7 Core Moves For Killer Climbing
You can have legs as strong as tree trunks, but if your core is wobbly as a willow in the wind, you’re going to be wasting watts because when your core gets weak, you lose power transfer from your upper body to your lower body.
That makes you less stable in the saddle, and you can’t push maximum power into your pedals to go fast. It also leaves you vulnerable to tight achy back muscles, which will most definitely slow you down. Strong core muscles increase your power transfer from your arms to your legs, especially when you’re pushing out of the saddle. The stronger you get, the bigger a gear you can push up hills, and the faster you can reach the top.
For climbing purposes, you want to hit your entire core, which includes your back, abs, sides, and hips (your core doesn’t stop where your jeans begin). These moves will get it done.
Perform the routine as a circuit: Do 10 to 15 reps of each exercise, moving immediately from exercise to exercise, without rest. When you’re finished, repeat the sequence. Aim to work your core 2 to 3 days a week – even during riding season. Core training should be like pumping your tyres, something you do several times a week to keep from getting flat!
I love this move for targeting the hips and glutes, which can be notoriously weak in cyclists. Because you work one leg at a time, it also helps even out common imbalances.
Do it: Stand tall with your arms out to the side at shoulder-height. Keeping your right leg extended, lift your right foot behind you and balance on your left leg. Slowly hinge forward from the hips, tipping your torso forward toward the ground while extending your right leg straight behind you, foot flexed, until your body forms a straight line from your head to your heel. Stop when you’re parallel to the floor. Return to start. Switch sides. Alternate for a full rep count to each side.
Planks are a climber’s best friend, because it strengthens all those core muscles that help keep your upper body quiet while your legs are doing the talking up the mountainside. There are countless variations, but this one is particular good if you do triathlon or time trials because your arms are in the same position.
Do it: Keeping your elbows on the floor directly beneath your shoulders, forearms extended and hands in loose fists, lift your body into a plank pose, resting on your toes and maintaining a neutral spine. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to a minute or even 2 if you’re a long distance rider.
We cyclists spend a lot of time flexed forward. If you work a desk job as well, you likely spend the lion’s share of your waking hours in that forward keyboard slump. This move tones and strengthens your stretched out and often weak flip side by strengthening the erector spinae, lumbar, and glute muscles.
Do it: Lie face down, legs extended, arms out and back about 45 degrees, palms down. Contract your glutes, squeeze your shoulder blades together, press your legs into the floor, and lift as much of your torso up as far as you can (this may be just your chest), rotating your arms so your thumbs point to the ceiling. Keep your neck straight. Pause. Return to start position.
Cyclists often not only have weak hips and lumbar back muscles, but also those muscles can get pretty tight, limiting our mobility on and off the bike. This “fierce” core move strengthens your lumbar and glute muscles and improves mobility and range of motion throughout your pelvic girdle. As a nice bonus it stretches your chest, hips, shoulders, and back.
Do it: Lie face down with arms out to the sides, shoulders flat on the floor. Lift your right leg off the floor and, twisting your torso, reach it across the back of your body as far as possible toward your left hand. Return to start. Then repeat to the other side. Repeat for a full set to each side, alternating sides throughout.
Hey look, another move for your glutes and lower back (sensing a trend?). Bridges hone in on the muscles where your lower back meets the top of your glutes, where cyclists often get achy when they climb.
Do it: Lying on your back, bring your feet in toward your butt, then squeeze your glutes and raise your hips up towards the ceiling, so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause. Then lower to the floor and repeat. When that gets easy, lift one leg and do single leg bridges.
This rotational move is great for building strong obliques as well as your deep transverse abdominal muscles, which are key for stabilising your torso when you’re climbing.
Do it: Hold a medicine ball (or dumbbell by the ends) in both hands. Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Keeping your back straight, lean back slightly and lift your feet slightly off the ground (It looks like the Boat Pose in yoga). Twist your torso all the way to one side, then all the way to the other. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Rotate for a full rep count to each side. To make it harder, lean back further.
If you don’t have a stability ball, it’s totally worth buying one to take your core work to the next level by doing moves such as this one. Because you’re on an unstable platform, your entire core is fired up to keep you steady – ideal for building core stability for riding a bike.
Do it: Start in a plank position with the tops of your feet up on an inflated stability ball. Keeping your knees straight, hike your hips up toward the ceiling, so your back is straight and your butt is pointed up to the sky. Lower to the plank position and repeat. If that’s too tough out of the gate, start by bending your knees and pulling the ball in toward your chest.
The following is excerpted from Climb! by Selene Yeager – your guide to train for, conquer, and ultimately fall in love with hills.