UKXCNews.com is pleased to bring you Part 2 of our simple winter strength training series. With the help of Jon from JM Fitness and Health, we're taking a look at simple strength exercises aimed at the XC MTB racer that, when combined with some effective on-the-bike training, will give you the edge come the start of the 2015 XC season. Hopefully you gave Part 1 (Legs) a go and you're ready and waiting for Part 2... The Core!! Enjoy!!
The next muscle groups we are going to look at are the core muscles and the lower back. The core is basically what’s left of our body if you remove the arms and legs and has a very important part to play when riding a bike. Without a strong core you would end up on the deck more often than not, those rear wheel slides, front end wash outs.... those moments when you wondered how the hell you didn’t end up falling off. You probably owe that to your core muscles.
The main muscles that make up the core is the transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and the erector spinae.
A strong core is vital to everyday life and everyone should have awareness on how to strengthen it. 1 in 4 people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives and this could possibly stem from having a weak core and poor posture. Think about how many hours you spend in the saddle training and racing, sat in the same position, reaching forward and taking a battering from the ground up.
The good news is it’s relatively easy to train and strengthen our core with a few simple exercises that involve no equipment whatsoever and can be done anywhere.
The first one we will look at is the Plank
The plank is an isometric exercise that sees us holding a static position on our elbows and toes for a period of time.
Rest on your front, looking straight ahead, breathing normally
To carry out the exercise, rise up onto your elbows and toes and maintain a neutral spine position with a straight line running through your shoulders, hips and ankles. Breathe normally, look straight forward and hold the position until either your form drops, or you cannot go on.
Build up to holding this position for 3 sets of 2 minutes
To make the exercise more demanding raise one foot of the floor slightly, extend one arm or both together for a period of time, try not to rotate or lose form.
The next exercise we will look at is what I like to call the “Superman”
It is particularly good at strengthening the muscles of the lower back and also works on our balance, which in turn works the core.
Start on all fours ensuring that the spine is in a neutral position.
Extend the left arm and right leg simultaneously to the front ensuring that they remain parallel to the floor and at the same height. Also make sure that you do not rotate or over reach.
Keep the abdominals tensed, breath normally and pause at the end of the movement ie when both arm and leg (opposite) and fully extended and parallel to the floor.
Return arm and leg simultaneously and then repeat the movement slowly with the opposite arm and leg
This is one repetition. Carry on the exercise for a total of 10-15 slow repetitions ensuring you breathe normally, you don’t increase the speed of the exercise and try to avoid any rotation of the upper body. Try counting to 3 for each arm and leg movement, the slower the better really.
Perform 3 -4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
The final exercise is the leg extension.
This is particularly good for the lower abdominals and can also be done without equipment.
Lay on your back with legs outstretched and fully extended. Raise the feet 4-6 inches of the floor, tighten up your abdominals, breathe normal and then slowly bend your legs, bringing your heels in towards your backside.
Once the heels are in, pause and then extend your legs back to the start position. Don’t allow your feet to touch the floor throughout the exercise, breathe normally and keep the tempo slow, 2 seconds in, 2 second out.
Complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions and try to ensure your back is flat on the floor, and don’t place your hands under any part of your body.
With all 3 of the exercises above keep the tempo slow, avoid holding your breath, squeeze the abdominals during the repetitions and make sure you keep the spine in its neutral position.
Having a strong core will help you become a more efficient, more powerful XC racer and will go a long way to ensure you don’t suffer lower back pain during those extended periods in the saddle.
Again, a massive thank you to Jon from JM Fitness and Health for putting this series together. If you'd like more information on the services JM Fitness and Health offer then check out their website, or give Jon a shout via twitter @JMFitnessHealth