Core training: the best workout for road cyclists

12.05.2020

The training experts at COROX have put together a special workout for road cyclists that strengthens and stabilises the core muscles. Plus: exercise video.

Core training – for many ambitious hobby- and amateur cyclists, this idea seems daunting. “I want to spend the precious time I have for training on the bike and not on doing push-ups or sit-ups,” is their tenor.

But road cyclists in particular need to train their upper body. Because cycling almost only “addresses” the muscles in the legs. The untrained core muscles, however, fatigue quickly when riding. The result: back pain. But not only back pain and tension in the shoulders can be avoided by optimally trained muscles. A strong muscle corset also minimizes seating problems, because the rider does not “fall into the saddle” that much anymore, but the pressure is distributed better.

The muscles have two completely different tasks when cycling. While the legs should work dynamically, the back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms should mostly do static holding work and not get unsettled.

Video: Core bodyweight workout for road cyclists

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“Core muscles that work well in movement are the prerequisite for optimal power transmission,” explains sports therapist and neuroathletics trainer Peter Breitfeld (photo above with professional cyclist Mads Würtz Schmidt) from the COROX training institute (www.corox.de). At COROX in Edling, Bavaria, amateur- and elite athletes like professional cyclists John Degenkolb, Marco Haller and many others are brought (back) into shape after serious injuries, in case of chronic complaints or as a prophylaxis against bodily discomforts.

“If a cyclist does not have this reflexive spinal tension, he fatigues more quickly,” Peter Breitfeld says. The consequence: the unstable pelvis makes the rider’s effort fizzle out, so that the power applied to the pedal no longer reaches it to 100 percent. The aim is therefore always to ensure that by training the upper body, the legs can work autonomously and thus achieve the maximum economic output.

Another important factor, especially when gripping the drops, is not only stability in the pelvis but also flexibility in the hips, since the cyclist shifts his posture forward and downward.

Strong core, more power on the pedal

If you invest some time in core training three times a week, you will not only be able to maintain your position on the bike, but also in everyday life – without pain. The experts at COROX have put together a set of exercises for Alpecin Cycling so that road cyclists can focus on working on their weak points.

The exercises do not only strengthen and stabilize, but also improve muscle interaction. Therefore, athletes do not train a single muscle as in strength training, but all the muscles involved in the complex movement. This way, the athlete can immediately adapt this coordination and implement it on the bike.

“The athlete should thus be able to use his or her energy more effectively and reduce the risk of injury – for example due to overload”, says Peter Breitfeld. He supports the riders in carrying out this program. “With these exercises, the athletes do not train a single muscle as in strength training, but all the muscles involved in the movement,” Breitfeld explains.

Core workout before bike training

“Some of the exercises that the COROX team has created for Alpecin Cycling do not only stabilize and strengthen, but also intensify the interaction between the individual muscles and the neural control of the body parts involved,” says Breitfeld. To get a better idea of what this means, think of what happens like this: “The commands that the brain sends to the muscles, tendons and joints – and vice versa – are no longer sent via copper but fibre optic cable,” explains Breitfeld.

“The best thing is to do the exercises before the bike training, because then the muscles work better and the joints are already mobilized,” he advises.

That’s why these seven exercises can easily be completed directly before each training ride or on rest day. “This is a program with movement prep-, mobility- and classic core exercises,” says the sports scientist.

The exercises can be done by anyone who does not suffer from acute back- or intervertebral disc problems. Anyone who is not sure whether it is safe for him or her to do the exercises should ask their orthopaedist for advice. It is important for all exercises to be performed correctly and to reduce the number of repetitions or the duration, if necessary.

The core exercises from the workout video

Low Lunge
A movement preparation exercise that stretches the hip flexor to improve mobility in the pelvic area.

Table Pulse
With this exercise the athlete improves the mobility in the shoulder area. On the bike, this has the effect that he or she adopts a more comfortable and relaxed “handlebar position” and can grip more flexibly. In addition, this exercise mobilizes the muscles involved in breathing by expanding the rib cage.

Plank Saw
A classic core exercise that stabilizes the middle of the body and strengthens the back-extensor muscles, especially because the athlete does not only keep himself static, but also has to balance the back and forth movement.

Reverse Table
This hip dominant exercise has several benefits. It improves the stability of the pelvis and at the same time strengthens the gluteus maximus – the large buttocks muscle. All this leads to a powerful pedal stroke.

Side Plank Rotation
Complex core exercise that trains the back- and abdominal muscles as well as pelvic stability. The rotation also mobilizes the thoracic spine and the diaphragm, which is part of the breathing mechanism.

Step Up
Proprioceptive exercise that improves self-perception by stabilizing the ankle and knee joint. It also trains the quadriceps. Training in the vertical axis improves the pedalling movement.

Mountain Climber
The exercise has several objectives: firstly, a dynamic stabilization of the core muscles, especially the oblique abdominal muscles, and the strengthening of the upper body. Furthermore, it stabilises the pelvis with simultaneous activation of the hip flexor, as the legs are in action similar to cycling.

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Image by Kathrin Schafbauer