A 2007 study in the National Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research outlined the importance of core training for cyclists. The title of this study was "Relationship Between Cycling Mechanics and Core Stability", and the purpose was to determine whether cycling mechanics are affected by core stability. Here is what study reported:
"Core fatigue resulted in altered cycling mechanics that might increase the risk of injury because the knee joint is potentially exposed to greater stress. Improved core stability and endurance could promote greater alignment of the lower extremity when riding for extended durations as the core is more resistant to fatigue."
The foundation behind core training for cyclists is that pelvic stabilization maintains a natural curvature of the spine. The core is defined as the collection of primary stabilizing muscles for both the front and the back of the pelvis and lower back.
A weak core could potentially inhibit power production, since the pelvis is the "lever" for your psoas and gluteal muscles, both of which are your cycling power muscles. If your lower extremities are not aligned properly and the lever is in an incorrect position, then power is compromised.
During a long distance cycling event (such as Ironman), the pelvis is fixed in a constant position, and subjected to tens of thousands of muscle contraction repetitions. If the core breaks down during this time due to fatigue, then the pelvis will shift and power (watts) may suffer. So even if their legs are ideally prepared and adequately tapered, a cyclist with a weak core could still have subpar results. For the triathlete, this problem is compounded by the fact that the core is already pre-fatigued by the swim.
So, how can a cyclist prepare the core properly for the rigours of something like triathlon? Crunches alone will certainly not do the trick, because the low back is supported by the ground during a crunch - which is definitely not the case while cycling. Instead, here are 3 effective functional core training moves for enhancing pelvic stability and core endurance.
Please come back tomorrow for part 2 of Ben's story.
Ben Greenfield has been coaching athletes for over a decade from the
website www.pacificfit.net, and is author of the modern triathlon coaching manual, "How To Be A Triathlon Coach," at www.triathloncoachguide.com.