By Victor Jimenez
A stable pelvis is the base of power production on a bike. Think of your legs as the engine and your torso as the engine mount. Without the “engine mount” you cannot produce any power on the pedals.
A key to pedaling efficiency
If you are a cyclist or triathlete and want to improve your efficiency, your torso, or core, is the first place to look. This seems counterintuitive. Most of us naturally feel that we should be working on our legs and our aerobic strength to produce more power. While those areas are important, we must first work on our core.
What is a cyclist’s functional core?
The “functional core” is simply all of the muscles that your body uses to perform a function or movement. In cycling your core is composed of most of your upper body and even your arms and hands. The most important areas for cyclists and triathletes are the posterior muscles in your upper body. Posterior muscles are all of those muscles that run up your back and wrap around your torso.
Does strengthening these muscles increase comfort?
A strong and engaged functional core will take pressure off your hands, and will hold your pelvis in a much more stable and efficient position. Saddle comfort is also drastically increased because your pelvis will be much more stable, reducing the uncomfortable friction that comes with excessive movement of the hips. If using aerobars, you’ll find that while in the aero position you will have much more control and comfort.
When you have a strong functional core for your chosen sport your chance of injury is much lower. In cycling there are many stresses on the body. Some are from pedaling and others are from hitting bumps in the road and even from turning and controlling the bike.
Essential core exercises for cyclists and triathletes
There are literally thousands of core-strengthening exercises. The best ones for cyclists are the ones that focus on the posterior chain, as mentioned earlier. Below are just a few of my favorites. Most of them sound very simple, and they are. Simple does not mean they are easy.
This is a non-weighted exercise where you lie flat on your stomach and lift your arms and legs off the floor. There are many variations of this exercise. You can lift opposite legs and arms or just legs or just arms. You want to lift and hold for 15 seconds or so.
This exercise is very similar to the Superman with one exception. Instead of lying on your stomach on the floor, you are on a stability ball. This is one exercise that you will love to hate.
Warrior pose in yoga
If you don't know this pose you should ask your yoga teacher to help you with proper form. All of the variations of warrior are great for cyclists, especially warrior one.
Plank in yoga
On the surface the plank looks like a very simple, easy exercise. Don't be fooled – it is one of the most difficult core exercises. Get on the floor as if you are doing a push-up. Instead of placing your hands on the floor, rest on your elbows with your forearms flat on the floor. This is almost exactly like your aero position on the bike. Work on holding this position for three minutes or more. Again, seek out your yoga instructor for proper form. There are many variations of this exercise and they are all great for cyclists.
Dead lift, with or without weights
The dead lift is to cyclists what wings are to birds. There are few other exercises that strengthen the upper-body muscles used in cycling as well. To perform the dead lift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs straight. Reach to the floor and lift the weight by standing up straight. Again, form is critical, so you should learn proper form from a personal trainer. This can be performed with no weights or even with dumbbells.
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