Do these 6 exercises to strengthen your swim-bike-run core

Whether you swim, bike, run or do all three, having a strong and stable core is essential. This requires more than doing sit ups and having a six pack.

When you swim your core extends from your hips to your upper back, giving you the stability and alignment for good rotation and a long powerful stroke.

When you cycle your core encompasses your entire torso. Having strong glutes enables you to better control your pedal stroke, while your abdominals and back muscles help you to maintain good upper body posture for longer.

When you run your core controls both your gait and your running economy. It includes your glutes and pelvic girdle, abdominals and spinal muscles, as well as secondary muscles in your upper back and shoulders which assist with keeping your posture upright.

The following 6 movements use your body weight to provide load.

Allow yourself 15 minutes to do 2 sets of each exercise.

Aim to do these a minimum of twice a week – any less and you won’t reap their potential benefits for your performance.

I myself do these exercises (or variations) daily before heading out the door to train. They’re great for waking up your joints and muscles and switching on your core so that you begin your training session with good form.

I strongly recommend that you learn how to switch on the Pelvic Lock before beginning these exercises. You can find out how to do that at my post The Yoga Core.

Abdominal Core:

These movements primarily activate the abdominals and obliques. Key secondary muscle groups involved are: iliopsoas, glutes and quadriceps.

1. Lying Leg Drops

Lying leg drops

Method:

  1. Lie flat on your back, head and neck relaxed, stretch your arms over your head (or if this isn’t possible, stretch them out at shoulder level).
  2. Take both legs up straight – you can bend your knees if necessary, but keep your feet above your hips and your legs as straight as possible throughout the movements.
  3. Pull your navel in, keeping your back glued to the floor – now lower your right leg to the floor as you exhale.
  4. As you inhale bring your right leg back up.
  5. Complete 12 – 15 reps.
  6. Repeat with the left leg.

Once this becomes easy you can increase the difficulty by:

  1. Hovering the leg just above the floor for 10 – 20 full breaths
  2. Bending your knees and taking both legs away from you until you reach a point where your back wants to lift up from the floor – now hold there for 10 – 20 full breaths
Leg Drops variation

2. V Balance

V Pose – beginner

Method:

  1. Sit with your legs together and knees tucked in – lift and lengthen your spine.
  2. Hold under your knees and rock back, lifting your feet and bringing them to knee height.
  3. Keep your chest open and shoulders drawn back, find your balance.
  4. Let go with your hands and stretch your arms out straight.
  5. Now straighten both legs, keeping your thighs firm – your feet should be at eye level.
  6. Hold for 10 – 20 full breaths.
V Pose – full

Whole Body Integration

You can’t beat the Plank for full body strength engagement. This position activates the shoulders, chest, arms, spine, upper back, abdominals and obliques, as well as the quadriceps. It belongs in every athlete’s training programme.

There are many variations on this exercise. These two are simple and effective.

3. Basic Plank

Plank

Method:

  1. Kneel on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips – now take your hands slightly forward and lean your weight into your palms.
  2. Lift up by straightening your arms and legs, tucking your toes under and pushing out to your heels.
  3. Suck your navel upwards and keep your whole body in a straight line from head to toes – head in neutral, shoulder blades moving downwards, thighs firm – don’t let your belly, hips or legs drop.
  4. Hold for 10 – 20 full breaths.

4. Side Plank

Side Plank

Method:

  1. Come into plank, roll to your right side so that your right shoulder is directly over your right hand, and place your left leg along your right, with your feet together – let your left arm rest along your left side.
  2. Keep a dynamic lift through your right side, and your navel pulling inward – don’t let your hips drop.
  3. Hold for 10 – 20 full breaths.
  4. Return to plank, then roll onto your left side and repeat.

A more challenging variation of the side plank involves lifting the top leg away – this activates the abductors and glutes.

Side Plank variation

5. Locust

This movement is an active backbend. It targets many muscles of the spine, chest, back, hips, glutes, arms and legs.

Locust

Method:

  1. Lie prone with your arms stretched out in front of you. Have your legs straight with your feet turned slightly in (so that your legs don’t roll outward).
  2. Squeezing your buttocks, lift your arms and legs away from the floor – keep your head neutral with your eyes facing the floor.
  3. Lift as high as possible – hold for 10 full breaths.

If it’s too difficult for you to lift your arms up in front of you, instead stretch them behind you with your hands over your buttocks, and lift them upwards from there

Hips and Legs

Like the Locust, the Bridge is an active backbend. It’s especially good for strengthening the glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings. It assists with creating pelvic and hip flexor stability. It’s also a beginner stretch for the chest and abdomen. NOTE: if you have any significant neck issues this movement may be contraindicated, so check with your health practitioner first.

6. Simple Bridge – step 1

Simple Bridge

Method:

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees, bringing your feet close to your buttocks at hip width apart. Stretch your arms by your sides. Tuck your chin in to stabilise your neck.
  2. Press down through your feet to lift your hips using your buttocks.
  3. Keep your arms relaxed – lift your hips as high as you comfortably can using only your buttocks and legs.
  4. Hold for 10 – 20 full breaths.
  5. Release and lower yourself back to the floor.

6. Simple Bridge – step 2

Single Leg Bridge

Method:

  1. Lift up into Simple Bridge – now reach your arms over your head behind you (or if this isn’t possible cross your arms over your chest).
  2. Stretch your right leg straight out – tighten the muscles in your right leg and keep your hips level at the same height – don’t let your body drop and don’t let your back do the work to keep your torso supported.
  3. Hold for 6 – 12 full breaths.
  4. Bring your right leg back to meet the left and lower yourself to the floor.
  5. Repeat to the left side.

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