The Importance Of Core Strength For Cyclists

Jul 03, 2020


Core and core strength are terms often talked about in regards to an athlete’s strength and performance, but what actually is the core?

The core can be defined as everything from your shoulders to your butt – so essentially the trunk of your body. 

To have a strong core is for the shoulders, deep abdominals and glutes to all be strong, while the muscles around these joints are balanced to enable efficient movement which results in maximum power and reduced injury.

Now that we have defined what the core is, let's look at why a strong and stable core is essential for the transfer of power from the legs to the pedal when cycling. We will also detail the impacts on a cyclist riding with poor form and how pilates can help the rider to achieve and maintain the ideal power transfer.

Generally, cyclists are very focussed on improving their leg strength to generate more power. To achieve this they spend many hours training on the bike with lots of high-intensity intervals.

However, there is a limit to the improvements that can be obtained from continually  increasing the volume of training. The benefits will eventually plateau and further training can even cause a cyclist’s performance to go backwards.

So what can cyclists do off the bike to go faster?

To go fast, cyclists need to generate substantial power which requires them to focus on two things in particular.

Firstly, they need to engage all of the muscles in the leg to generate the power, and secondly they need a strong and stable core to effectively channel that power down through the pedals.

Strength in the legs is something cyclists need if increased power is to be generated. However, overdeveloping a few leg muscles at the expense of others will not produce optimal power. If you can strengthen all of the leg muscles that contribute to the pedal stroke movement, then collectively they will work together to generate maximum power and to efficiently move the legs.

Many muscles working hard together will produce more power than a few muscles working extra hard alone!

To help you understand the benefits that a strong and stable core can provide to cyclists, picture a cannon on a canoe out in the middle of a lake. Now, if that cannon fires, it won’t be able to shoot very far because the canoe will wobble and capsize, as it can’t handle the force of the cannon.

In this scenario the cyclist’s legs are the cannon and their wobbly core is the canoe on a lake, which can't handle the power of the legs because of its instability – this is the cyclist whose shoulders and hips move from side to side with every pedal stroke.

However, if we put that cannon on a concrete platform, the result is very different.
From that stable base, maximum power can be directed to the cannonball, resulting in the cannon being able to fire to its full potential. Just as a cyclist with a strong and stable core can transfer the maximum force from the legs through to the pedals – this is the cyclist  whose body is still, with only their legs moving with every pedal stroke.

Many cyclists have poor body awareness and some are not even aware of the need for a strong and stable core. Once they start sprinting or climbing hard, they begin moving all over the place, becoming less and less effective as they try to generate more power. They’re a bit like that cannon out on the canoe.

Pilates for Sports can help cyclists build that concrete platform and ensure that every bit of power they generate goes straight to the pedals. This comes about through the strengthening of the core, knowledge of how to engage it and the correct tracking of the legs.

Let’s recap the key learnings about Power and Stability:

  • Two key areas required to produce power – all muscles engaged plus a strong and
    stable core
  • Poor form can impact a cyclist's ability to generate power – this can be counteracted
    through body awareness
  • Pilates can help a rider develop greater stability and generate more power.

Check out the Pilates for Sports Warm Up Poster for six exercises you can use to start to engage your core and restore muscle balance to the joints.



To download the warm up routine and print for home click here.....



For a customised Pilates For Sports Cycling program you can do at home, head to:

Noeleen O'Shea is the co-founder of Pilates for Sports, an online training program designed to improve your core strength, muscle balance and technique so that you can perform better at your sport with less pain, more power.


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