Rob Brown, a physiotherapist at the Centre for Health & Human Performance (CHHP), looks at what the abdominals are and why they are important to cyclists.
What are the abdominals?
The abdominals consist of four muscles: the transversus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique and the rectus abdominis. They are located over your stomach and attached from the ribs to the pelvis.
How do the abdominals work?
The abs support the trunk, allow movement and hold organs in place by regulating internal abdominal pressure.
The ideal cycling position and its non-weight bearing makeup mean the role of the abs in cycling gets questioned, but they seem to control the movement and position of the spine and pelvis as well as transferring and attenuating forces during the pedal stroke.
As the intensity of a ride increases so does the activity of the abs.
What can go wrong?
If the abs are weak, you may not be able to maintain correct posture on the bike, excessively flexing and bending through the spine, overloading and causing pressure on the lower back.
An inability to control movement of the trunk and pelvis due to poor abdominals could cause excessive movement of the hips, knees and ankles while cycling.
How to fix it
When we think of a typical abdominal exercise we may think of a crunch, however your abdominal exercises should focus on improving your ability to control pelvic and spinal positioning, loading and resisted extension.
Choose five to six exercises that challenge trunk-pelvic-hip control and stability through different ranges and movement patterns — look into leg lowers, dead bugs [you look like a dead bug while performing it] and mountain climbers.
Think about what you need to achieve on the bike and create exercises from there.