Chris Pritchard competed for Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games as a track sprinter and came third in the National Keirin Championsip before turning to the road.
He rode for Endura Racing in 2011 and CyclePremier Race Team in 2012. As a top-level cyclist Pritchard has had more than his fair of injuries that have affected his racing career, including being hit by a car when training shortly after competing in the Commonwealth Games.
He is also a Level 3 personal trainer and sports therapist and owner of The Boom Rooms TRX Training Centre.
Here are his 10 favourite core strength and stability exercises that every cyclist should try to incorporate into their training plan. They’re simple to follow, easy to apply and very effective. Try them now and you’ll be reaping the benefits on the bike come the new year.
- Don’t let your lower back arch
- Keep bum flat and in line with your shoulder joints
- Keep head and neck in neutral position
The plank is an easy exercise and one I give to every single client I have; this exercise cannot be underestimated. It will challenge your core and stabilising muscles under isometric tension.
This is going to help you maintain upper body strength while sprinting or climbing, as well as being able to hold a TT position comfortably for longer periods of time.
This will also give your legs a stronger foundation to generate more power from. Try holding the plank for 30 seconds for three sets. Once you can do this, increase your time by 10 seconds every session. Once you can hold this for over a minute it’s time to add some instability, for example, placing your feet on a Bosu ball or similar.
- 1 Place elbows directly under shoulders and keep forearms parallel.
- 2 Bring in your core muscles by sucking in your stomach as if you
were trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans a size too small and hold
that position steady.
- 3 Lift up on to your toes creating a straight line through
shoulder, hip, knee and ankle joints. Hold position for the whole
duration of the time period.
- This exercise can be advanced to asingle-leg exercise
This final core exercise really focuses on the activation of the lumbar pelvic hip complex. Start this exercise with both feet flat on the floor until you feel confident to progress this to a single-leg exercise. The floor bridge is a movement which is great for activating the glutes and the stabilising muscles of the lower back.
- 1 Lay supine on the floor, making sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Lift pelvis and squeeze glutes until the knees, hips and shoulders are all in line.
- 2 Slowly lower pelvis down around until you are an inch off the floor and repeat movement eight to 12 times per set.
- The best way to get on the ball is to lie on it and slowly roll yourself out over it into position
- Make sure your back stays straight and doesn’t arch.
The jack-knife is a similar exercise to the plank but this time we add a gym ball and movement.
This exercise not only increases core strength and stability in your shoulder joint, but also works on increasing your control and strength in your hip flexor muscles, which are very important when riding your bike, as the hip flexor is frequently used but often overlooked while training.
- 1 Placing hands directly under shoulders just wider than shoulder-width apart, place both feet on the ball – your ankle joint should sit right on top of the ball.
- 2 Engage your abs and keeping your back straight slowly bring your knees into your chest.
- 3 Hold the knees into your chest for a second before slowly rolling out the ball until your legs are fully straight. Repeat this movement eight to 12 times per set.
- Don’t let your lower back arch
- Keep bum flat and in line with shoulder
This is a great warm-up exercise to help activate lower back muscle before squats or deadlifts. It will also strengthen lower back and hip extensor muscles. In some cases the lower back can be a limiting factor while cycling – this exercise will help build strength and stability within the lower back area.
- 1 Laying prone, position the ball under your pelvis. Feet should be against a wall and shoulder-width apart.
- 2 Tighten glutes and hamstrings to ensure a safe and efficient movement. Lifting from your hip, extend your back up until you create a straight line that runs from ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle joint.
- 3 Slowly lower your body back to the ball to end the rep. Repeat six to 12 times per set.
- Never place the bar on your spine
- Always keep your head up looking forward
- Knees should not protrude far over toes
This exercise consists of movement patterns similar to those activated in cycling.
The benefits of a squat are tenfold for cyclists… increased leg strength, increased core and back strength, increased flexibility in hamstrings and glutes, greater stability in knee, hip and ankle joints and greater motor function throughout your body.
Good technique is essential to avoid injury so start light.
- 1 Take the bar on the fleshy part of your neck, holding a mid-length grip with your hands. Tighten your core while retracting your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together, then engage and depress your lats to stabilise your spine.
- 2 Set your legs a shoulder width apart with toes pointing out slightly. Start the movement by slowly kicking the bum back, sitting your weight into your heels and letting your knees bend. Work from the hips.
- 3 From the bottom of the movement, engage your glutes, lift and squeeze that bum and come back into a standing position, locking out that hip fully.
- Keep back straight and avoid rounding your shoulders
- Make sure head follows weight during rotation
- Keep chin off chest
- To increase resistance, lift one or both feet from the floor
This core exercise concentrates on movement and strength of the sidewalls of the abdominal muscles, the obliques. This exercise is designed to create strength in movement and enhance the stability of the core.
- 1 Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor slowly leaning back from the hip until you feel your abs tighten.
- 2 Rotate your hands to the left, holding hips square and then return to centre before repeating on the other side.
Gym ball chest press and bacle bosu row
- Keep your feet a shoulder-width apart
- Engage glutes and maintain good posture
- Make sure your neck and shoulders are supported by the ball
- Make sure your head is in a neutral position and doesn’t ‘jut’ forward
- Keep a good posture through whole kinetic chain
- Engage your core to hold position while performing exercise
Upper-body exercises may be associated more with body builders, but keeping your upper body conditioned is highly beneficial to cyclists. As anyone who has had to climb over a cat-one col will tell you, sometimes it’s not your legs that give up first.
Your triceps, chest, shoulders and upper back do a huge amount of work to keep you climbing high! What we have to be sure of is to not work these muscles in a body building fashion though.
I suggest with these two upper-body exercises that you use them as a ‘super set’, which means you do one exercise and with no rest you go straight into the next one.
This is going to boost strength endurance in your upper body and if you keep the repetitions high (anywhere from 12 to 20 reps) then you’ll create lean muscle mass and not promote extra muscle bulk, which is weight we don’t need.
I’ve also created these with stability in mind and while executing these exercises your core and legs will be tested as well for a whole-body workout.
- 1 Get into a half-squat position standing on a Bosu ball.
- 2 Row cable/bar in towards chest, extend elbows behind body and squeeze shoulder blades together.
- 3 Slowly return arms to full extension and repeat the move.
- 1 Laying on a gym ball and with your shoulders and neck supported by the ball, squeeze your glutes and raise your bum to create a straight line through your neck, shoulder, hip and knee joint.
- 2 Press both dumbbells straight up together making sure they are right above the chest and not above your head or stomach.
- 3 Slowly return the dumbbells towards your body by flexing your elbows..
Rear leg evelvated squat
- Hips should remain facing forward at all times
- Keep body upright and your neck should remain in a neutral position throughout
In case there’s any discrepancy with differing degrees of strength in your legs, this exercise will strengthen both legs independently to improve single-leg efficiency on your bike.
This exercise is sometimes used instead of a normal squat because there’s no loading on the back with an Olympic bar which can be a problem if you have any ongoing back issues.
Also, this movement requires more stabilisation and control from muscles, which will give you greater overall strength in your legs.
If you don’t have any serious back issues though, doing both this and the regular squat will complement each other to enhance your leg strength.
- 1 Split your stance by placing your rear leg on a step or box. Feet should be shoulder-width apart and hips facing forward. We are looking to create a 90-degree angle in the front knee as the weight is lowered. To get this we need to take a fairly long step out from the box.
- 2 Keeping your body upright and head facing forward, lower your weight in a straight line, loading the glute and hamstring of the front leg until your hip joint is in line with your knee joint.
- 3 Squeezing the glute in the front leg, press through the heel and raise the upper body up to the start position.
- ν Landing must be as silent as possible and with knees slightly bent
- ν Control the jump as much as possible
These will be most beneficial for those cyclists looking to produce power for a quicker sprint or for someone wanting to work on their acceleration while climbing.
I advise that you have completed at least four weeks of a strength-training programme and can comfortably squat your own body weight before doing these as the forces produced can quickly lead to injury if you’re not fully in control of your movement.
This exercise is hugely taxing on not only your muscles, but also your central nervous system.
The step jump includes an explosive component which will test the stability of your ankle, hip and knee joints.
If there is any weakness felt during the effort, then I suggest going back to the stability section and working on that for a while longer before trying these again.
- 1 Using a box, step or bench that’s around 24 to 36 inches high, start with your feet hip-width apart.
- 2 Sit back into a squat position; from here explode out of the squat into a jump which propels you onto the box.
- 3 When landing on the box, land with soft knees and try making your landing as silent as possible.
- 4 Step down off the box and repeat around six to eight times with sufficient rest in-between.