Indoor Fitness: Core Training To The Rescue

Three stretches to help maintain strength

Strength training is not just for fall and winter anymore. There is new thinking in the realm of sports science that it benefits cyclists to strengthen year round. After winter heavy lifting sessions are over, it does not mean that it’s time to stop weight training. Core conditioning has become a staple of many athletic workout programs and results in better overall function and helps to keep the belly flat.


Start in the neutral position by lying face down on soft surface such as a folded yoga mat. Slowly begin to raise the head, arms and shoulders off the floor as if flying. Now raise the feet, knees and thighs off the floor so the back is arched. Hold this position for a count of eight (counting ?one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.’). Then go back to the neutral position for a count of two. Repeat for a total of 20 repetitions. Note this is an isometric exercise (muscles are contracted and held in the same position). The hold position can be extended as the muscles get stronger. This exercise has helped many of my clients become free from low back pain.

Year round core training is even more vital to the cyclist. Core training involves working the muscles comprising the torso. The core muscles are the beginning point for all movement. To build a stronger core is to develop your powerhouse. Most cyclists ignore the core muscles and focus just on leg strength. This results in imbalanced and weaker core muscles. Research has shown that back pain is one major form of core musculoskeletal degeneration seen in adults, affecting nearly 80 percent of the population. Stabilizing and strengthening the core muscles in the torso ensures proper neuromuscular function and movement in the back. Core training also helps with back injury prevention.

Scientists at the Neuromuscular research laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to determine the importance of core strength among a group of fifteen elite competitive cyclists. They were tested on torque after participating in a ‘core fatigue workout’ that pre-exhausts core musculature prior to cycling. The subjects then rode their bikes on trainers at 25.8 kilometers per hour with a one percent increase in elevation until fatigue. The study results indicated that ‘a core fatigue workout altered the mechanics of the lower extremity,’ increasing the chance of injury, indicating that core strength is a key training component for cyclists.

I recommend core training two to three times a week. You will notice more strength emanating from your core muscles to help you turn over those pedals as you climb, sprint or just hammer up or down the road. If you take the time to do proper core training, you will be riding stronger than ever.


Begin in the neutral position by lying on the back. With hands behind the head, slowly raise the head, shoulders and torso off the floor while at the same time raising the legs, which are bent. The shoulders are brought towards the knees and vice versa. It’s important to not pull on the head with the hands. The progression from this is a Weighted Reverse Crunch. Start by holding a five- to ten-pound weight plate on the upper chest area. Then add holding a medium-size medicine ball between the knees. Begin by bringing the knees toward the chest and the chest toward knees, squeezing the abdominal muscles tightly at the top of the movement. Slowly return back to the neutral position. Do three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Start out lying on one side of the body with the forearm pressing flat on the floor and under the shoulder to prop up the body. Next stack the feet together, one on top of the other. Raise the other arm and stretch it over the head. Begin to raise the hips off the floor until the body is straight from the feet to the head (like a plank). Hold for 20 to 60 seconds. It’s important to pull the abdominal muscles tight, with navel toward the spine. Keep the muscles contracted throughout the hold position. This is also an isometric exercise. As strength increases, the amount of time the position is held can be extended.

Top Photo: Velo Images

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