Want to take your cycling to the next level this year? Instead of spending more hours training in the saddle, achieve the endurance you need by strengthening your core muscles. Here's how.
As a cyclist, it's easy to neglect your core when you feel like you're putting in good hours on the bike. However, when it comes to endurance, it's your core that's most likely to let you down. Your quads and calves can be strong as steel, but when your lower back begins to ache, your hips start to lock up, and you can't balance quite as well around corners, these are sure-fire signs that you need to strengthen you core.
You core refers to all the muscles in your stomach and lower back, extending down towards your thighs. These muscles help you stay steady on your bike and control your pedal stroke. "In order to improve your cycling, you need to strengthen your entire core: abdominals, lower back, obliques, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors," says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality.
Add these workouts into your weekly routine twice a week to improve your overall strength and stability on your bike:
This simple exercise stretches your hip flexors and strengthens your glutes, lower back and hamstrings in one movement.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Put your arms at your sides to stabilise you.
- Start the movement by squeezing your glutes and tightening your abs. Lift your hips off the floor until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold this position for a few breaths, and then lower your hips again.
- Repeat 15 times.
You can use these exercises to warm up before a ride or to cool down afterwards. Or, if you need a day out of the saddle, spend some time working through these exercises and soon you'll start to enjoy the benefits of a stronger core, both on and off the bike.
The plank is tougher than it looks and really targets your stabilising muscles, including your abdominals and back.
- Lie down flat on your stomach. Tuck in your toes and prop yourself up on your elbows.
- Lift your hips off the floor so that your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders are all in line. Hold for as long as you can, working up to one minute.
- Repeat three times.
This exercise focuses on your abdominals, hips, and thighs. Keep your spine supported to avoid straining your lower back muscles.
- Lie on your back with both legs straight and feet relaxed. Put your hands next to your sides or, if you need more lumbar support, tuck your hands just below your hips.
- Start from a crunch position by lifting your shoulders, neck, and head off the floor, supported by your elbows.
- Remain in a crunch position and lift your right leg 10cm off the floor. As you lower your right leg, lift your left leg and continue to scissor your legs for one minute. Make sure your lower back stays flat on the floor as you raise your legs and your pelvis does not roll backwards and forwards. Stop if you feel your lower back or neck straining.
- Repeat three times.
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