine Massage
Your bulging quads and well defined calves are the envy of your fellow cyclists, and you start every ride strong, but there is much more to being cycle fit than just the legs. As the ride progresses, your hips seesaw in the saddle, your lower back aches, and you are slow in corners. “That’s me” I hear you say? Your core tires long before your legs do. Although cyclist’s legs provide the bulk of the power, the abs and lower back are the vital foundation from which all movement, including the pedal stroke stems. If you are serious about cycling this year and you want to do more than ride at a gentle pace down a sunny road or trail, then you really need to start strengthening your core.
So what is the core?
There is a common misconception about the core; we usually think of the abdominals as the “six-pack” and those who think that tend do hundreds of crunches and then wonder why they’re not as good at cycling as they’d like! (If this sounds like you, don’t worry; you’re in good company).
The core muscles are quite a bit larger than just your abdominal muscles. They start at your hips and go all the way through your abs, up along your spine and to your shoulders and neck. The core muscles are complex muscles, requiring far more than simple crunches in order to get stronger.
Why do cyclists need a strong core?
A strong core is vital to a strong pedal stroke as it’s the platform that you push from. With a strong core you will take corners more efficiently, have increased endurance, be more comfortable in the saddle (less lower back pain) and have a more efficient pedal stroke.
If your core is not strong and stable it will fatigue, so you will waste a lot of energy compensating and using smaller muscles. Your body will move up, down and sideways instead of putting that energy into the pedals. Having strong legs but a weak core is like having a Ferrari car with a Ford chassis. Sound familiar?
I spend hours on the bike, my core must be strong?
Unfortunately more hours on the bike does not equate to a stronger core. You need strong core muscles for the cycling tripod position where the saddle, pedals and handlebars support your weight and your core maintains a still position, but this does not build your core. You will have noticed maybe two hours into a cycle, that the core is fatigued, your back is aching, your form is wavering and you’re starting to use other muscles. You are never actually strengthening the core, just reaching the fatigue point each time where your core switches off. You will need to train your core separately.
Try these 5 core exercises to be really Cycle Fit
To create a core that lets you ride faster, longer, more powerfully and finish stronger than ever, just commit to 7 minutes of exercise a day, 3 days a week
A. Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your heels near your glutes. Arms are at your sides, palms down.
B. In one motion, squeeze your glutes, raise your hips off the floor and push up from your heels to form a straight line from shoulders to knees; toes come off the floor slightly. Hold for 3 seconds. Keeping your toes raised, lower yourself threequarters of the way to complete one rep. Do 20 repetitions.
Strengthens: Hip flexors, lower back, glutes
Why It Works: Strengthens the link between lower back and glutes and stretches the hip flexors
A. Lying on your stomach; place your elbows under your shoulders with forearms and hands on the floor.
B. Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your back straight, bum down and abs tight. Aim for 30 seconds, increasing to 90 seconds
Strengthens: Transverse abdominus, lower and upper back
Why It Works: Builds the strength and muscular endurance needed to ride powerfully in the drops or in an aero position.
A. Lie on your right side, with your right elbow under your shoulder, forearm in front for stability, and rest your left foot on your right. Raise your left arm over your head.
B. In one motion, lift your hips to create a straight line down your left side. Lower your hips a few inches off the floor; do 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.
Strengthens: Transverse abdominus and obliques
Why It Works: Strong obliques improve stability in the saddle, enabling you take on hairpin corners with more control and speed.
A. Lay on your back with legs straight, place hands palms down under your lower back.
B. Push elbows down into the floor and pull belly button toward your spine, raise shoulders off the floor and look toward the ceiling. Raise legs 4 inches off the ground and scissor them: left leg over right, then right over left. That’s one rep. Work up to 100.
Strengthens: Transverse abdominus, hip flexors, inner and outer thighs
Why It Works: Connects key cycling muscles, the kick also builds inner-thigh muscles, helping you achieve hip, knee and forefoot alignment for a proper and efficient pedal stroke.
A. Sit, resting both hands lightly behind you, and lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle.
B. Keeping legs and feet together, lift them off the floor as you extend arms forward at shoulder height. Abs are tight, thighs and torso form a 90-degree angle. If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll need to bend your knees a little. Aim for 15 seconds increasing to 60 seconds.
Strengthens: Transverse abdominus and lower back
Why It Works: Builds the lower-back stability and core strength needed to remain bent over the handlebar for hours, or to blast up hills without compromising power or speed.
Written by Bev Fentiman Morzine Massage – 06 67 52 49 36