Pedal Power – Top Exercises for a Great Cycling Core Workout

Abs, Cardio, Cycling

Most people know that cycling is good for building a strong lower body, improving cardiovascular abilities, burning calories, and enhancing endurance, but did you know it’s also a great way of targeting and strengthening your core muscles?

That’s great news for athletes, who can use that improved core strength and stability to take their performance to the next level; but it’s awesome for everyday folks too. Studies show that core stability training may help prevent and/or provide relief from various injuries, ranging from aches, pains, strains, herniations, and more.

So, if you’re looking for an exciting way to build core strength that doesn’t involve getting on the floor (snore!), then you’ll definitely want to check out the cycling core workout below.

 

The Importance of Having a Strong Core for Cycling

Core strength and stability is a godsend for preventing and/or relieving lower back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries, but what does it have to do with cycling?

According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, core stability is closely related to cycling mechanics. Individuals with more core strength and stability often exhibit more cycling efficiency, meaning they’re better equipped for sprint intervals, big climbs, and longer rides.

Core exercises for cyclists can help build and develop these muscles, making you a better cyclist and, as a result, reap more reward from every time you saddle up to ride.

 

These Are the Top 5 Exercises You Can Do to Strengthen Your Core While on the Bike

Building a strong core doesn’t mean you have to be off the bike, necessarily. Here are our picks for the five best core exercises for biking that you can do without getting off your bike.

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1. Out of the Saddle

There’s a reason cycling instructors take you out of the saddle for part of your class time. Not only can you produce a little more power in your pedaling from a standing position, but maintaining good posture while upright in a standing position requires more core activation than simply sitting and cycling away.

Work short intervals of standing into your cycling workout. Thirty seconds out of the saddle followed by thirty seconds seated is a good start, but you can increase that as you become more proficient.

 

2. Side Taps

Wanna work those obliques while on the bike?

Work some side taps into your routine! Here’s how:

  1. Start in the saddle, maintaining your standard pedaling cadence.
  2. Bend your torso to the right, bringing the right elbow to the right thigh.
  3. Come back to center, then do the same on your left side.
  4. Alternate sides until you finish the set.

Make sure you get a nice strong abdominal contraction each rep. You’re really gonna feel the burn with these!

 

3. Cat-Cows

The classic cat-cow stretch involves moving from a hollow position, where the core is tightened and pulled towards the spine, and arched position, where the lower back is curved and lengthened to stretch.

For this one, it’s recommended you are pedaling slowly or not pedaling at all. Focus solely on getting a good contraction of the abs while in the hollow position, and sync your breath with your movement.

The regular floor version of the cat-cow, generally speaking, also makes a good warm-up before hopping on your bike, so don’t count out this unassuming but effective exercise!

 

4. One-Handed Ride

Look, Ma! No hands!

As it turns out, taking one hand off the handlebars while riding recruits more core muscles than regular riding does. So, riding with one hand holding on and one at your side will engage the abdominal muscles and contribute to core strength and stability.

 

5. Handlebar Push-Ups

The SoulCycle warriors know all about handlebar push-ups. It’s great for building upper body strength while on the bike, but it also requires a tight core to perform them with proper form, engaging the abdominal muscles and improving strength and stability.

Beginners should focus on just bending the elbows and bringing the chest forward towards the handlebars, but intermediate and experienced riders can cycle (no pun intended) between wide and narrow hand placements to emphasize different muscle groups on each rep.

 

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These Are the Top 5 Core Exercises You Can Do Off the Bike

It’s convenient to do your core work on the bike, but, for the best results, it’s worth it to do some ab exercises for cyclists off the actual bike and on the floor. Here are a few of our favorites.

 

1. Forearm Plank

The standard forearm plank ranks as one of the best core strength exercises for cyclists, producing an isometric abdominal contraction in order to build abdominal strength and endurance.

To perform, get on all fours, step your feet back, drop to your forearms, and hold the position until you really feel that burn. Beginners should work towards 30 seconds at a time, while seasoned riders may hold the position for 60 to 90 seconds per repetition.

 

2. Hollow Holds

Speaking of isometric exercises, the hollow hold is also one of the best core exercises for cycling. Similar to the plank, it produces core activation by holding a position in which your core is braced. However, you’ll be holding your arms and legs off the floor in the hollow position, which is reminiscent of your body positioning while cycling.

To perform a proper hollow hold, lie supine (facing up) on the floor with your feet together and your arms extended overhead. Simultaneously lift your arms and feet a few inches off the floor, engaging your abdominal muscles to hold the positioning.

If you’re a total pro, feel free to hold a light dumbbell in your hands during your hollow hold. For most people though, holding the position with no weight is hard enough as it is!

 

3. Bicycle Crunches

It only makes sense that one of the best bike core exercises is the aptly-named bicycle crunch. This monster of a move involves bringing your elbow to the opposite knee in order to squeeze that six-pack muscle and the obliques.

To perform, lie supine on the floor, place your hands behind your head and cross your fingers, lift your upper back off the floor, and slowly alternate bringing your left elbow to your right knee and right elbow to your left knee until all reps are complete.

 

4. Leg Raises

The leg raises look more relaxing than regular crunches, but looks can be deceiving. By raising your legs upward, you’re contracting the lower, often underutilized, portion of the rectus abdominis. Working this region should translate nicely to cycling, which involves tons of lower body strength and movement efficiency.

To perform leg raises, lie supine with your back flat on the floor, your arms at your sides, and your palms facing down. Contract your abs and lift your legs, keeping them straight and keeping your feet together, until your body roughly forms a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs back down, keeping the core engaged throughout the full range of motion.

 

5. Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are perfect for your bicycle core workout. Not only does this bodyweight movement target the abdominal muscles and strengthen them, it also recruits posterior chain muscles like the lower back, glutes, quads, hamstrings, all of which contribute to improved cycling strength and biomechanics.

To perform, lie supine with your upper back pressed into the mat, arms at your sides, and palms facing down. Bend your knees, plant your feet, and extend your hips, bringing your pelvis towards the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes at the top, hold, then release and come back down.

The glute bridge is also versatile, as you can perform reps of the glute bridge movement or just hold an isometric glute bridge. Both are beneficial.

 

Core Exercises for Cyclists are Essential to Getting Better

Cycling regularly should provide improvements to your core strength and stability, but, for the best results, it’s crucial to work some of the above exercises into your regular routine. A strong core is important when it comes to improving your performance as a cyclist, as improved core strength and stability provides benefits like:

  • Enhanced endurance
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Greater top speed
  • Improved movement efficiency

 

Ride harder, better, faster, and longer by taking the time to build core strength both on and off the bike. You’ll improve as an athlete and should enjoy an improved overall quality of life too.

 

This is a Great General Cycling Core Workout to Follow

Need a little more direction for your cycling core training workout?

Try this sample workout on for size:

  • 5-min easy ride (warm-up)
  • Speed up to medium cadence
  • 3-min out of saddle intervals (30-sec on, 30-sec off)
  • 20 side taps
  • 1-min left hand only
  • 20 side taps
  • 1-min right hand only
  • 20 handlebar push-ups
  • Slow to easy cadence
  • 10 cat-cows

 

Once you run through this set, take it from the top for 1 or 2 additional rounds (minus the warm-up), then hop off the bike and try this set:

  • 30-sec plank
  • 20 bicycle crunches
  • 30-sec hollow hold
  • 20 leg raises
  • 30-sec plank
  • 20 glute bridges
  • 30-sec hollow hold

 

Remember to listen to your body. If it’s painful to move through the set, stop what you’re doing and try something less strenuous. Soreness and fatigue are to be expected, but you should never have to push through pain.

 

Strength and Endurance Training is Crucial

Plenty of people prefer cardio to weights because they’re worried that even looking at a barbell will result in a big, bulky appearance and that’s not what they want. If it was so easy to bulk up, bodybuilders wouldn’t have to lift super heavy and eat thousands of calories daily to achieve the mass they’re after.

In reality, strength and endurance training is very important, especially as we age. As we get older, we naturally lose more and more muscle mass year after year. Strength training staves off this effect so we can stay healthy and fit for longer.

Additionally, studies show that strength training is useful for “the maintenance of functional abilities, and prevent[ing] osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities,” as well as “positively affect[ing] risk factors such as insulin resistance, resting metabolic rate, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body fat, and gastrointestinal transit time, which are associated with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”

So, whether you’re an amateur athlete, weekend warrior, or just an everyday person looking to stay fit and live a healthy life, strength and endurance training is definitely worthwhile.

Try working some of our cycling core workout exercises into your routine to get the ball rolling on that today!

 

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