Maximising Core Strength Will Improve Overall Technique
As we’ve discussed so far in our “training tips” series, becoming a stronger and more advanced cyclist requires more than just strong legs or improved cardiovascular health.
While you may not be a gym person, the beauty of core exercises are that they can largely be done in the comfort of your own home and without expensive equipment. However, supplementing your cycling with off-the-bike strength exercises is essential to significant improvement, and gyms have far more to offer in this respect.
There are a plethora of useful training techniques to focus on both mentally and physically, and in this article we will look to discuss why your core muscles, although not directly responsible for moving the bike, are essential to the improvement of the body parts that are.
Aside from being a true burn-inducing movement, these mountain climbers will have your heart racing to get a duality of benefits.
Beginning with a straight arm plank, bring one of your knees forwards up towards your chest then kick it back in a smooth motion back to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg, and keep alternating for 15-20 reps each side.
It may seem like an awkward movement at first, but try and find a rhythm that suits your ability – going along to a song with a moderate beat may help to control this.
It only seems fitting to include this exercise given its name! Again this also works your legs as well as your core, so it is a perfect compound exercise to include in your programme.
Start by lying on your back, bring your knees up so that they are in right angles to the floor and your thighs are directly in your eye line – your lower legs should be raised, but parallel to the floor.
Your head should be raised slightly off the ground as if you are looking in front of you, and start by placing your hands on either temple. This will help to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
As if you are pedalling a bike, push your right leg straight out while bringing your left leg toward your face. Simultaneously, twist your torso so that your right elbow is touching your left knee. Then repeat by alternating legs and elbows to engage both sides of your abdominal muscles.
Contrary to popular belief, the core is made up of parts that aren’t just the “glamour muscles”, i.e the abdominal muscles. For this next exercise, there is also a large emphasis placed on the core muscles in the lower back, which are great for posture and stabilising while out on the bike.
Starting on all fours in the hands and knees position, extend your right arm straight out in front of you, and the opposite left leg straight back out behind you to resemble the “superman” pose. Hold this for 4-5 seconds, and then switch to the alternating arm and leg – repeat this 15-20 times. The opposite action may seem challenging to keep stabilised at first, but the stronger your core becomes the longer you can hold the pose.
Side Plank to Thread the Needle
Strong obliques, which are located above your hips and help you twist from side to side, improve your stability in the saddle, letting you take on hairpin corners with more control and speed.
Therefore, using this unique exercise you can improve oblique strength significantly. Begin by lying on your left side, with the left elbow stacked under the shoulder and resting on your forearm for stability, and stack your right foot on top of the left. Raise your right arm straight up toward ceiling, and elevate the hips to create a horizontal body line from heels to head.
To complete the movement, rotate as you bring the arm back down, engage the core and sweep the arm back underneath the left side of your body, thus helping to target the twisting motion that the obliques help to facilitate. Repeat for 10-15 reps before switching to the other arm.