Tom Danielson Explains Why Core Strength Matters

Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage offers a core strength program for cyclists. This comprehensive approach shows the 50 essential core workout exercises that will build strength and endurance in the key core muscles for cycling—no gym membership required.

Core Strength Means Better Results

“Core strength.” Once practically unheard-of, this term is now so widely used in the world of sports and fitness that it has become easy to dismiss. Athletes, fitness experts, and weekend warriors talk incessantly about how they are working on building their core, learning how to use core strength, and “just learned the most killer core routine, dude—you’ve gotta try it!” Health clubs offer core strength classes, fitness videos promise stronger core muscles, and we all probably agree that better core strength would probably—definitely—improve our fitness, solve our problems at work, and make us better people.

The truth is, core strength may not instantly make you a better citizen, but it will definitely make you a better cyclist. A regular regimen of core strength exercises will train your muscles and joints to work at their highest efficiency when you are cycling, and it will reduce your chances of injury. A strong core will stabilize your muscle paths to improve your transmission of power from your hips and legs to the pedals of your bike. Core strength will also improve your acceleration, and not only in a sprint; it will also make a significant difference in the hundreds of big and small accelerations that occur constantly in a fast-moving pace line or group. Additionally, solid core strength will improve your climbing and descending skills.

Stop Doing Crunches!

Due to the misconception that only the abdominal muscles constitute the core, exercise routines commonly focus on strengthening those four abdominals, sometimes to the exclusion of all others. But each muscle of the true core has a specific function, making it important to achieve optimum strength in all the muscles, not just the abdominals.

Multiple problems can arise when the abdominals are strengthened and the remainder of the core is ignored; chief among these problems are muscular imbalances. When an imbalance occurs in the muscular system, a muscle or a group of muscles becomes dominant and overactive, while a different muscle becomes weak and inactive. The imbalance throws off the carefully designed system of duties for which each muscle is responsible.

Another problem with traditional crunches is that they are performed while lying on your back, thereby training your abdominal muscles to fire when the rest of your body is being stabilized by the floor. How many times do you actually use your abdominal muscles this way in real life? Probably never. Would you ever train for a ride by lying on your back and pedaling your legs up in the air? Of course not, because this type of training would never directly translate into improved performance on the bike.

The notion of doing a core strength routine without crunches may seem blasphemous. As a vanity-obsessed nation, we have all been brainwashed from childhood to believe that crunches are good for us and that an Adonis-like six-pack is the ultimate sign of strength. Heck, even the president’s physical fitness test for schoolchildren includes a section that counts the number of curl-ups (another name for a crunch) that can be done in one minute! But now it’s time to set aside that old approach, step away from the ab crunch machine, and start working on the entire core.

Core Strength That Works for Cyclists

If you as a cyclist aren’t supposed to be doing crunches, then what are you supposed to do? It’s not enough to just randomly work all the muscles of the core and hope that useful core strength emerges. Instead, you need to work your core muscles in a functional manner so that their strength can be directly translated to the activity and demands of cycling.

So what is a “functional” core strength routine? The overall thesis of functional training is that movements performed during training sessions should mimic movements performed in the sports for which you are training. For cycling, therefore, we need to train the muscles, joints, and soft tissue of your body to operate at their highest efficiency while you are riding. Put another way, the exercises in your core routine should focus on specific movements as opposed to specific muscles.

When you approach your core strength program in this way, it soon becomes obvious that lying on your back doing crunches is not really functional at all. Those crunches aren’t going to get you anywhere near where you need to be in terms of balanced muscle strength and stability.

See a sample core exercise: Tommy D’s Winter Warm-Up Routine

Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage offers a core strength program for cyclists. This comprehensive approach shows the 50 essential core workout exercises that will build strength and endurance in the key core muscles for cycling—no gym membership required.

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