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Cycling Exercises: Plank Exercises for Your Core Strength

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A bulging set of quads and finely etched calves are any cyclist’s source of envy – pulling you straight ahead of the pack. But with each stroke of that pedal, your hips begin to seesaw with the movement of the saddle, and your lower back calls it quits in the middle – a nightmare. A cyclist’s legs are what provide the most tangible source of energy, but the core muscles i.e. the abs and lower back, is where the important foundation of the movement lies. Let’s understand why cyclists should indulge in this out of saddle workout- plank exercises. 

All leg strength cannot save you if you do not have a stable core to utilize that energy in an efficient manner. The core will stabilize the rest of the body, eliminating any unnecessary upper body movement, thereby enabling greater power to pedal, a weak core means your body will reach a stage of fatigue much quicker. Plank exercises are popular for contributing to core training.

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Why Plank Exercises are Important for Cyclists

Strengthening your core muscles don't, however, refer to obtaining a ‘six-pack’, a misconception often associated with core exercises for men. Understand that the rectus abdominus muscles are located close to the surface but they aren’t a source of core strength. Building up your core would mean working the muscles of your abdomen, pelvic floor and the deep muscles in your back. Plank exercises is a simple and an effective core workout that takes care of activating and engaging the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, the transversus abdominus and multifidus, all the while building strength in the shoulders, upper back, and the arms. 

Regular riders, often complain of neck and lower back issues, aggravated by the stretched out riding position promoted by the current bike geometry. A cyclist’s tripod position wherein the handlebar, the saddle and pedals are supportive of the weight, weigh heavily on core strength to maintain it, but does nothing whatsoever to build it. Enter…core exercises. To develop the best core, try out some of the recommend plank exercises and their variations that are known as the best core exercises for cyclists. 

back pain for cyclist
Common cyclist's pain (source)

The Basic Plank

Planks are a great way to working out your back, abs, and shoulders without so much as a hint of equipment in use, which means it’s a good means of strength training for cyclists at home. While there aren’t any exclusive core exercises for men or women, the intensity of the same could vary. In your quest to achieve the best core, start off by being able to accomplish the most basic plank move. To do this, move into a push-up position and hold it. Move the weight to your forearms, and hold it again. You can start out small and then increase the time of holding the position as you get more used to it. This way you will engage your core plus work on your entire body. 

plank exercises
Do the plank exercises the right way

Variations to Planks 

Once you’ve mastered or are able to hold the plank for a couple of minutes without breaking a sweat, it’s time to up the game, add levels and modifications in order to see any gain from this core workout. 

  • Single Arm Plank

Assume your plank position and slowly extend any one of your arms in front of you. Hold the position for a specified time period that is manageable (don’t go too long too fast) and then switch arms. The entire time your body should be kept rigid. To up the ante slightly more of this core workout, you could ask your training partner to place a weight on your back. Another alternative is to raise one of your legs along with the arms.  

plank exercise for cyclists
Side Arm Plank for lower body (source)
  • Side Plank Knee Raises

Raise yourself (sideways) onto your forearm, resting your entire body weight on your arm and a bit on the side of your leg and foot. Once you’re stable, raise the unengaged leg so as to bring your knee to your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat as many times desired. Flip over to the other side and repeat all movements.

A slightly more advanced version of this would be to perform the same movements on a raised arm, with a downward facing palm bearing the weight instead of the forearm. 

plank exercises for cyclists
Work on your core and lower leg (source)
  • Plank Climbers

Assume the push-up position and once stable, raise your right knee towards your right elbow. Go back to the push-up position and repeat it with the left knee. Repeat as many times as required and perform the movements in a non-hurried manner. Also, avoid any arching or slumping of the back. The repetitive motion imitating the pedal pushing of cycling puts it among leg strengthening exercises for cycling.

Livingit Tip-
A way to take this to a higher level would be to perform the same exercise on an unstable surface says a stability ball. 

plank climbers
Plank climbers for stronger legs 
  • Lateral Twist Plank

Raise yourself onto your forearm, with your feet resting on top of each other. With your unengaged arm, reach over to your other elbow in a swinging motion all the while twisting your upper body. Make sure that your hips aren’t sagging. 

An advanced level to this would be to perform the same movements on a raised arm. 

lateral twist plank
Engage your core muscles
  • Weighted Body Saw Plank

While assuming the standard forearm plank position, begin to roll your body back and forth while maintaining a rigid body. Taking it a step further, ask your trainer or training partner to place a weight on your back.  An alternative would be to place your feet in a TRX suspension trainer or wear a backpack loaded with weights. 

plank exercise for cyclists
Strengthen your core with body saw plank (source)
  • Plank Plate Drag

A carpeted or a tiled surface is required for this variation. With your feet firmly placed on a plate, drive both your knees simultaneously towards your elbows, whilst dragging the plates with your feet. Pause for a moment, push the plates back to the starting position and repeat. 

Livingit Tip-
In order to create challenges within this exercise, you can adjust the weights up and down, also allow for a proper form. 

plank plate drag
Move those legs (source)

Reasons Why Cyclists Should Indulge in Cross-Train

The power to propel the bike mostly comes from the lower body while the rest of the body is technically kept still. The calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes maximus are involved in repetitive movements, always in high gear during the act of cycling. Due to only a certain part of the body being in constant use, it could lead to the overuse and overdevelopment of such muscles, while ignoring some others.

To eliminate such a situation from occurring many cyclists opt for sports such as swimming, skiing, rowing etc. as a means of cross-training. Such sports help in building the core strength by working out the abdominal muscles lying deep, wrapping the stomach and the back. When these muscles are kept strong, they help support your spine, keep your balance and stability in perfect condition, decreasing the chances of injury with repetitive movement.   

Summing Up 

It seems fairly safe to say that plank exercises should be a part of any cycling exercise plan. Core exercises for cyclists and triathletes enable maintaining a good posture not only during the competitions and long workouts but also in your day to day activities. Easily among the best of core exercises, their lack of requirement of any specific core exercises machine makes it advantageous of doing it anywhere, and not necessarily having a ‘core exercises gym’ subscription just to work-out that core!

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