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Core Muscle Strength and Trunk Stability Development for Cyclists

Updated on February 25, 2012
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Core stability for Cycling

Core stability is simply the process of holding the shoulders and pelvis stable in order to support movement forces from the legs and legs. The core muscles are responsible for providing a solid platform for the movement muscles to generate force through while riding a bicycle

Where stabilising muscles are weak their role can often be performed by the muscles involved in movement. This often leads to poor posture and technique as well as early fatigue which leads to potential poor cycling performance.

The Core

Visual representation of the core muscles.
Visual representation of the core muscles.

Deep and Superficial Muscle recruitment for cycling core stability

Both the deep and superficial muscles of the trunk contribute towards the stabilisation of the spine.

Examples of Deep muscles (the Inner Unit) within the core are

  • transversus abdominus
  • multifidus
  • diaphragm
  • internal obliques

Examples of Superficial muscles (the Outer Unit) within the core are

The Inner and Outer Core Characteristics. Adapted from The Fitness Instructors Handbook,Coulson M, 2007

Inner Core
Outer Core 
Main muscle fibre type 
Slow Twitch (endurance fibres)
Fast Twitch (Powerful fibres) 
General characteristic 
Endrance and posture 
Explosive strength 
Contraction type
Eccentric/ Concentric

Why is Core Stability required for Cyclists?

According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh which sort to determine the importance on core stability in competitive cyclists by performing a core fatigue workout to pre exhaust the core stabilising muscles. After which participants were subjected to a treadmill test to exhaustion.

“a core fatigue workout altered the mechanics of the lower extremity,” therefore increasing the risk of injury and indicating that core strength and stability training is a key area for development in cyclists. The authors suggested that cyclists “integrate a year-round core conditioning program into current training to promote lower extremity alignment while cycling.” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2007; 21 [4], 1300–1304)

Working on core stability also has the potential to lower the risk of injury.

Functional Training for the Development of Core stability

The main objective of core training is the development of the areas of the body responsible for the initiation and coordination of movement. However just because you might be working the trunk or the torso you are not necessarily doing a "core" exercise.

A common misconception is that you can perform effective core exercises while seated or laying on your back which removes the Abdominal Crunch from the repertoire of core exercises.

Almost all functional training performed by athletes can be classed as "core" training as it requires flexion, extension and rotation combined with the requirement for good posture, stability, balance and coordination of mobility.

Do you need to work on your core stability?

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How to develop your core stability

Planks. These are often known as Press Up Bridges

As an initial core stability exercise I would recommend you attempt the below exercise as described in the video.

The Plank Core Stability Exercise for Cyclists


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