Having a strong core is essential to going faster on the bike.  You can make your legs as strong as you like, but if you can’t maintain stability in your torso and apply all that force and power you are generating to the pedals, are you really maximizing your return on time invested and going as fast as you can?  Heck no!  I have seen the difference having a strong and stable core can make in an athlete (including myself) and the following exercises are some of my favorites and the movements I recommend to my athletes.

The Rules:

  • Core work should ideally be done 1-3 times per week.  I like to have my athletes do a lot more during the preparation phase and gradually reduce to 1 time a week by their build phase for maintenance sake.  Some athletes need more core work though, so always do what works best for you!
  • WARNING: These exercises can make you REALLY sore the first time you do them.  I would not increase the number of reps and / or time holding a position until you can perform them without soreness.
  • Try and do these in front of a mirror the first few times so you can spot any breakdown in form / weakness in a certain muscle group.  Always try to maintain good form throughout the exercises and if you do notice a breakdown, stop.

#1 Planks:

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Make it easier – Bend your knees:

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Make it harder – Tripod – Lift one leg up:

img_1515

  • Start on your stomach.  Keep your feet hip width apart, on your toes or knees, and elbows directly under your shoulders.  When ready, lift your butt until there is a straight line from your shoulders down to your ankles or knees and hold.
  • The most common breakdown in form is dropping of the hips towards the ground, once you see this, stop.
  • A good goal for planks is to be able to hold one for 3 minutes, after this, progress to the tripod position.

#2 Side Planks:

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Make it easier – Bend your knees:

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Make it harder – Extend the elbow:

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  • Start on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder.  When ready, lift your hip off the ground until you form a straight line from your shoulders down to your ankles and hold.  Repeat on both sides.
  • The most common breakdown in form is dropping of the hips towards the ground, once you see this, stop.
  • A good goal for planks is to be able to hold one for 3 minutes, after this, progress to the elbow extended position.

#3 Bird Dogs:

  • Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.  When ready, lift and extend the right arm and left leg, hold steady for a few seconds, and repeat on same side.
  • Make sure you don’t rotate from your hips or shoulders here!
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 30 repetitions total.

#4 Superman:

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Make it easier – Hands by sides, legs on ground:

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  • Start on your stomach, when ready lift up both arms and both legs off the ground and hold.
  • Once your shoulders / legs start to fall towards the ground, stop.
  • I like to start by doing repetitions of these first.  Once I can do 30 repetitions straight through, then I will start doing static holds with a goal of 3 minutes.

#5 Dead Bugs

  • From the position on the left, slowly lower and extend your left leg and right arm to the floor, repeat on same side.
  • Your focus here should be on keeping your lower back in contact with the ground throughout the movement and maintaining a neutral pelvis.
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 30 repetitions total.

Make it harder – Both arms and legs

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  • Same as above, but this time lower and extend both arms and legs at the same time.

Make it easier – Lumbar spine press (90/90 position)

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  • Lift your legs to a 90/90 position (hips flexed to 90 degrees and knees bent to 90 degrees).  Press your back into the floor, draw your belly button in towards your spine, and hold.
  • A good goal is to be able to hold this position for 3 minutes before progressing to the Dead Bugs.

#6 Bridges

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Make it harder – Single leg bridge

img_1503

  • Start on your back, feet flat and hip width apart, arms extended with palms resting on floor.  When ready, squeeze your butt and lift your hips up until a straight line is formed from your knees to your shoulders, hold for a few seconds and slowly lower back to ground again, repeat.
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

Enjoy your washboard abs!

 

About the Author Shayne Gaffney

Shayne holds a bachelors degree in biology, is a USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, USA Olympic Committee Safe Sport Certified, and a Category 3 road and cyclocross racer. He is the owner of GC Coaching and the creator and director of P2 Cycling. He can be contacted directly via info@gaffneycyclingcoaching.com

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