This Cyclist Ab Workout Strengthens the Most Important Core Muscles for Riding

To get faster, stronger, and more powerful, you need more than just strong legs.

Your bulging quads and razor-cut calves are the envy of your friends, and you start every ride strong. But as the ride progresses, your hips seesaw in the saddle, your lower back aches, and you slow in corners. The problem? Your core cries uncle long before your legs wear out. Although your legs provide the most tangible source of power, the core muscles—the muscles that support your spine—are the vital foundation from which all movement, including the pedal stroke, stems.

“You can have all the leg strength in the world, but without a stable core, you won’t be able to use it efficiently,” says Graeme Street, founder of the Cyclo-CORE training program and a personal trainer in Essex, Connecticut. “It’s like having the body of a Ferrari with a Fiat chassis underneath.”

What’s more, a solid core will eliminate unnecessary upper-body movement, so that all the energy you produce is delivered into a smooth pedal stroke.

Unfortunately, cycling’s tripod position, in which the saddle, pedals, and handlebar support your weight, relies on core strength but doesn’t build it. To develop your high-performance chassis, try this killer cyclist ab workout. It’ll only takes about 10 minutes to complete and focuses on the transverse abdominis (the innermost abdominal muscle which acts as a stabilizing girdle around your torso), and also on your lower back, obliques, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors, so your entire core—and then some—works as a unit and gets stronger. You’ll notice that it skips the rectus abdominis, or six-pack muscle, because according to Street, “it’s the least-functional muscle for cycling.”

How to use this list: Perform the core workout above, demonstrated by Charlee Atkins, certified personal trainer in New York City, two to three times a week. This will create a core that lets you ride faster, longer, and more powerfully. To master each move, keep scrolling for a detailed description of every exercise, demonstrated by Kelly Cosentino, a New Jersey-based certified personal trainer and owner of Train With Kelly. All you need is an exercise mat.

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1. Single-Leg Crunch

What It Works: Transverse abdominis, obliques, and lower back.

How to Do It: Lie faceup on a mat, left leg extended out, right knee bent with right foot flat on the floor. Rest your arms next to you. Squeezing your belly button toward your spine, peel your upper back off the mat as you lift left leg and reach left fingertips toward left toes. Keep lower back pressed into mat through the entire motion. Return to starting position. Perform 15 reps then repeat on other side.

Why It Works: Despite the straightforward motion of the bike, your body moves in three directions: forward as you head down the road, vertically as your legs pedal up and down, and laterally as your hips and upper body rock side to side. This exercise builds control that helps you minimize wasted motion.

2. Power Bridge

What It Works: Hip flexors, glutes, and lower back.

How to Do It: Lying faceup on the mat, bend knees, and lift toes so heels rest on floor. Place arms at sides, palms down. In one smooth motion, squeeze glutes, raise hips up, and push into heels to form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for 2 seconds. Keeping toes lifted, lower hips three-quarters of the way down to complete one rep. Do 20 repetitions.

Why It Works: In addition to stretching the hip flexors, often extremely tight in cyclists, the bridge strengthens the link between your lower back and glutes.

3. Hip Extension

What It Works: Lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.

How to Do It: Lying facedown on the mat, stack your hands and place them under your forehead. Extend legs straight with toes resting on the floor. With a straight spine and shoulder blades drawn back, as if you’re trying to make them touch, lift both legs off the floor as high as possible. Hold for 2 seconds and lower. Do 20 reps.

Why It Works: This movement builds backside strength, for added efficiency on the second half of the pedal stroke.

4. Forearm Plank

cyclist ab workout
James Farrell

What It Works: Transverse abdominis, upper and lower back.

How to Do It: Start facedown on mat, then prop yourself up with elbows under shoulders with forearms on the floor, hands in fists. Lift hips off the mat, keeping your back straight and abs tight. Engage glutes and legs to prevent hips from lifting or dipping so body forms a straight line from heels to head. Aim to hold the plank for 60 seconds.

Why It Works: The plank builds the strength and muscular endurance you need to ride powerfully in the drops or in an aero position long after others have surrendered to the top of the handlebar.

5. Side Plank to Thread the Needle

What It Works: Transverse abdominis and obliques.

How to Do It: Lie on your left side, with left elbow stacked under shoulder, resting on forearm for stability, and stack right foot on top of left. Raise your right arm up toward ceiling, and lift hips to create a straight line from heels to head. Then, rotate from the waist as you draw right hand to reach below left underarm. Keep hips lifted throughout. Return to the starting position and perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

Why It Works: Strong obliques improve your stability in the saddle, letting you take on hairpin corners with more control and speed.

6. Scissor Kick

What It Works: Transverse abdominis, hip flexors, inner and outer thighs.

How to Do It: Lie faceup with legs straight and place both hands palms down on either side of hips for support. Drawing your belly button toward your spine, lift shoulders off the mat and look toward the ceiling—lift with your abdominals; don’t strain your neck. Lift legs about 4 to 6 inches off the floor and scissor them: left leg over right, then right over left. That's one rep. Build up to 100.

Why It Works: A comprehensive movement that connects key cycling muscles, the kick also builds inner-thigh muscles, which help you achieve hip, knee and forefoot alignment for a proper and efficient pedal stroke.

7. Catapult Crunch

What It Works: Entire core.

How to Do It: Lie faceup on mat with knees bent, feet flat on floor, and arms extended overhead. Engage your core to press low back into mat and “close” your ribs. Extend arms straight up to ceiling then slowly peel upper back off the mat as you reach hands toward feet. Reverse to slowly lower back down to starting position. Perform 20 reps.

Why It Works: Contrary to its name, the catapult encourages supreme body control. Avoid using the momentum of the movement and rely on your abdominals for control.

8. Boat Pose

What It Works: Transverse abdominis and lower back.

How to Do It: Start seated with knees bent, feet on floor, both hands resting behind you. Lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you extend arms forward at shoulder height. Abs are tight, as legs and torso form a 90-degree angle. If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll need to bend your knees a little. Work up to holding the pose for 60 seconds. When you can hold it still, add an extra challenge by leaning back and lowering your legs then using core to return to starting position.

Why It Works: As with the plank, this pose builds the lower-back stability and core strength needed to remain bent over the handlebar for hours, or to blast up hills without compromising power or speed.

[WATCH]: The Best Workouts for Cyclists

GIFs: James Farrell; Video: Josh Wolff and David Monk

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