Pedalling? it's all about the core

Life is like riding a bicycle: if you want to stay in balance you have to move.Albert Einstein

When he wrote these words, perhaps Einstein did not have in mind the mechanics of pedalling, but he was able to combine the cornerstones of cycling: balance and movement. In fact, it is only by maintaining balance on the pedals that you can make a difference on your bike. And balance is all about the core.

Beyond the legs there is more: why train the core

Looking at a cyclist in action, perhaps while climbing a mountain road, it is easy to think that the strength lies entirely in the muscles of the legs, it is they who push while the muscle bands are outlined perfectly under the skin as in an anatomical design.We are not saying that this is not true, but only in part. In fact, Graeme Street, athletic trainer for cyclists, says:

You can have all the strength in the world in the legs, but without a stable core you won't be able to use it efficiently.

That stable nucleus of which Graeme speaks is the core, the abdomino-lumbar zone, where the centre of gravity of the human body resides. A real anatomical corset that includes all the muscles between the shoulders and the pelvis and whose main function is to act as a functional centre of kinetic chains.
This is the area where the movements originate, the one that more than any other is responsible for stabilizing the trunk and ensuring that the force exerted is transmitted without any loss of power.
What does that mean? Let's look at the ride of a professional: you will see very well how shoulders and pelvis are perfectly immobile and aligned. If instead we take the images of a cyclist in crisis or at the end of his strength, we will notice how the pelvis swings on the saddle and how his shoulders move with each pedal stroke. This is the unequivocal sign of a muscular fatigue that alters the athletic gesture making it even more strenuous. It is of little importance to have very strong leg muscles if then a part of this strength is dissipated by a pelvis that moves conspicuously with each pedal stroke. Instead, a toned, trained core allows a precise transfer of force to the frame and the pedals.
In fact, Graeme adds:

A solid core will help eliminate unnecessary upper body movement, so all the energy you produce will be channelled into the pedal stroke.

If the abdominal corset is toned, the pelvis will "swing" less while pedaling and so we will be able to better impress and constrain the force on the legs and pedals. In essence there is less dispersion of energy and strength. Not only will pedalling be more effective, but it will also be easier to do and more effective.
The core muscles are typically associated with the "deep" ones, such as the transverse abdominals and the lumbar multifidus. However, the so-called surface muscles (abdominal, oblique, back muscles) are also important. As Darren Roberts recalls: "Deep muscles act as proprioceptors, basically telling the brain how the spine is moving allowing the muscle bands of the trunk to act accordingly".  Cyclists move dynamically on the bike, using the body to tackle curves and obstacles, not just to pedal. You need to be able to act and react to the forces at play, and this requires what Darren calls "the dynamic force of the body" and at the centre of this force we find the core.

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