When you’re crunched for time, it’s easy to skip your core workout, especially if you haven’t made the connection between strong abdominal muscles and cycling performance. And while it may seem like the logical thing to do, focusing on legs and glutes while neglecting your abs will eventually catch up with you. But, by adding a 10-minute ab workout to your training a few times a week, you’ll be able to build a strong core without spending extra hours in the gym.
We asked physical therapist and strength coach Kellen Scantlebury, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., of Fit Club NY to give us the lowdown on why training your midsection is so critical to your cycling success. “You can never have too much lower abdominal activation, especially when riding a bike,” says Scantlebury. “These all-important muscles work with the hip flexors to help generate power.”
He also believes in performing abdominal exercises that mimic real-life activities, such as the movement pattern a cyclist makes when riding—like the side plank with hip and knee flexion.
That’s just one of the five moves in this 10-minute ab workout that Scantlebury created to help you build core strength. Plus, you’ll get an even bigger bang for your buck, since all of the moves in the circuit will challenge other parts of your body, too. You’ll strengthen your glutes, chest, shoulders, and back while you fire up your core.
For this routine, follow a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio. That means you’ll perform each move for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second recovery period. This will take five minutes. Perform 2 rounds for a 10-minute workout. Each move is demonstrated by Brian Levine, a USTA Level 1 coach, trainer, and cyclist, so you can learn the proper form. You will need an exercise mat.
Start in a forearm plank position, elbows under shoulders, core engaged so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Simultaneously lift your right leg and extend your left arm out in front of you. Squeeze your abs and glutes to prevent hips from rocking then slowly return your hand and foot to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side (left leg and right arm) with no rest between sides. Alternate for 30 seconds.
Scantlebury says you really have to generate good stability while performing this move, which makes it an advanced level core exercise. Make sure you don’t arch your back as you lift your legs, and try not to have too much wiggle from side to side.
Hollow Body Rock
Lie faceup with legs straight, feet lifted, and toes pointed forward. Extend your arms past your head. Engage core—think belly button to spine—while pressing your lower back into the mat, and looking straight ahead, rock forward and back without changing body position. Focus on maintaining the braced core as your rock.
Side Plank With Hip and Knee Flexion (Left and Right)
Start in a side plank position, with left forearm on the floor, left elbow directly under left shoulder, feet stacked. Place right hand on your right hip. With your core tight, raise the top leg (right leg) and bend at the knee. Bring that leg forward and back, like a cycling motion. Make sure not to let the bottom hip drop. Keeping that area strong encourages glute activation. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Then repeat this move on the right side.
Lie faceup with your arms extended straight up toward the ceiling. With knees bent at 90 degrees, keep your shoulders down and feet flexed. Engage your core and extend right arm and left leg away from you. Your heel barely taps the floor. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side (left arm and right leg) and continue to alternate for 30 seconds.