Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Core Exercises for Cyclists

Legs are the major power source for cyclists, but this doesn’t mean that cyclists don’t need the other parts of their body. The lower back and abs also play a crucial role in cycling, as it helps with the body’s movement and balance while cycling. These muscles should get as much exertion as your legs are getting, or else you’ll get overdeveloped legs and flabby abs. You can easily prevent this by doing some core exercises in between your indoor cycling classes.

Here are Exercises to Build Your Core Muscles
  1. Boxer Ball CrunchThis exercise for cyclist’s works out your abs, lower back, and oblique muscles. To do this exercise, lie on a stability ball with the centre of your back to the ball. Bend your knees in a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat against the floor. Put your hands at the back of your head to prevent neck strain. Squeeze your belly then lift your back out of the ball and while in this position, make a clockwise move with your torso. Use your lower back to keep the ball still. Do 15 reps clockwise and 15 counter clockwise.
  2. Plank - This exercise works out your abs, upper back, and lower back. Lie on your belly, using your elbows and forearms for support. Raise your hips away from the floor and keep your back straight, your abs tight, and rest your toes.
  3. Transverse Plank - With this exercise, you will be working out your front and side abs. Lie on your right side, keeping your elbow and forearms for support. Stack your right foot to your left and keep your right arm over your head. In one move, raise your hips to make a straight line to your right side. Lower your hips and repeat. You can do 10 or 15 repetitions and switch sides.
  4. Catapult - This exercise for cyclists works your entire core muscle group. Sit with your knees slightly bent and your heels pressed on the floor. Stretch your arms forward and keep it at the same height of your shoulders, keeping your palms facing each other. With a straight spine, inhale deeply, and then exhale while slowly lowering your torso to the ground while you take a deep breath. Keep your arms overhead and with one smooth move, exhale and explode to the start position. Do 20 repetitions.
  5. Boat Pose - You will be working out your lower back and abs with this exercise. Sit up straight and rest both your hands gently behind you. Lean back until you reach a 45-degree angle. Keep your legs together and raise them away from the floor while you extend your arms forward. Your thighs, abs, and torso must be kept tight. Hold the position for 60 seconds. This exercise is very tiring, but it can do wonders for your abdominal muscles.
No matter how strong your legs are, it will be irrelevant if you don’t have a stable core. It’s like having a really nice car on the outside but with a low quality engine. Having a good core will help you use your legs properly, and get rid of any unnecessary upper body movement when cycling. All this contributes to your stamina and smooth pedal stroke.

Photo Credits: Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Drawbacks of Pedalling Like a Mad Man

Plenty of cyclers pedal fast during their workout. They do this for a number of reasons, for one; it is easy to pedal fast indoors. It also makes cyclers feel that they’re exercising efficiently. Faster pedalling is also thought to burn more fat compared to slower pedalling. However, these benefits are far outweighed by the disadvantages of pedalling like a mad man. Read up to find out how your indoor cycling form and speed affects your exercise.

Speed and How it affects Your Form

You have probably noticed that you can easily keep a high tempo easily when indoor cycling. It’s the same exercise as outdoor cycling, but why does it feel easier if you’re cycling with an indoor bike? This is because of the weighted flywheel in indoor bikes! This flywheel causes unskilled riders to “pedal” faster at a low resistance, causing riders to go bouncing all around the saddle. They don’t exert much effort to maintain a high speed, because the flywheel causes the pedal to move so the biker doesn’t need to do much legwork to get the bike going.

Cyclists, who pedal furiously without maintaining the right form, also miss all the great benefits offered by cycling indoors. A high heart rate doesn’t necessarily mean that you are burning calories, so in reality you aren’t putting a lot of effort by pedalling fast. Pedalling at a high speed with minimal or no resistance leads to a lower power output, too. The reason for high heart rates isn’t the calories you’re burning; it’s the flopping and bouncing on the saddle, the inability of the muscles to contract quickly, and lack of technique.

Instead of cycling furiously with little to no resistance, you should pedal slowly at a resistance slightly higher than your comfort zone. Pedalling with a bit of resistance will force you to use your leg muscles and exert more effort, and this will directly translate to the calories you will burn. Start with 80 or 90 rpm, and train yourself to maintain the proper position. Maintain proper form by focusing on the upper and bottom halves of your pedal stroke. Relax your hips and upper body; concentrate your efforts on your leg muscles. Once you can confidently pedal without getting the feeling of being pushed by the bike, then you can start cycling faster, say 100 rpm.

Advantages of Pacing Yourself
Pacing yourself allows you to maintain proper form- preventing that feeling of being dragged around like a rag doll. It will also give you the energy and longevity to pedal at a higher resistance.

As you can see, pedalling like a mad man certainly isn’t the way to get the most out of your exercise, especially if you’re a beginner at cycling. If you are wondering what speed you should be pedalling, it really depends on your stamina and leg strength. It all boils down to your fitness level. Don’t be afraid ashamed of pedalling slowly when you’re in an indoor cycling class.

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