Core blimey: why a strong core can transform your cycling


Author of Ride Strong: Essential Conditioning for Cyclists, Jo McRae, tells us why having a strong core can have far-reaching benefits on the bike, and reveals the one piece of kit you need to get serious results…

Note: Jo will be hosting a Swiss ball core masterclass on the Casquette LIVE stage at the London Bike Show on Saturday 30th March

With an increasing trend towards adding extra disciplines to your cycling, it’s clear that doing a little extra beyond biking can make a huge difference to your cycling performance. Here, Jo McRae, author of Ride Strong: Essential Conditioning for Cyclists, tells us why working your core should be high on your list.

Why cyclists need to work their core? 
Cycling is absolutely brilliant in all sorts of ways, but because it’s a relatively ‘straight-line’, one-dimensional-seated sport, both the cycling position as well as the pedalling action can lead to weakness in the core – the mid-section of the body. But, by making sure our core is strong through activities off the bike, it can dramatically help us on the bike, too. 

That’s because it’s actually the glutes (bum) and back muscles, in addition to the abdominals (stomach), that connect the upper and lower body, and it’s these together that transfer power to the road through the bike.

What’s the magic ingredient?
Where we might be strong in the up-and-down push and pull of the cycling action, it’s often stability at the sides or in the twist that are needed to maximise power potential and minimise injury. 

The Swiss Ball is the perfect tool to build this as it moves in three dimensions, giving you the opportunity to strengthen and stabilise in three dimensions and working multiple muscles in multiple planes of motion. 

Rather that simply working the abdominals in isolation, the Swiss Ball integrates the abdominals with the back, glutes and the rest of the body, giving big bang benefits and a more functional, useful result.

Why should core be a priority for women?
Where our male counterparts might get significant benefits by focusing on stretching tight areas, for female cyclists core weakness is often the priority. 

Clues that you might benefit from core work are if you experience back or knee pain when pushing harder on the flat, climbing in or out of the saddle or sprinting; if you tend to ‘rock and roll’ at the pelvis as you push on the pedals, and if you struggle to use your upper body effectively out of the saddle. Connecting your arms and legs via a strong core will be key to improving this last point.

Small investment, big difference
The most convincing argument for including Swiss Ball core exercise in your training program is that is works. The exercises aren’t over complicated, and you’ll feel the benefits of a couple of short 30-minute sessions a week almost immediately. 

Working with a ball is fun too. You won’t just be moving a weight in one dimension, you’ll be balancing and wobbling and engaging and challenging yourself with every rep. You won’t be bored, and you’ll be able to do your workout at home with very little equipment.

Where do we sign up?

Tempted to give Swiss balls a go? Try one of Jo’s essential core workshops or come along to one of her masterclasses on the Casquette LIVE! stage at the London Bike Show on Saturday 30th March

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