Power in cycling comes from the legs but cannot be transmitted into the pedals unless there is a strong core platform to push off. If the center of your body turns into a noodle after 30 minutes of riding, power and endurance carefully developed in your arms and legs cannot be used.
Efficiency is a big part of being fast when mountain biking. A strong core and upper body is needed to drive your bike through technical terrain without losing momentum. Endurance mountain bike racers need a huge reservoir of core and upper body strength to maintain control of the bike for 12 to 24 hours of offroad pounding.
Core strength means hips, butt, lower back and abdomen. It means flexing and extending the trunk as in back extensions and crunches. It also means stabilizing against a force such as gravity in exercises such as bridging. Integration exercises that work the abdominal, back, hip and butt muscles all at the same time are the best core strengthening exercises.
Tips for Core Strengthening Exercises
- Contract your abdominal muscles throughout all exercises. Think of keeping your belly button pressed into your spine. This keeps you muscles close to your spinal column and provides spinal support.
- During exercises when both feet are up off the floor, keep your belly button pressed into your spine and your spine pressed into the floor to support your lumbar spine.
- During exercises when both feet are on the floor, keep your hips and spine in a neutral position.
- Move fluidly without and throwing and jerking motions.
- Breathe slowly and smoothly throughout exercises.
- Add lots of variety into your core training routine.
- Target your whole core by alternating abdominal, back and side exercises. Use both mobility and stability exercises.
As with all new exercises, start slowly and avoid any movement that causes pain. If you are not confident with your technique, seek the services of a certified personal trainer.
Pillar Ball Twist
Get in the push-up position with your feet flat (shoelaces to ball) on top of a stability ball. Place your hands the same width apart they are on the handlebars. Keep your body rigid with legs and feet squeezed together. Rotate your torso to the left turning your belly button to face the wall while rolling onto the side of your left foot. Hold in place for a second and then rotate your feet back to the shoelaces on the ball position with your belly button pointing at floor. Hold for a second and then repeat rotation to the right side. Any butt swinging or bending at the hips or knees is cheating. Make your shoulders and torso do the work. This is a killer exercise for mountain bikers. Ten reps to each side should be tough.