Core Stability is Now an Elite Cycling Team Selection Criteria
Cycling Queensland has just published its selection criteria for the State Track Squad, and one of the physical selection criteria is possessing excellent core stability whilst generating power on the bike “in order to perform and be less susceptible to fatigue and avoid injury”. What an excellent inclusion!
If you are a cyclist, what exactly does this mean? Core stability is broadly defined as the capacity of the torso musculature to maintain good posture, balance and alignment especially during movement. This is very important for a range of reasons, including:
· Sparing the spine from excessive load (which may cause injury);
· To transfer force from the lower to upper body and vice versa;
· To avoid wasting energy by twisting or creating unnecessary and inefficient movement in the torso and hips/shoulders when pedalling.
On the bike, core stability is observed when the riders’ torso, hips, shoulders and head are stable when generating power to propel the bike. Poor core stability, when combined with strong lower extremity muscles (as is typical for many cyclists), is thought to contribute to fatigue and poor force generation that may impair performance (Nesser et al).
Notice that core stability is not being touted as the most important thing you can do to ride faster, as there is little scientific evidence for this. However in order to ride as efficiently as possible and continue to train without injury, it is considered critical. So think of training the torso muscles like this:
· By being strong and stable in your torso, all of your aerobic and anaerobic power can be used to propel your bike instead of distorting your torso! This means better efficiency, leading to less fatigue and less energy wastage.
· By preventing injury you can continue to train consistently and improve by not having unwanted time off.
· If you are unstable, (ie moving about excessively on your saddle) you will get saddle sores or worse (impotence, numbness, or pain where you really don’t want it!). No amount of bike fitting or saddle swapping will cure this cause of saddle sores.
Measuring your core stability to work out just how good (or bad) it actually is requires the use of multiple measurements, and like most things is not as simple a task as it sounds. At Cycle Physio David can assess your overall core performance and design an appropriate and individualised program accordingly. Be aware that one of the really common mistakes in this area is poor exercise selection relative to the ability of the cyclist (typical errors include choosing a drill that is beyond the strength capability of the cyclist which ironically can cause spinal injury). So seek expert advice about how to deliver great core stability on the bike and ensure that your program, like your cycle training, is progressive and periodised appropriately.
Nesser, TW, Huxel, KC, Tincher, JL, and Okado, T (2008): The relationship between core stability and performance in Division I football players. J Strength Cond Res 22(6):1750–1754.