This is Hard Core

You’re out for a long ride and an hour or so in you’re feeling super strong. But, as time goes on, a niggling tightness starts to develop in your lower back. Tightness changes to pain and soon you’re wiggling in the saddle, performing odd pelvic thrusts at your headset and even stopping intermittently to stretch. Does this sound familiar? Assuming you’ve had your bike set-up checked, the problem lies with you and your core.

Any core conditioning needs to be relevant to your chosen activity, ie, cycling. When you cycle, your legs are the pistons that drive you along and will get steadily stronger the more you ride. However, as you power along your butt, lower back and abdominal musculature are also working hard, especially as you climb. The position you’re holding puts additional strain on your core. Even if you’re riding on the tops you’ll be rounding your spine to some degree and putting strain through your back. Go down on the drops or onto aerobars and the strain increases. So, although core strength is an issue, core flexibility is equally important. To compound things, when you’re cycling in a fixed position, your core can become lazy.

Try this simple sequence of exercises to banish backpain from your riding for good.

1. Pelvic tilts

Lying on the floor with knees bent, push your lower back into the floor. This should have the effect of flattening and engaging your abdominal muscles. Tilt the pelvis forward, allowing a small hollow to develop between the floor and your lower back. Try to keep the movement small, controlled and limited to the bottom section of your back. Hold the forward tilt for a few seconds and then return to the start position by rocking the pelvis back and pushing your lower back into the floor. Once you’re comfortable with this movement you can perform tilts while on the bike – I’ve found this a great way to help back tension on long rides. Perform 10 reps in a slow and controlled manner.

2. Roll ups

From the same start position as the Pelvic Tilts push the lower back into the floor. Carry the movement on by slowing pushing your hips towards the ceiling and, in doing so, peeling your spine away from the floor. Hold in the ‘up’ position for a count of five. As you lower, do so in a controlled manner, imagining placing each vertebrae down individually and lengthening the spine. Perform 10 reps in a slow and controlled manner.

3. Cat

On all fours, engage your abdominals obtaining that ‘flattened’ feeling. Arch your back up towards the ceiling trying to imagine a rope attached to your belly button pulling you up. Hold the arched position for a count of two. Bow down by hollowing your back imagining the rope is now pulling you down. Hold the bowed position for a count of two and return to the start position. Perform 10 reps in a slow and controlled manner.

4. Crunches

Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor lightly support your head with your fingertips. Push your lower back into the floor and try to maintain that feeling throughout the movement. Crunch up by lifting the shoulders off the floor. Keep head up and neck relaxed, try to imagine an apple under your chin. Do not come up any higher than 30 degrees and keep tension on your abdominals. Come up to a count of three, hold for a count of two at the top and lower keeping control for a second count of three. Perform 10-15 reps in a slow and controlled manner.

5. Back extensions

Lying face down, look up and hold your fingertips against your temples. Slowly arch up lifting your chest and upper abdomen off the floor. Pause in the ‘up’ position before returning slowly to the start position. Perform 10 to 15 reps in a slow and controlled manner.

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