Improve your fitness – and your cycling

When it comes to cycling, the first parts of the body we generally think of are the legs, but do you know the important role that other parts of our bodies play?

Developing strength, concentrating on your core, glutes and hamstrings will improve your power, as well as making you more resilient to injuries whilst a stronger upper body will help keep fatigue at bay, especially on climbs.

“Work on your core stability and the posture muscles, so it’s not just your legs and lower back getting a workout, it’s your posture muscles too.”

Sir Chris Hoy

Core and strength exercises

Core muscles are the vital foundation which support all movement – so it’s worth dedicating some time to strengthen your core to improve your cycling. Here are five great exercises which will help you develop a stronger core.

1. Plank

One of the most popular and well-known core exercises, the plank is a great way to build strength, sculpt your waistline and improve your posture. You do not need any equipment, all you need is a bit of space.

  1. Start by getting into a press up position.
  2. Bend your elbows and rest your weight ono your forearms and not on your hands.
  3. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
  4. Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine.
  5. Hold this position for your preferred time – start with 30 seconds and see how long you can build up to! 

2. Russian twists

While the Russian twist mainly targets your core, your back muscles will also be engaged to strengthen and support your spine. There is no equipment needed unless you want to add a weight.

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor, keeping the spine straight and not rounded.
  3. Put your arms straight out in front of your chest with one hand on top of the other.
  4. Raise your core and slowly rotate to the right as far as you can, pause then reverse this movement all the way round to the right. 

3. Bridge

Strenuous exercise after a period of inactivity can cause stiffness in the hip flexors (the muscles at the top your thighs), which is a particular problem among newer cyclists. This exercise loosens them up, while also strengthening the link between the glutes and lower back.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your hips of the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Pause at the top then slowly lower your body back to the floor.

4. Mountain climbers

Not only does the mountain climber exercise strengthen and stabilise your core muscles, it adds an element of cardio into your training too. If you are new to mountain climbers perform the knee to chest motion slow and steadily then build it up to a faster pace with practice.

  1. Assume a press up position so your hands are directly under your chest, shoulder width apart with straight arms – your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles
  2. Lift your right foot off the floor and slowly raise your knee as close to your chest as you can
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat with your left leg

5. Scissor kicks

Scissor kicks predominantly target your abdominal muscles, working lower abs particularly.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs side by side and extended.
  2. Place your fingertips on your head just behind your ears to provide a little support for your head.
  3. Lift your head and shoulder blades and hover your heels a couple inches.
  4. Keep your legs as straight as possible and lift them one at a time – as your right leg lifts, your left leg lowers to hover above the floor.