Who doesn’t want a flat stomach or rock hard abs? This might be your prime motivator for knocking out some crunches, but the other reasons may be even more important. Your core (the muscles in your abdomen, hips, pelvis and low back) connect your upper & lower body and are involved in almost everything you do. During cycling, they act as stabilizers and are the foundation of your movements, from holding onto the handlebars to pedaling. If you aren’t convinced yet of the importance of core strength for cycling, know that a stronger core also helps relieve low back pain. And if you are anything like a typical American, you have or have had low back pain.
To feel your greatest during and after your next indoor cycling class, add these 4 core exercises into your workout routine. Aim to do core exercises two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days and you will have a stronger core in no time!
- Start laying down with your arms on the floor to your sides. IMPRINT your low back (draw your belly button into your spine and tuck your hips in so there is no gap between the low back and mat) and bring legs up to a tabletop position – knees over hips at a 90° angle.
- Push your feet out to an extended position. To modify, push your feet out more toward the ceiling. The closer your pushout is to the floor, the harder it will be.
- You will know your pushout is safe AND effective if your low back stays pressed to the floor and you feel your abdominal muscles working.
- Do 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps.
- Start seated with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Sit up tall with shoulders over hips.
- Draw your belly button into your spine then lean your torso back to a 45° angle or you feel your abdominal muscles engage.
- Rotate your torso side to side keeping your back straight and legs still.
- Do 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps. (Side-to-side = 1 rep)
Safety cue: If you feel pain or strain through your low back, stop the exercise
Progression: Hold feet off the floor as you rotate or hold a weight in both hands as you move side to side.
Push Through Crunch
- Start laying on your back with feet on the floor. Widen your feet until they are slightly wider than hip width.
- Place one hand over the other on top of your torso. Keeping your arms straight, draw your belly button into your spine and lift head, neck and shoulders off the floor into a crunch, pushing your arms through your legs. Keep neck neutral and relaxed.
- Do 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps.
- Start laying on your stomach with legs extended and hands by your head. Keep your gaze down as you lift both upper and lower body off the mat in a small lift. Keep glutes relaxed as much as possible.
- On your last repetition, hold arms and legs up and pulse the arms and legs up & down for 10 seconds. Do 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps.
Safety Cue: If you have low back pain, keep feet on the floor and lift upper body only. Eliminate the pulses.
Progression: Extend arms further out in front of you
The next time you are on your bike, use your stronger core to help you keep your back in alignment by drawing your belly button into your spine. You’ll put more force into your pedal stroke in no time.