Your quads are tree stumps. You’re too sexy for your shirt. You start every ride strong – but begin to fade as you rack-up the miles. Some common symptoms include low back pain or spasms, hips rocking during hard efforts, and decreasing power in your pedal stroke. The problem? Your core yells enough already long before your legs are done.
Our legs provide the most obvious source of power, but the abs, lower back and obliques are the foundation from which all movement comes. Nationally known professional bike fitter Chris Balser explained it to me this way: you can pedal with your legs or your whole body.
Saddle and bars place us in a tripod position on the bike, but the not so obvious reality is that, while riding requires strength in the core, it does almost nothing to develop it. This becomes especially clear in climbing, bursts of hard effort, and maintaining higher speeds.
This year I’ve committed to a program of core conditioning in the pre- season, along with the usual power intervals and cadence training. In my first three outdoor rides I’ve noticed a definite increase in climbing power. Though my legs are still coming into form, I was pleasantly surprised that I could average 16 mph recently while climbing 850 feet over about 14 miles. When I visited Chris, his 3D motion analysis revealed excellent strength and alignment from my shoulders to ankles. That’s the power of core conditioning.
Here’s some links to some very helpful core routines:
Cycling Tips is a pretty cool site, in general, and has an excellent section on core training with detailed descriptions and photos.
Bicycling Magazine also has some good articles. I like this article because it has some variations that help keep things interesting.
Both approaches encourage the use of an exercise ball – which helps to support and isolate muscles. [I found one at Wally World for 15 bucks]