I have been told often “If you don’t have a strong core you won’t be able to use your leg power efficiently”. So now that I have hung up the bike or a couple of months off, I have decided to work on my core and strength in preparation for next year.
A strong core provides a stable platform to anchor the leg muscles, increasing power, and supporting the upper body, reducing upper body fatigue. It turns out that core strength doesn’t mean lots of crunches (phew… as I hate crunches), as these develop the superficial abdominal muscles but don’t provide core stability. Rather you need to strengthen the deeper muscles that form a girdle around your core. Your legs act like levers and a strong core provides a fixed fulcrum around which the upper legs pivot, equalling more power to the pedals!
But maybe more importantly for me, a strong core also supports your upper body relieving fatigue in your lower back, shoulders, arms and ‘hands’. They say your core should be strong enough that your hands rest lightly on the bars like you are typing! This would really help with ultra-distance cycling because 20 hours or so a day on the bike with too much of your body weight pressing down through your hands can result in Cyclist Palsy. This is were cyclists suffer from pain, numbness and tingling in their hands and fingers, causing weakness of hand grip or clumsiness of the hand. The cause of these symptoms is the compression/entrapment and subsequent inflammation of the ulnar nerve. I suffered from this greatly on the 2015 Transcontinental Race and spent 3 days with the use of only one hand, which meant breaking and changing gears one-handed was very difficult and dangerous at times. In addition when off the bike, I couldn’t do up zips, open food packets or hold a fork etc.
So in a bid to prevent this in the future, and increase my power to the pedals, I am working on my core three times a week at the moment, with exercises such as Glute Bridges, Russian Twists, Straight Leg Raises, Back Extensions, Supermans and the good old Plank.
I did the ‘Bring Sally Up’ plank challenge video bellow on day 1, to see just how weak I was (REALLY weak it transpires!) and managed just 40 secs of the challenge, 3 weeks in I’m now on 2mins 30secs. The challenge is 3min 20sec long so I hope to get there soon. Try it, by playing the video below and following along.
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.