Motorcyclists ABsolutely Need These Six Core Exercises
Do you neglect your core? Or just tack on some crunches at the end of your workout? If you do, you’re missing a key fitness component that can benefit your riding. My first track day of the year I found this to be the case. By the end of the first day my abs and back were on fire!
Why Your Core Is Important
Anytime you’re using your abs, pelvis, hips or back to stabilize, balance or work your body you’re using your core muscles which include your transverse abdominis, oblique muscles, rectus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, the Erector spinae (muscles that control your spine) and hip flexors. When it comes down it, your core is your entire support system for your body. Your core muscles will activate prior to doing an activity. The nervous system anticipates an activity and the body braces for support. If you don’t have core stability or support acting as a brace for the spine, you’ll likely compensate with other muscles—and compensating can lead to injury or sub-par performance. In order to perform other strength training exercises well, whether it’s squats, shoulder presses or bench presses, you have to first have a strong core. It even helps with cardiovascular exercise like running and cycling.
My Favorite Core Exercises
While I was in college, I taught a 30-minute fitness class that was entirely focused on strengthening the core. These are some of my favorites specifically for motorcyclists:
1. Planks Honestly, I hate planks. They’re hard! But they’re important for motorcycle riders. Holding the plank position takes strength and endurance in your abs and back. The plank is one of the best exercises because it supports proper posture and improves balance. There are many progressions that can be done from a standard plank hold. For example, I like to mix it up by working in side planks or bringing my left knee in towards my chest followed by the right and so on. Think you know all the plank variations? Try dynamic planks.
2. Kettle Ball Oblique Twists
I love kettle balls because they’re so versatile and great for abs! This exercise is one I do frequently since I‘ve found it’s a beneficial way to work the obliques and as you gain strength, you can increase the kettle ball weight. I started with 10 lbs and worked my way up to 20 lbs. Here’s how you do it: Sit down with your legs out and in front of you and left your legs off the floor so your body makes a “V” and holding the kettle ball, twist your upper body and touch the kettle ball down the right and then the left, alternating, for 20 reps (Or however many you can do). I typically do 3 sets of 20.
3. Suspended Leg Raises
Here’s another great ab exercise that’s versatile—and it hurts so good! You’ll need the right equipment, but most gyms have this or you can use a pull up bar or even monkey bars at a playground. Keep your torso stable and slowly raise your legs so that they’re parallel to the ground and repeat. I‘m lucky if I can get in 15 reps for 3 sets! You can adapt this and instead of keeping legs parallel, you can work your obliques by lifting your knees to towards your torso and twisting side to side.
4. Superman Holds
This exercise works your erector spinae and there variations to this exercise. To start out, lay down on your stomach with arms outstretched in front of you. Lift your legs and your arms at the same time. Do as many reps as you can for 3 sets.
Deadlifts are great because they work a variety of muscle groups from legs to erector spinae. Just grab a bar with weights and bend over and grasp the bar with knees bent and shins almost touching the bar. Lift your chest and straighten your lower back. Take a breath, hold and stand with the weight. Hold the weight for a second at the top, with locked hips and knees. Then return the weight to the floor by moving your hips back while bending your legs. Rest a second at the bottom and repeat.
6. Crunch Toss
This is a partner workout and you’ll need a medicine ball. Sit on the floor facing your partner and get into a crunch position. The person with the ball will slowly lower down to the ground and then return to starting position. After you get back to starting position toss the ball to your partner who will then do the same exercise. Continue to do this for 1-3 minutes.
There are so many great ab and core exercises out there though. It was tough to narrow it down to six—but this would be a super long blog post. I may need to do a part 2! But the big takeaway is that if you want to have the ability to maintain good body position, move your body off the bike, stabilize and balance, you need a strong core. Working some of these exercises into your workout will make a big difference. And most importantly, it will serve as a foundation for strengthening other parts of your body and muscle groups.