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Five ways to diversify your core training

Develop the lumbar muscles

Activities of daily life, especially in the workplace, can lead to underdevelopment of core muscles on the back of the body, particularly the muscles of the lumbar region (lower back) — cycling does little to correct this imbalance.

“If you’re just the average Joe, which most of us are, you probably already have an over-developed front part of your core, or abs,” Westfahl said. “I would say that goal No. 1, if you’re just starting out, is to focus on the muscles on the back side of the body.”

As a starting point, she recommends an exercise known in yoga as the “locust pose,” which helps to strengthen the lumbar muscles of the lower back. This is the muscle group that can become over-stressed and painful — more painful, even, than the leg muscles — on steep climbs; strengthening it can stave off and, eventually, eliminate that pain.

Beginning face-down in a prone position, “practice lifting your legs off the ground behind you, or [your] chest off the ground in front of you,” Westfahl said. Work toward elevating the legs and chest simultaneously.

However, the supine, or face-up, position still has its place: the supine bridge targets muscles of the lumbar region, and, as an added bonus, trains the hamstrings and glutes — a muscle group Westfahl cited as a weakness of Danielson’s when they first consulted in February 2008.

Begin practicing the supine bridge with both feet on the ground, and work up to elevating one leg — the thighs should always remain parallel.

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