Following on from the blog article “The Benefits of a Strong Core for Cyclists” this follow up article outlines how to undertake a number of relatively static basic core exercises which the Cyclissimo team believe should form the basis of a fundamental core programme for those cyclists wishing to develop greater core strength.
As a warning to those with lower back problems, it may be worth consulting a Doctor or a Physiotherapist before undertaking an exercise regime of this nature.
As with all core strengthening work it is important to engage the deep core muscles, particularly the transverse abdominus (TVA) prior to & throughout each repetition of the exercise. It is also important to contract the gluteal muscles (glutes / buttocks) at the same time; doing so, although slightly harder results in greater gains.
To engage the transverse abdominus & the pelvic floor muscles it is necessary to pull your belly button towards your spine, at the same time as pulling the lower back muscles towards the belly button, exhaling as you start to contract helps this process greatly.. Practicing this action, (in either a standing or lying down position) prior to undertaking the programme is advisable to all novices – some may find making an sssss sound as they exhale helps. As stated above when undertaking this action it is also advisable to tighten the gluteal muscles (clench the buttocks)
Exercise 1: Fit Ball Sit (this can actually be performed on a standard height chair)
This exercise is designed to work the muscles of the lower back & the Multifidus.
• Action: Sit with the knees as close to 90 degrees as possible while ensuring prior to commencing the exercise that the spine in in neutral.
• Draw the shoulder blades together then gently engage the core muscles & gluts (draw the lower stomach & the muscles of the lower back in towards your spine), while clenching the glutes. Remember to breathe throughout
Hold this position & the muscular contraction for 10 – 20 seconds – Repeat x 3
Exercise 2: Crunch
This exercise is designed to work the Rectus Abdominus, the Obliques, TVA & the Glutes
• Lying on your back with legs bent and feet shoulder width apart.
The standard crunch involves either placing hands on thighs or placing the hand palms down on the floor by the side of the body.
• Having engaged the core & contracted the glutes either slide the hands up until they are touching the top of your knee or slide them forward along the floor about 3 inches (length of the fingers). Hold the end position for 3 – 5 seconds then return to the starting position.
The minimal amount of movement is designed to protect the lower back; this area should be kept in neutral or pressed into the floor so it does not over arch.
Exercise 3: Plank
This exercise is designed to work the: Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominus & Transverse abdominus. It is also works a number of muscles of the back & the shoulders as well as the Glutes.
Action: From the front support position (as for starting a press up) lower one arm at a time placing the forearms on the ground with the elbows aligned below the shoulders & arms parallel with the body, shoulder width apart. Alternatively the hands can be gently clasped.
From the above position lift the body so that your weight is taken on your forearms & toes (do not lock or hyper extend the knees). Engage the core muscles & squeeze the glutes (to stabilize the whole body). Ensure that the neck & spine are in a neutral position by looking at the floor a foot (30cms) in front of your hands. Hold the position while breathing normally, for a minimum of 20 seconds. Repeat x 3 – 5.
It is important to avoid your body sagging in the middle or ‘jack-knifing’ your backside upwards.
Exercise 4: Bridge
This exercise is designed to work Glut Max & Glut Med, the Piriformis, the TVA & Multifidus. It also helps to stretch the hip flexors which are often tight in a lot of cyclists)
• Lie on your back, bend your knees but keep your feet flat on the floor. Arms are placed at your sides; the palms of your hands are down.
• Engage the core & the glutes then in a smooth motion raise your hips off the floor and push up from your heels forming a straight line from shoulders to knees (the toes may come off the floor slightly). Hold for 3 – 5 seconds. Keeping your toes raised, lower yourself three-quarters of the way down to complete one rep. Do 10 - 15 repetitions.
(Development: To make it harder, once you raise your hips in the air, take one foot off the floor and extend it straight out ensuring that both thighs are parallel with each other).
Exercise 5: Side Plank
This exercise is designed to work the; Obliques, the TVA, the Glutes and the hip adductors.
• The aim is to support your body weight between you elbow / forearm and your feet.
Lie on one side with the legs stacked on top of one another, then lift the body off the floor while ensuring that the hips are in line ( do not let your bottom sag back or down)
• Having lifted the body off the floor the core & the glutes are engaged with the spine in neutral. Hold this position for 10 – 15 seconds repeat x 2 to each side.
Exercise 6: Back Extensions (Chest Raises)
This exercise is designed to work the; Muscles of the lower back (Erector Spinae & Quadratus Lumborum) the Glutes & the Trapezius (if shoulder blades are drawn together)
• Lying face down, look up and hold your fingertips against your temples, alternatively the hands can be gently clasped together on your backside (easier option)
• Engage the core & the glutes then in a smooth motion slowly arch up lifting raising your and upper abdomen off the floor. Pause in the ‘up’ position (count 1 & 2 slowly) before returning slowly to the start position. Do 10 - 15 repetitions.
• Concentrate on breathing comfortably for all of these exercise and resist the temptation to hold your breath
• Pressing the small of your back into the floor during crunches will guard against back injury
• Perform all of these exercises slowly and smoothly. Avoid any jerking or sudden twisting movements
• If you feel any back pain while performing these moves then you should stop and seek professional advice
• Undertake 3 sessions a week to begin with.
• Increase either the number of repetitions or the time holding the static position after 2 – 3 weeks.
• Do not try harder alternative variations until you have undertaken this programme for a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks.
Hopefully you have found this article of interest & value to you. Should you require further information on this subject or wish to find out how we at Cyclissimo can help you realise your cycling aspirations please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the contact section found on our website: www.gocyclissimo.com