Core Exercise #8: Boat Pose
What It Works: Transverse abdominus, lower back
A. Sit, resting both hands lightly behind you, and lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle.
B. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you extend arms forward at shoulder height. Abs are tight, as thighs and torso form a 90-degree angle. If your hamstrings are tight, you'll need to bend your knees a little. Work up to holding for 60 seconds.
Why It Works: As with the plank, boat pose 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.
More: 3 Core Exercises From the World's Fittest Man
Why does my back hurt? Lower-back pain is related to core strength, or lack thereof. "In a leg press at the gym, you can press into the back pad to stabilize yourself," says Andy Pruitt, Ed.D., director of Colorado's Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, "but when you push on the pedal, there's nothing to stabilize you except your core." If it's weak, your back fatigues quickly. The pain could also stem from other sources, Pruitt notes, from your cycling shoes to bike fit. A good rule of thumb: Your handlebar shouldn't be more than one fist-width lower than your saddle, says Pruitt, who suggests a bike fitting for those with chronic back pain. "If a fitter can't solve your problem in two tries, see a doctor or physical therapist," he says.
Why do I STILL have a gut? You log thousands of miles a year, but your jersey fits like a sausage casing. The problem isn't a lack of fitness; it's consuming too many calories. Slouching could be exacerbating it. Good posture builds a strong core, but these days we hunch over a steering wheel to get to work, where we hunch over a computer. For a break, we hunch over a handlebar. To shrink your gut, add interval training to your rides to boost calorie burn, lay off the Dunkin' Donuts at rest stops and start training your core.
Can I strengthen my core while on the bike? These geeky yet effective exercises by Marc Evans, a former USA Triathlon head coach and owner of EvansCoaching.com, in Menlo Park, California, work your core on the roll. The key is the Draw In position: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your belly button toward your spine; your pelvis should tilt slightly upward, causing your lower back to be flush with the floor. Try to replicate this on the bike. Evans recommends mastering these moves on a trainer first. For each, do three sets of three 15-second holds; rest 15 seconds between reps.
AERO POSITION: Rest on your aerobar, if you have one, or place your forearms on the top of the handlebar. As you draw in, your back flattens and your pelvis rotates.
SINGLE LEG: Seated with your hands on the hoods, unclip your left foot. As your right foot pedals, extend your left leg back and draw in. Continue to draw in as you clip back into the pedal. Repeat with right leg.
OVERHEAD: Raise your arms overhead and draw in; squeeze the top tube with your knees. (Don't attempt on the road unless you have the handling skills of Tom Boonen.)
STANDING DRAW IN: With hands on the hoods, stand and bend at the hips. Draw in until your back is flat and pelvis tilts.
More: 3 Medicine Ball Workouts to Build Your Core
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