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Five ways to diversify your core training

By Ari Baquet • Published
Shedding the notion that core work must be done on your back opens up new exercise possibilities; Logan VonBokel demonstrates strengthening of the obliques and mid to upper transverse abdominis. Photo: Ari Baquet | VeloNews.com

Picture core training in your mind, and the motions that you visualize likely involve some form of crunches or sit-ups.

Static planks, the gym’s answer to the stationary trainer, may also come to mind. Limited to these exercises, core training may feel repetitive — and hardly sustainable throughout the pre-season.

“When people think of core work, even when they’re thinking of a variety of exercises, they’re all somehow just a variation on the theme of crunches,” Allison Westfahl, director of personal training at Flatiron Athletic Club in Boulder, Colorado, and strength coach to Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson, told VeloNews.

Adding variety to core training is not just a matter of new exercises, but a new approach as well. As an added bonus, varying the routine will target new and, possibly, under-developed muscle groups of the core, making the training even more effective.

Get off your back

All variations on crunches and sit-ups require you to be supine, or on your back, limiting the number of exercises possible, and, by extension, the variety of muscle groups the exercises can target.

“To keep core work interesting, or varied… get off your back,” Westfahl said.

In addition to adding variety, changing positions can make core work more applicable to cycling.

“You would never lay on your back to ride a bike,” she said. “There are a lot of exercises… that actually have you in what’s called a prone position, which is face-down, because that’s typically how one would ride a bike.”

Westfahl recommends taking advantage of getting off of your back by recognizing that the core encompasses muscles on all sides of the body, not just the commonly-trained abdominal muscles on the front.

“When you think of the core as incorporating all of those muscles on the front, the back, [and] the side of the body, then the possibilities for exercise are limitless,” she said.

This, she added, means including multiple directions of motion — pushing, pulling, and twisting — to target different muscle groups within the core.

For example, working to keep the torso stable in a prone position while making movements from the shoulders or pelvis, “is a great foundation from which to work in order to build core strength for the bike,” she said.

“Static is fine, but movement is even better,” added Richii Koshari, senior instructor at Core Power Yoga in Boulder, advising “drawing knee to elbow or knee to shoulder, knee to nose, any of those ranges.”

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