We recently launched Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, our new 57-page eBook in which my co-author and I clear up the confusion and take the guesswork out of knowing what to do, and how to do it, to implement a stretching and core strengthening program.
The new eBook was specifically created for the cyclist. Sincewe cyclists use primarily our lower body, these muscles get used repetitively and are usually tight. Coupled with the fact that many of us sit in an office chair all day (or otherwise sit around), these muscles get even tighter. A tight muscle is a short muscle, and stretching helps lengthen muscles so they can perform at their best. Strengthening the core further improves our ability to ride (and live our daily lives) relatively pain-free.
(My co-author, Amy Schultz, is my daughter; she’s completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, is an accomplished cyclist and has done extensive research on athletes and injury prevention. Amy demonstrates the proper form for all the stretching and core exercises in the eBook.)
We don’t all necessarily want to be faster on the bike. But I think every last one of us roadies would like to maintain the strength we have, or get even stronger, in our core. And we undoubtedly all would like to be pain-free when we ride. A regular stretching and core strengthening routine can help you achieve any or all of those 3 aims.
One of the points I made in the launch article (click for additonal info on how to put together your own program using the book) is that you can and should choose your favoriate stretches and core exercises for your personal routine(s). In that light, I thought I would share my own personal favorites last week and today. In last week’s article, I talked about my favorite stretching exercises and explained why they’re my favorites. Today, I’ll talk about my favorite core exercises.
Once you go through the eBook and try a variety of the stretches and core strengthening exercises, you will quickly see what you will need to work on and find your own favorites.
My Favorite Core Strength Exercises
My favorite core workout is the PLANK: DOWNWARD DOG (page 44). This great combination exercise not only works core strength but helps stretch the hamstrings and calves – two other muscle groups that are often tight for a cyclist.
I like doing PLANKS since they really work the core. A strong core helps you in so many different ways while cycling. A strong core helps you throughout the pedal stroke and it helps keep your back flat.
To see what I mean, try this simple test. Sit up straight in a chair. Keep you back straight and only your bottom should be touching the chair. After a short period of time, you will notice that you will start slouching and rounding the back. Don’t worry, we are all guilty of this. This is the sign of a weak and non-engaged core. As soon as you start noticing yourself slouching, the only thing I want you to do is to fully engage your core – i.e., flex your lower abs. You will notice that immediately you will sit back straight again. Core strength alone has straightened out your posture.
This is what happens on a bicycle ride. As you fatigue, you start relaxing, and poor cycling posture follows. Just think out loud “ENGAGE MY CORE” and you will notice that you will be pedaling easier, any back pain that might have crept in will go away and you will feel like you can easily ride another 10 miles.
Every PLANK core exercise in this eBook (including DOWNWARD DOG) starts out with the BASIC PLANK PUSH UP POSITION (Page 43, see top photo at right). This exercise is my other favorite core workout pre- and post-ride. Also, when I’m rushed for time, I always have a few minutes for the BASIC PLANK PUSH UP. Here’s how to do it, then how to progress into DOWNWARD DOG:
- Put your hands on a mat perpendicular to the floor and shoulder width apart.
- Hold for a count of 60, then lower your knees and upper body back to the mat.
- Repeat several more times.
- If this is new to you, try and hold for 10 seconds, slowly building strength until you can hold for a full minute or two.
- Form is important. Keep your back flat and straight.
- For all of the PLANK exercises, SLOW movements are much better than fast movements.
Now, here’s how to progress from the BASIC PLANK PUSH UP POSITION into the DOWNWARD DOG:
- Put your head between your arms as you push your buttocks high into the air. Make sure to keep your back straight all the way through the exercise. Make sure to feel a good stretch in the back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Move to a flexed position using your core.
- Hold for a count of a count of 3, then repeat 10 times.
Lastly, for a challenge, the CORE PLANKS that force you to balance are really great as well. I do these very slowly so that I can maintain balance. The slower, the better balance you will gain from these.
These are my favorites. What are yours? Use the Comments below the Newsletter version of this article to share your thoughts.
Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist, our new 57-page eBook, with with nearly 50 different stretching and core exercises (including variations) is just $14.95 / $12.71 for Premium Members with their automatic 15% discount.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he’s a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He’s the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick’s full bio.