Cycling may seem to be all about the legs, but cyclists also need to have a strong and stable core. The core muscles include the stomach, lower back and trunk muscles. These are the abdominal muscles (your 6 pack ): the Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, Lattismus Dorsi, the Erector Spinae and the deeper muscles in this area.
These muscles act to stabilize your body and help you control your bike. A strong core allows you to pedal with a smooth and powerful action, and maintain a strong upper body position. A strong core can also help treat or prevent lower back pain from cycling.
Strengthen your Core Muscles in the Pool
The best way I have found to strengthen the core muscles is to head to the swimming pool. Buy or borrow some swim fins and learn how to do a dolphin kick. This technique looks like swimming like a mermaid, keeping your knees and ankles together, pointing your toes and moving forward and back.
Try to keep your legs as long and straight as possible, this will recruit your stomach and lower back muscles. If you are doing it right, you will feel these muscles working. A common mistake is to kick from the knees down, which will not engage the core muscles.
Vertical Dolphin Kick
Start this while standing vertically in the water in the deep end of the pool, as you will need at least 0.5 m or 2′ between your fins and the pool floor-you don’t want to hurt your toes! Kick for 30 seconds, rest and try again.
Horizontal Dolphin Kick
Alternate with swimming a length or two of your new dolphin kick. Keep your arms straight in front of your head, in a streamline position, face in the water, lifting up when you want to breathe. The video below shows how to do this.
I do this kicking on my front, sides and on my back. There is also a cool drill where you rotate in all four positions. I call this a “3d kick.” Try three kicks in each position, rotating every third with a non-stop dolphin kick.
Dryland Core Training
If the pool isn’t for you, there are a ton of dryland exercises that can work to strengthen that core. Check out Strengthening your core-Improving Back Pain or 10 Core Exercises for Cyclists for more information.