Core Assets: Cycle Stronger for Longer

If you suffer from an aching back after hours on the bike you may be lacking core strength. “When you hunch over in the saddle for a long time, your back becomes overly conditioned, and if you don’t have equally strong abdominal muscles to counter your forceful back muscles, your spinal balance can be thrown off,” says Shannon Sovndal, author of Cycling Anatomy. For a solid core and a stable pedalling platform, Sovndal recommends these gym exercises, done at least two nonconsecutive days a week.

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Hanging knee raise

Benefits: Decompression of the spine; works abdominal muscles; and aids forearm and grip strength

Do it: Hang from a pull-up bar, palms facing forward, and simultaneously lift both knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly lower your legs. To target your oblique muscles, alternately raise your knees to one side, then the other. Do two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Illustrations: Chris Lyons

Rope Crunch

Benefits: Keeps the spine aligned by solidifying your core; mimics various positions on the bike (hoods, tops, drops), which trains your body to be strong in these positions.

Do It: Kneeling on a mat and facing away from a pulley system, hold a high pulley rope attachment above your head. Curl your body towards the floor, bending at the waist. Slowly return to the upright kneeling position. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Woodchopper

Benefit: Works most anterior (front-side) abdominal muscles.

Do It: Stand sideways beside a high pulley and extend your arms above your head to grasp the handle with both hands. Pull the handle down and as your hands pass your shoulders, twist and crunch your abdomen. Continue to pull as you bend your knees into the squat position. Slowly return to the starting position. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.