Feeling a disconnect between your legs and the rest of your body can be common among cyclists. This sensation is called an "energy bleed," and it stems from a lack of communication between your core and your legs, which causes your muscles to work independently instead of together as a single, unified group.
Although it can feel like your legs are responsible for doing all the work, your core provides a platform for your legs to push against. If your core is weak, or if it isn't firing properly, you won't be able to produce your full potential power output.
When your body is functioning correctly, energy from your muscles is transferred from the core out to the extremities. But when there is a kink in the line of communication (i.e. your core isn't firing), your leg muscles will have to work harder to produce the same amount of power. As you fatigue, your performance on the bike will suffer.
Try these four exercises that help to connect the legs and core by incorporating movements that require both muscle groups.
High Plank Hold With Windshield Wiper Legs
1. Start in a hold-plank position (push-up position) with your shoulders directly over your hands. This should form a straight line from your shoulders down to your ankle. Be sure not to let your hips ride up too high or sink into a sway back position.
2. Keep your left foot on the ground.
3. Engage your core and pick up your right foot. Bring your right knee to your right elbow.
4. Windshield wiper the same knee over to the left elbow.
5. Repeat this windshield wiper movement fives times to each elbow. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Walking Lunge With a Twist
1. The key to obtaining maximum core/leg communication with this exercise is to maintain your upper body in a perfectly upright position. Don't slump the shoulders or bend forward at the hips.
2. Hold both arms straight in front of your body with the palms of your hands pressed together.
3. As you step forward with your right foot, open up your right arm and twist your upper body to the right.
4. Squeeze your shoulder blades and work toward getting your hands as far away from each other as possible.
5. Come back up to standing and bring your hands back in front of your body.
6. Step forward with the left leg and bring your left hand behind you. Twist your torso to the left.
7. Complete 10 lunges on each leg.
Forearm Plank With Frog Kicks
1. You'll need a set of small hand towels to go under each foot for this exercise.
2. Begin in a forearm plank position with a towel under each foot.
3. Slowly slide both knees up under your body into a tuck position. Push both knees out to the sides and frog kick your legs back to the starting position.
4. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions of kicks.
Around the World Balance Reach
1. For this exercise, you'll need to create a semi-circle of small objects that can be placed on the floor (you can use anything from soup cans to small towels). The width of the semi-circle should be about four feet, and the depth about two feet.
2. Place four objects along this arc; these will serve as your touch targets during the exercise. Stand facing the semi-circle with your feet about 12 inches behind the two outside targets in the semi-circle.
3. Standing on your left foot, bend your knee slightly and reach down with your left hand to touch the farthest object on the left side of the arch.
4. Return to standing. Reach down and touch the next object in the arch, etc. until you've touched all four objects.
5. Switch hands and feet. Now touch each object with your right hand. Complete two sets standing on each leg.
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