You need a strong core in order to keep your body stable, balanced, and performing at its best. Andy Pruitt, EdD, founder of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Centre (formerly the Boulder Centre for Sports Medicine) and medical consultant to numerous World Tour cycling teams and riders, states, “If you want to minimize health care costs, you should make core strength and flexibility as high a priority as brushing your teeth.”
Unfortunately, however, the reality of the situation is that even some of the most seasoned and dedicated athletes don’t always make the time to do good core work.
If you are feeling like you haven’t been paying enough attention to your core lately, here are 6 core exercises that even the busiest people should be able to fit in. These exercises will help define your abs, give you better balance, help relieve pain, and leave you feeling strong.
1. Workout with yard work.
You can work your core while getting some chores done. When you have to collect leaves in the yard, or take care of other outdoor chores, keep your core engaged with every movement.
Julie Bates, Body Geometry Fit coach at Specialized, explains how manual labour is similar to cycling, and “manual labor requires core strength and posture to protect you from injury. It’s crucial to be aware of other core muscles and how they play into becoming a better cyclist.” The movements involved in raking can help strengthen your obliques, which can help you better pull on your handlebars.
2. Include neutral spine exercises.
This is an exercise you can do while you are in bed. This move, inspired by yoga, involves lying on your back and pulling your stomach in while tightening your abdominal muscles. Simultaneously, tilt your pelvis so there’s no space under your back.
Hold the position as long as you can, and then release. This is a move that can help you stretch your back after long bike rides, and it can also strengthen your back and help reduce minor pain.
3. Work your core at work.
When you stay conscious of your core at work, you can work on strengthening it. Tighten your abs while sitting up straight at your desk. It might surprise you to realize how difficult this can be. Work on doing this for a few minutes at a time and gradually increase.
When you engage your core muscles and avoid slouching, you will decrease the risk for back pain. It’s tough to get a 6-pack this way, but you will increase your overall core stability if you make this a habit. Even better, according to Bates, switch out your desk chair for a stability ball, which forces you to engage your core more.
4. Skip the elevator.
When you make it a habit to always take the stairs, you are going to get your blood flowing and also work on your core strength. While climbing the stairs, tighten your abdominal muscles, stand up straight, and focus on tightening your lower abs with every knee raise you do.
The higher you lift your knees, the more work you will do on your lower rectus abdominus muscles. Bates states, “If you are using the rails to help yourself up the stairs, you will not be using the core muscles in an efficient way.”
5. Carry large items correctly.
You can work your core even when you are traveling. Making sure that your body is upright and your core is engaged will help you to get a little core workout in, even when you are traveling. Pay careful attention to your posture, especially if you are carrying large bags on one side of your body. Bates emphasizes, “it’s extra important to engage the core when twisting the body to lift luggage onto racks.”
6. Play with your kids.
Yes, you can exercise while playing with the kids! If your children are small, lift them up with both hands, bend your elbows, and swing them gently side to side. The kids will squeal with delight, and your biceps, triceps, and external obliques will get a nice workout.
This helps you when you are cycling, by increasing your power and stabilizing you on descents. Bates warns, “Be conscious of good posture and don’t be a left-hip-only parent!”
Each of these suggestions will help you to strengthen your core, giving you added strength and stability, for cycling and any other activities you enjoy!