Most serious cyclists understand the importance of a strong core, but both rookies and veterans alike neglect this critical part of their body.
"The core is often overlooked," says Laurie Jackson, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer based in Tucson, Arizona. "What cyclists might not realize is how it's linked to riding. If you don't have a stable core you won't be able to use your leg power efficiently."
Jackson offers a classic example. Two riders—one with a weak core and the other with a strong core—approach a hill and both get out of the saddle and start pumping along. The one with a weak core flails about while the other cyclist rides smoothly along. One wastes energy, while the other captures and uses it to propel them up the hill faster and more efficiently.
Any guesses on who reaches the top first? More importantly, who still has plenty in the tank to tackle hills two, three, four, five and six? The one with a stable core is more likely to win every time.
Jackson, who also is a certified group fitness instructor through ACE and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, has a go-to list of core exercises for her cyclist and triathlete clients.
Cyclists who are serious about strengthening their core and improving their riding as a result, should pick four of the exercises listed below and complete them in a single workout two to three times a week. Cyclists can start by completing two sets of each exercise and eventually work up to three, Jackson says.
Lay on the floor as if you're going to do a standard crunch abdominal exercise. Your knees should be bent with feet on the floor. Grab a physio ball with two hands, engage the abs and sit up slightly. Trace the ball in a single clockwise circle before slowly lowering yourself back to the floor. Repeat 15 times. Then start over, this time moving in the counterclockwise direction for another 15 times.
Beware: don't sit all the way up, Jackson says. You should feel the abs working to hold you in position. This exercise works the lower back and oblique and transverse abdominal muscles.
This exercise, sometimes called the bridge, begins by lying on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Slowly raise your pelvis up off the floor, hold two seconds and lower. Repeat immediately, making sure to squeeze your glutes as you raise your pelvis. Complete 20 pelvic tilts per set.
This exercise strengthens the hip flexors and glutes.