5 Essential Exercises That Cut to the Core

How to improve your strength and power in indoor cycling with core training.


You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that your legs are mainly responsible for generating power and force in cycling. But did you know that the foundation of that power source is the muscles in your core, including your abs, lower back, and hips? It’s true. It’s from this area of the body that all movement originates, including the leg motions that drive your pedal strokes. That’s why having a strong core is essential for indoor cycling, whether your goal is to ride longer, faster or at a higher resistance.

Core strength also helps improve your posture when you’re riding in a seated position and stabilize your body during standing climbs.

By contrast, if your core muscles are weak, you will probably rely on your arms to support your upper body as you ride, which reduces efficiency, increases fatigue, and sets you up for pain in the upper arms, shoulders, and neck. What’s more, research from the University of Pittsburgh found that fatigue in the core muscles alters riders’ cycling mechanics in ways that place greater stress on the knee joint, which could increase the risk of injury. Not what you want to happen!

Here are five essential core-strengthening exercises to add to your routine, three times a week, to improve your power, stability, posture, and cadence efficiency on the bike:

The plank: Start face down on the floor, then raise yourself up onto your forearms and your toes (with the middle of your forearms right under your shoulders).

Keep your hips raised and your back flat so your body resembles a plank that’s parallel to the floor (don’t let your butt pop up like a tent!). Hold the plank for 30 to 60 seconds. Take a break then repeat 4 times.

The bridge: Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent (they should be directly above your ankles) and your feet flat on the floor.

Extend your arms next to the sides of your body (palms facing the floor). Slowly lift your hips up so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees; pause at the top then lower your hips to the floor. Repeat 4 times.

V-ups: Lie on your back with your legs together and extended straight on the floor, while your arms are extended along the floor above your head. In one swift movement, lift your torso and your legs off the ground and reach your fingers toward your toes as your body forms a V (only your butt will remain on the floor). Hold this position for one count at the top then release yourself back to the starting position. Repeat 4 times.

Opposite arm-leg reach: Start in a push-up position, on your hands and toes. Lift your right foot a few inches off the ground and raise your left arm straight in front of your head (so that you’re balancing on the opposite hand and foot). Keep both legs and arms straight and don’t let your belly sag. Hold this position for 30 seconds then switch sides.

Work up to a total of 5 on each side.

Bicycle crunches: Lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the floor, lift your feet, and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle. Lace your hands together behind your head and open your elbows out to the sides. Extend your left leg so it’s straight and your foot is a few inches off the floor; while lifting your shoulders, bring your left elbow to touch your right knee. Then, twist your body and straighten your right leg while your left knee bends and touches your right elbow. Continue bringing your opposite elbow to the opposite knee in a slow, controlled fashion for 30 seconds.

Besides benefiting your cycling, doing these core exercises will help you gain greater muscle definition and strength in your lower back and abdomen. An added bonus: If you do core stabilization exercises after a cycling workout, you’ll hasten the reduction of blood lactate levels that result from your body’s increased energy production during high-intensity exercise, according to research at Western Kentucky University, which can enhance your recovery post-exercise. When adding a core component to your indoor cycling, you really can’t go wrong!

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