Core Strengthening Essentials for the Virtual Cyclist: Side Plank Series

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Joy Murphy

Do these side core exercises to get the most from your out of the saddle pedaling power.

When climbing out of the saddle and sprinting, cyclists must engage the muscles on the sides of their trunk to produce pedaling power and provide a stable base for explosive contraction of the leg muscles.  


The obliques and transversus abdominis muscles, which make up the outer section of our core, aren’t usually addressed when performing traditional crunches or front planks due to their direct action of rotating the body.


In addition to the glutes and shoulder muscles, the obliques stabilize your hips while cycling and your overall posture when not.  The side plank is an ideal exercise for cyclists to target this core region, which when pedaling in and out of the saddle, utilizes the obliques more for stabilization and lateral flexion of the trunk, rather than for rotation.


In addition, the side plank provides a more spine-friendly way to strengthen the outer trunk muscles without causing potentially dangerous rotational stress upon the vertebrae and supporting structures. 

Key Tips for Proper Side Plank Form

Common Side Plank Mistakes to Avoid

Lateral Plank (Modified)

While lying on your side with your knees bent, lift your body on your elbow and knees while maintaining a straight spine.

Lateral Plank

While lying on your side, lift your body on your elbow and feet and maintain a straight spine.

Side Plank Crunches – Lateral Plank Crunch

While lying on your side, lift your body on your elbow and feet.


Hold this position, place your topmost hand on your head, and then move your elbow and knee towards each other as you lower your elbow and flex your hip and knee.


Return arm and leg to starting position and repeat.

Plank Lateral with Hip Abduction

While lying on your side, lift your body on your elbow and feet.


Slowly raise your top leg upwards, and then return.


Maintain a straight spine the entire time while repeating.

Conclusion: The Side Plank

If we agree that cyclists often neglect their core when budgeting their training time and energy, then it is safe to assume that the obliques aren’t even an afterthought.  But they should be foremost in your mind if you want to climb strongly in and out of the saddle.

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