5 CORE STRENGTH CYCLING ESSENTIALS
Not that we've hit January, its time to kick it into high gear (yep, pun intended) to get your body ready for the 2017 cycling season. Whether that means pinning a number to a jersey, taking the start line at a century or a casual weekend ride with friends, you'll need your body to perform as well as possible.
For cyclists, that usually means:
Opening up tight hips
Releasing locked up shoulder and chest muscles
Working toward restoring lost thoracic spine mobility
Reigniting the glutes
Restoring your overall range of motion
Cycling is a great sport, and you can get a lot of benefit from it for both mind and body. The down side is, you're sitting as you do it, your legs are moving in a repetitive stress pattern that reduces flexibility and can shut down critical core muscles (not too mention the powerhouse in your hips, your glutes) and if you aren't getting paid to ride your bike, the chances are you do quite a bit of what I'm doing right now: sitting in front of a computer typing. Yes, the massive amount of irony is not lost upon me.
If you plug in the right movements off the bike in your workouts, you will have a lot more fun once you get on it. That's why I feel the following five exercises should be an essential part of a cyclists winter strength training program.
This can take several forms from a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, exercise bands, trap bars, cable pulleys, etc. Having worked with cyclists since 2006, I feel suspension training matches up really well with both what they like, and more importantly, what riders will do.
Now, if you love moving iron, have at it! Just get stronger to enjoy yourself more in the saddle. I specifically chose suspension training for the convenience factor. Meaning, they can be used at home, in a park, at a gym or anywhere you can hang a pair of handles hanging from a safely secured anchored point. Plus, I'm guessing its a bit more common for a suspension trainer to be at someone's house than a full suite of kettlebells, a trap bar or a squat cage.
These five moves are specifically aimed at opening up the anterior chain (front half of the body), bringing the posterior chain (back half) online and helping you reclaim your hip mobility. They may even involve the diagonal loading patterns that are so critical to not only optimal athletic performance, but everyday movements as well.
I like setting an interval timer for :30 of moving, :30 of rest and taking three laps through the list. Put in a 1:00 to 3:00 rest period in between each lap, and you're good to go.
If you wanted to be industrious, you can also do these exercises in every day that ends in the letter "Y" for both a mobility circuit or post ride cool down. Just don't work at anything higher than about a 2-3 on a 10 scale in terms of intensity.
Be mindful of the following while you do these. When your hands are overhead, only move through a motion that allows you to keep your arms straight. Keep your chin from shooting forward and by all means OWN YOUR RIBS.
That's a fancy way of saying don't let the distance from your bottom rib to your hips increase as you move. This keeps you locked into a plank position as well as preventing arching the low back. Always start with low to moderate intensity and move up the ladder once you feel you own each segment of these movements.
In fact, I recommend having a trainer, physical therapist or trusted sports chiropractor watch you do these to dial in your form. It will go along way to making them as effective as possible.
1) Suspension Trainer High Hinge Pull
If you only had time to do one exercise from the list, it would have to be this one. It is the biggest bang for the buck movement and it makes your hands and feet work at the same time to produce stability and strength through the glutes and core. Or, how we are designed to move.
If there was one move every cyclist should do just about DAILY, it would be this one hands down. The most neutral posture possible is what yields the biggest performance benefits. This exercise can help that.
2) Suspension Trainer IYT Pull
This exercise utilizes the same areas of the body as the High Hinge Pull, but you get to emphasize the mid back posture muscles a bit more with the "Y" and "T" positions. Since most people need a 2:1 (and I'd argue 3:1) this exercise fits that purpose really well.
I like this one quite a bit because you get a great connection of "pulling through the heels" as you move your hands against anchored heels. This exercise can also go a long way to opening up the shoulders as well as further enforcing the feet as an anchor point for the arms to move against through the glutes and core.
We are meant to move using our own based of support as our foundation. This exercise is a good way to dial that in.
3) Suspension Trainer High Row
If sitting down all day in a slumped position in a slumped posture (yes, I just sat up straighter as I typed this!) is the disease, this exercise is the cure. It is very well tolerated by most populations, and it is a straight shot to the posture muscles you need for both climbing and descending.
Plus, if you hold the top position for a plank, you'll wake up parts of your postural muscles you didn't even know you had. For people who have trouble locking down their "column," your plank foundation, the isometric version can help you groove that pattern. You can't go at as steep an angle, but you'll know you did some work the next day and you may be standing up a bit straighter.
4) Single Leg 3-Point Reach + Hold
I LOVE this exercise for people who have trouble with glute activation. Once they do this, they typically don't have that problem any more.
It is a total of 1:00 of an isometric contraction on the kickstand leg, and it packs a wallop as it helps dial in hip stability. Since we know your body will only allow you to put out the amount of power your joint stability allows, this is a good thing.
I also like this exercise because it goes a long way to reestablishing the connection of the hips to the ground through the feet, especially done barefoot. Keep in mind that a stiff souled cycling shoe (especially carbon souls) buffers this connection so its a good idea to wake that up as much as possible to max out hip power.
5) Suspension Trainer Lateral Lunge With Balance
This is a duel purpose movement. It opens up the hips and takes you away from all of the sagittal plane movement a cyclists lives in while riding and sitting at a desk. It also does a really good job at producing lateral force away from the midline of the body. Again, not somewhere most people play throughout their week.
Want to make it even more fun? At the bottom of the lunge hold a plank position for :30-:45 seconds. In the pantheon of suck, this version has to be top five for sure.
In either the dynamic or isometric version, one of the bigger things to pay attention to is the diagonal connection from the bent knee foot to the opposite hand at the bottom of the motion. Keep those connections turned on and you will get a lot more out of the movement. For example, if you are driving off of the left foot from a bent knee, the right hand is the connection to emphasize and vice versa.
These five moves can a long way to help you regain your core and ultimately do quite a bit to help you pedal stronger and ride longer. I'd like to give a huge THANK YOU to Alison Corcoran from Goldilocks Training in San Francisco. She does a great job both explaining as well as demonstrating these movements.
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