5 cycling-specific core exercises to increase power on a bike

December 29, 2022

Tour Down Under

Photo by Alexandra Tran on Unsplash

When asked about off-bike training, cyclists think of gym and weight lifting, specifically leg-targeting exercises, such as deadlifts, squats, or lunges. Although these are great, without a strong core you will not only fail to reach your full potential in the gym but will greatly increase the risk of an injury.

In this article, I will provide 5 of my favorite core exercises that target the most important muscles for cyclists and the good news is that you don’t need to cramp your apartment with unnecessary equipment or even go to a gym. You can find most of the tools lying around the house or get them secondhand for a couple of bucks.


Why core strength is important for cyclists

Core strength is crucial because it helps to maintain proper body position and stability on the bike. Strong core muscles can also help to improve power and efficiency. Digging a bit deeper, I’d like to single out 3 main benefits:

  • Increased power and efficiency will help you transfer power from your upper body to your pedals more efficiently, allowing you to pedal with more force and speed.

  • Better posture and control can help you maintain a more upright and stable position on the bike, improving control and balance on a bike.

  • Reduced risk of injury. A strong core can help to protect your back and reduce the risk of muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

When in season should you focus on core strength?

Do it all year round, but increase the volume at least 1,5 months before your weight lifting period. The biggest problem with heavy-weight exercises is that a weak core will lead to improper form, resulting in injuries. I suggest you pick three days per week with a proper rest period between the sessions, for example, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Once you start transitioning into a base period and ramping up on-bike volume, reduce the volume of core sessions to 2. If you would like to learn more about structuring your base period for the upcoming season, BigBonkTour has an article on base training.

When racing is in full swing, doing it once a week is great for maintaining what you’ve built over the preseason and base season. A single core strength workout per week will work wonders towards the end of the racing season, you will feel the difference.

Although you can do all the following exercises without any tools, once you become stronger, it will be hard to create enough stress for progress. These are optional, affordable, and easy to find.

  • The yoga ball is a great tool to introduce additional balance factors and make exercises less static.

  • Resistance bands can be used to increase mobility and make exercises more demanding.

  • A lightweight dumbbell or plate, for example, 4-6kg, will be useful once the workout gets too easy.

Our goal is to complete as many repetitions as possible while maintaining a proper form, another level of difficulty is secondary.

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Butterfly situps

I suggest doing butterfly situps over regular situps because they will target the core more, removing tension from hip flexors and thighs, which are already taxed enough when cycling.

Sit on the floor and press your feet together, keeping your knees bent to the sides. Lean backward until your back touches the ground and proceed as you would with ordinary situps.

Do as many repetitions as possible, and add situps in between other exercises as well. When starting, do at least 50-60 of them in an hour. A good indication that you need a rest from situps is when your feet start to lift from the ground.

How to make it harder: increase the number of situps per session and repetition. Start occasionally doing situps instead of resting when doing other exercises.

butterfly situps

Butterfly situps

Reach-and-Rotate Side Plank

Lie on the side and prop your upper body up on your elbow and forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Raise your arm, then reach under and behind your torso with your hand, then lift your arm back up.

Start by doing 5 repetitions per side and complete at least 2 sets.

How to make it harder: grab a lightweight to add a substantial level of difficulty. When returning to a starting position, try to go as low as possible without resting a leg on top of another.

Reach-and-Rotate Side Plank

Reach-and-Rotate Side Plank

Side plank with leg raise

Lie on the side and prop your upper body up on your elbow and forearm. While keeping your torso stable, raise your top leg without bending your knee. Try to avoid letting your hips drop.

Start by doing 5 repetitions per side and complete at least 2 sets.

How to make it harder: increase the number of repetitions and sets. Wrapping a resistance band around a static leg under the knee and the leg being raised will make things much harder.

Side plank with leg raise

Side plank with leg raise

Pelvic tilt

Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor and push your heels into the floor as you lift your pelvis off the floor until your upper body and thighs form a straight line. Hold for a couple of seconds and slowly return to the starting position.

Start by doing 10 repetitions and 3 sets during a session.

How to make it harder: Try extending one of the legs so that it would be in the same line as the static legs knee and do tilts with one leg, after completing the set switch legs. You can also put your heels on a yoga ball, this will introduce a need to balance and engage your hips and core.

Pelvic tilt

Pelvic tilt (bridge)

Ball foot-to-hand pass

Lie flat on your back, and grab the sides of the ball with your feet while the ball is on the floor. Extend your arms over the head and raise your feet and arms toward the ceiling, exchange the ball to your hands and lower both legs and hands to the ground.

Start by doing 10 repetitions and 4 sets during a session.

Ball foot to hand pass

Ball foot to hand pass

How to make it harder: Try lowering both arms and legs as low as possible without touching the floor. After an exercise, proceed with 10 repetitions of butterfly situps on a burning core.

Wrapping up

To improve your core strength, you can incorporate exercises such as planks, and Russian twists into your training routine as well, good thing about these exercises is that fantasy is the only limit here. You can also try cycling-specific core exercises, such as single-leg squats and single-leg balance drills. It’s important to remember to gradually increase the difficulty of your core exercises as you get stronger and to always use proper form to avoid injury.

You can find more training-related articles on BigBonkTour.


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