What's Cool In Road Cycling

What IS True Core Strength?

Here’s what “your core” really is, and a fun, but challenging way, to see how you stack up.


When it comes to strength training, everyone (and their mother) talks about “core strength.” So, naturally, we all tend to think of our midsections as being our core, which leads us to “naturally” look for crunches, front planks, and bicycle crunches (hey, it has the name bicycle in the title, so it must be good for us, right?). Unfortunately, we’ve got “the core” all wrong.

Thanks in large part to marketing and the mass media loving buzzwords, “your core” has become synonymous with your midsection… be it 6-packer, or keg. Everywhere you look, training the core targets feeling the muscles of the stomach or sides working in a variety of angles, exercises, and resistances.

But in fact, the muscles in your midsection make up only a fraction of what your true core is.

Defining the real core
While the stomach is near the center of the body, and perhaps why it’s become known as “the core”, if we target only these muscles without teaching other supporting and synchronous muscles to work well together, we are left simply making ourselves more effective & stronger at the exact exercises we perform. And I don’t know about you, but usually when I ride my bike, my legs and arms tend to be doing a good amount of work.

So if we want to get true core strength, we need to define what the REAL core is. And actually, that’s pretty easy:

All the muscles between the base of your skull, your elbows, and your knees.

THAT is your real core, and without training everything to work appropriately together, you’re going to have a really hard time seeing performance gains or decreased aches and pains on the bike.

How to Train the Real Core
This is where it gets really simple, actually, yet many social media trainers and well-meaning younger trainers will scoff. In order to train the real core, you don’t want to focus on movements or strength at all…. Rather, you want to focus on the SKILL that is strength and movement training.

I know, I know, you’re probably wondering what skill is involved in strength training, but much like learning how to brake properly or corner on your bike, there is actually a lot more than meets the eye!

While I go into detail about this in my book Strength Training for Cycling Performance (2nd ed) which will be released October 8 in paperback and Ebook, I’m going to give you the short answer, which happens to have 2 parts:

  1. Joint position dictates muscle function
  2. Stiffness in the right places and right amounts, and movement only from the necessary places

In regular people language – how your joints line up and how good your posture is will determine which muscles will be doing the work (either the correct ones, or the wrong ones). When you’re getting a movement, perhaps a squat, we want only the hips, knees, and ankles to be doing the moving, while other muscles and joints keep just enough stiffness to stabilize you.

Putting It Into Action
While the concept is great and all, how do you actually put it into action to help you become a better, stronger, and more resilient rider?

For one, taking the time to learn how to move in ways that we do not already get in our chosen sport. One example of this is the Landmine Cossak Squat- an incredibly challenging move for the vast majority of cyclists, triathletes, and frankly most modern era humans.

This move will challenge you to keep great posture and position, while getting stiffness in the right places in the right amounts.

But make sure to check your ego at the door! Many cyclists cannot perform the move without cheating, and many will feel their groins or lower backs during this movement, even with an empty barbell!

If that’s you, you can get on the fast track to better movement and true core strength with my newest strength program, available exclusively on TrainingPeaks:

12-Week Core Strength for Endurance Athletes

This program is packed with 12 weeks of bodyweight and a smattering of band exercises that will challenge you to build a truly stronger core.

Use the code “Pez21” to take 15% off the program price until August 31, 2021.


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