When you’re prepping for a multi-day ride like Cycle Oregon, all the training in the world will only get you so far if you’re not also solidifying your core.
Your core strength is the center support for any sort of physical activity, and it’s extremely important when cycling.
Here are a few tips for getting started on the road to a stronger distance ride.
Why Strengthen Your Core for Cycling
Cycling is a “tripod” position, with your feet on the pedals, hands on the bars and rear in the saddle. This set up relies on the core to keep you stable and moving forward, but it doesn’t build those muscles.
Strengthening your core:
- Prevents fatigue by giving your body the stability and support it needs so you’re not leaning on your arms or using your back muscles as much.
- Helps with climbing. Strong abs help make climbing much easier as you draw from that central support and surge forward.
- Getting on and off the bike, especially one with any sort of gear on it, is much safer when you have core strength for stability.
- A stable core allows you to use your other muscles more efficiently.
- Offers the power you need to support the body when you push against the pedal – since you don’t have anything to push back against, such as a back rest. In this case, your core creates that pillar of support.
How to Strengthen Your core for Cycling
There are many ways to go about strengthening your core. The key is to find an activity that works well for you, one you can stick with on a regular basis.
Research core strength online, try all the activities you are interested in, cautiously and carefully until you understand how your body reacts to them. Exercises should work your muscles, but you should never feel pain. Pain is an indication that something isn’t in the correct position or that move is not right for you. Stop immediately, relax your muscles and try something else. Whenever in doubt, consult your doctor, trainer or physical therapist.
Try Yoga or Pilates – Both of these activities stress core strength which nicely compliments cycling. Find a yoga class that focuses on proper alignment to ensure you’re putting your body in a good position for cycling. Many yoga classes focus on the end result – getting into position – without making the tiny adjustments necessary to ensure you’re actually working the aspects of your body that the pose is intended to strengthen or stretch.
As a bonus, look for class or clinic specifically titled something like a Yoga for Cyclists. We’re often so hunched over our handlebars we forget to open up or counter that pose, an important step in building strength and keeping our bodies healthy both on and off the bike.
What Areas of Your Body Need Help
Everyone’s body is different, but most cyclists can benefit from stretching and strengthening the following body areas:
- Hip flexors – strengthen and stretch.
- Lower back – strengthen and stretch.
- Abs – Strengthen.
- Hamstrings – the ongoing stretching of hamstrings (such a challenge for cyclists).
- Chest and shoulders – Stretch them open to counterbalance the position of most cycling.