Every female triathlete should know her “core” muscles and how to train them correctly to generate the most power in the most efficient way for the cycling portion of a triathlon.
We often hear people talk about training the body’s core muscles for most sports; they generally refer to the powers that stabilize the lower back and pelvis forward and backward. Research has shown a clear relationship between cycling mechanics and core muscle stability.
How do you train like a pro cyclist?
Suppose your core is weak and your pelvis is not properly aligned and stabilized, thus not maintaining the natural curvature of your spine. In that case, you will not maximize the power you produce in the major muscles used for cycling.
No matter how much or how well you have trained your legs for your triathlon event, if you are not maximizing your power output because your pelvis is not properly aligned due to central fatigue from the enormous strain of a long cycling event, your results will be affected. Especially since the core muscles will have already taken a beating during swimming.
So how can a female triathlete ensure that her core muscles are properly trained and ready for triathlon cycling?
Many trainers will tell you to do a lot of sit-ups, and while the crunch is a great exercise, they are not the answer to this particular problem. For a female cyclist, the abs will not increase the stability of her pelvis enough for what is needed.
When cycling, your back is not supported; on the other hand, when you do sit-ups, you are lying on the floor, which is the fundamental problem of relying solely on the abs as a core workout.
Below are three exercises that will help any female triathlete gain greater pelvic stabilization and increase the overall endurance of her core muscles, thereby improving her cycling power output and increasing her overall pace.
This first exercise is done without your bike. You want to do climbs at different speeds, start slowly, and then increase to a rate close to your cycling cadence once you get the hang of them.
Begin in a position as if you were going to do some push-ups. Slowly bring your right knee up to your left elbow and back, then bring your left knee up to your right elbow and back.
You have to make sure you keep your arms closed at the elbow, so they don’t bend; you also have to make sure you take deep breaths and keep your stomach tight the entire time, and that your hips stay flat to the ground. This is why you should start slowly and increase speed only once you have mastered the technique.
- Body cable kinks.
This exercise requires you to use a cable machine; this adds external resistance to your routine, which is very important to train your core muscles properly.
Begin by grasping the cable pulley with a single grip accessory with both hands, as if clasped together over the handle of the bar accessory.
Start with the cable in full extension just above your left shoulder, with your arms straight. Pull the line without bending your arms from your left shoulder down past your right hip, but as you lower it, rotate your torso to the right, so your lateral oblique muscles do most of the work.
To start, do 15 reps with lightweight and then do the same with the other side. Correct form is important; remember, this is an exercise for your torso, not your arms, so make sure the right muscles are doing the work. Do three sets.
This may seem like a strange exercise for cycling, but you need some resistance in your cycling training to replace the natural resistance of the bike. This exercise is two-for-one because it is ideal for working on hip rotation for swimming.
The transmission of force from the center to the lower body requires endurance and strength, and this exercise will help you overcome accumulated fatigue from road friction and get through your race.
- Rock stomach
This exercise involves using your bike; it can be done outdoors or on an indoor climber.
Find a good-sized hill and then climb it in a standing position. As you push on your knees, please take a deep breath from your stomach and try to visualize it as a rock. You should feel your stomach muscles contract each time one knee comes up over the bike’s top tube; you please should also focus on keeping your core muscles tight and not “bouncing” off the handlebars as you do so.
It will be time before you see any improvement in your cycling with these exercises, but you should start to see results in less than six weeks if you do them twice a week throughout the year.
Building a stronger core will increase the transmission of force to your lower body regions, your entire trunk will have more natural support, and it will also help support your neck, upper back, and shoulders when resting.
Please do not do these exercises less than two days before racing because they will tire you out and give you sore muscles before the race, which you do not want.