Thursday, April 17, 2008

Take Your Riding To The Next Level - Core Strength

Your core is basically the trunk of your body consisting of the abdominals, obliques and back muscles. strengthening this area has exponential benefits to a mountain biker and after a few strengthening sessions riders will notice improvements.

How Will A Strong Core Help You Go Faster?

Mountain biking is a sport that requires your kinetic chain. The kinetic chain refers to the link of muscles starting from the neck, through the shoulders, back/ABS, legs and finishing at the feet. Just imagine you are climbing a steep hill; which muscles are you using? You are most likely pulling on the handlebars with your arms, shoulders and back muscles to provide leverage for your legs to push upon the pedals. Your core happens to be at the point that links the upper and lower parts of your body, allowing you to gain leverage from your arms. Without core strength, any efforts to increase leg or upper body strength are being wasted. Your core is also used as a platform that your legs push against, known as the peddling platform. With a stronger core and in turn, a stronger peddling platform, you will have a more powerful and more efficient pedal stroke.

Strengthening The Core

There are two primary ways to strengthen your core being both dynamic and static. Dynamic exercise refers to moving the muscles while as you can guess, static exercise refers to holding the muscle still. Dynamic exercises generally work major muscles while static exercises bring in secondary or supporting muscles which stabilise your body. It is important to incorporate both types of exercise although, you will get better results by focusing more on the static spectrum of things.

Dynamic Exercises
  • Sit ups/crunches for the front of your stomach (six pack)
  • Side crunches for your obliques
  • back hyper extensions/Superman's for your lower back

- Back hyper extensions can be done at the gym on a back extension machine

- If you don't have access to one, you can lie with your tummy on an exercise ball (or even the floor) and lift one arm at the same time as the opposite leg as one repetition. Switch arms/legs for each rep.

Static exercises

The prone hold is a fantastic core strengthening and stabilising exercise. To start the prone hold, lie on your tummy then prop yourself up on your forearms and your toes, similar to a push up position. You want your back to be relatively straight but you can allow yourself to have a slight bend, pointing your back side up towards the roof. Don't let your hips sag to the floor.

For a beginner, aim to hold for 30 seconds and for a bit more advanced aim for 60 seconds. try to incorporate sets of 3 or so to give your core a good workout. Do your prone hold after your dynamic exercises to really strengthen the core and aim to progressively overload (see definition of progressive overload in cycling fitness basics )by increasing duration per set by about 5 seconds each week.

If you can incorporate some of these exercises (especially the prone hold) each week I can insure vast improvements to your riding. Check back after a few more posts (when you have ripped ABS) for some advanced core exercises.


  1. Great post. I've been working on my core strength over the winter and it has made a huge difference to my cycling and general posture. I don't get on well with the back extensions though, for some reason they always give me a sore lower back on the bike, so I tend to avoid them. I'm a big fan of the Static exercises.

  2. yeah we do those at umpiring and they really hurt.