Winter is a great time to be working on your core strength. Having a strong core will help you avoid injury and lower back pain on long rides, as well as boosting power by giving your limbs a strong base to work from.
'Core strength' training has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years, but to be clear we're referring to exercises that benefit the 'trunk' of your body. That includes the stomach, back, and glutes. All of these major muscle groups support your legs as they pump away on the pedals. If they're weak and wavy, you'll suffer and lose power.
Before you embark upon any core or strength training program, it's important to understand what your goals are, which areas you need to focus on and how you're going to target them. We've got an article to help you formulate your own plan here.
Though hitting the gym will mean you've got a wealth of tools at your disposal, you can do pretty well for yourself by purchasing a few gym toys to use at home. That saves you the time of travelling to and from the gym, which is handy for bike riders often trying to fit core training in here and there.
At TWC, we recently purchased an ab wheel for £6.99 from Decathlon. You can buy one in most fitness stores, and if you're fairly experienced in the core training world, we'd recommend it. Using an ab wheel properly will strengthen your stomach, back and shoulders no end.
We did not, for the record, look like this when using it...
We're not sure about the facial expressions floating around Google Images. We were mostly grimacing. But moving on.
The most common exercise performed with one of these is an 'Ab Wheel Rollout'. It's worth noting that you do need a fairly strong core to perform one properly - if you're still learning, you might be better off using a gym ball until you get to the point where you can complete a Swiss ball rollout without letting your back sag.
Aside from the searing pain in your stomach muscles, the ab wheel rollout is quite simple. Here are the steps to follow:
- Start on your knees and engage your core muscles (that bit is crucial)
- Place your hands on the handles, and roll forwards. Only go as far as you can without your back sagging, you do not need to go as low as demonstrated in the video below to get a good workout
- When you've gone as far as you can, engage your core muscles to roll back. You should not be pulling back from the hips
Here's a demonstration (you don't have to buy your Ab Wheel from Elite Sportz for it to work!)...
Though the simple rollout is probably more than enough to provide a good workout, it turns out there are plenty more great exercises you can incorporate into your workout with this simple tool - check out this routine for ideas....
If you've been working on core strength for a while, then give an ab wheel a go - it could well be your next biggest challenge! If you'd class yourself as a beginner, hit the gym ball first and nail the technique before moving on to the wheel of pain!
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