What do you think of when you hear core work? If you’re like me, it probably goes something like, “Yeah, I need to do more of that!” It’s always that one elusive thing I’m trying to get myself to do (okay, and maybe stretching, too) and yet every excuse in the book surfaces when I think about it. There are times I’m in a good groove and do core work faithfully. However, I’ll get out of the routine, and months will go by before I start up again. My personal catalyst to get moving again is a stacked 2017 race season, including The Pioneer in New Zealand, a 7-day stage race with an anticipated race time of between 30-33 hours.
I’ve been in a good routine lately and I can tell that my cornering and technical climbing has improved. In order to keep my motivation fueled, I’m concentrating specifically on how it’ll help make cycling even more fun and fulfilling. Not only will a stronger core improve technical ability, but it’ll help relieve low back pain. Since my regimen is going well, I wanted to share five of my favorite core exercises that I think make a huge difference. These core exercises keep things fresh as an alternative to the standard crunches, leg lifts, or planks. If you do them for 5-10 minutes a day, you’ll notice a difference in your strength. Do each exercise for at least 30 seconds and go through the sequence twice.
I’ll start with my favorite. Stand with your feet hip width apart and put your hands behind your head. Raise your right knee up just higher than your pelvis, twist your torso and engage the core to bring your left elbow to your right knee. Exhale as you bring the knee up and inhale as you lower your leg. Alternate sides. You can do them as fast or as slow as you want to.
Lantern Rouge Bicycles
Most of us are familiar with bicycle sit-ups. However, I like to put my own twist on them for added challenge. Lay on your back with your fingers interlaced behind your head. Hinge till your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Crunch up to bring your right elbow to your left knee. Make contact between the elbow and press it gently into the inside of your knee and pause for 2 seconds. Switch sides and move in between the two exercises slowly.
Crusher V Sit-Ups
Lay down with your arms above your head and legs straight out. Exhale and raise your torso up while simultaneously raising your legs to about a 45-degree angle from the floor. Keep your chest and shoulders back. Touch your legs and inhale as you lower. Make sure you are sitting up slowly so that you don’t cheat with momentum.
Bent Leg Twist
I like this exercise because you get a core workout, but it also offers some great built-in stretching for the lower back. Lay down face up with your knees bent to 90 degrees and arms straight out to your sides. Keep your knees and feet together, maintain the 90-degree angle of your knees, and rotate the legs down until they are about 8-12 inches off the ground. Make sure your opposite shoulder is in contact with the ground. If your shoulder is lifting, only twist the knees as far as you can until the shoulder starts to lose contact. Alternate between sides and keep the cadence slow.
This works both your core and lower back. Start in the forearm plank position, making sure your shoulders are aligned with your elbows and your pelvis is tucked under. Raise your left knee and bring it towards your left elbow. Do the same with your right knee. If you’re not quite there with your fitness, work up to it with a regular plank.
Finally, remember that one of the most important parts of these exercises is to curl the corners of your mouth up when it gets hard. Smiling makes it easier.