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Man does a core exercise on the mat next to Peloton Bike.

The 3 Best Core Exercises for Cyclists—and How They Boost Your Output

A strong core can make you more powerful on the bike—here’s how.

By Kristine ThomasonJanuary 23, 2024

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Working your core is like building the foundation of a house: You need it to be strong and stable to support the rest of your structure (or, in this case, your movement). Maintaining a solid core comes into play for just about everything you do: lifting heavy weights, carrying groceries, or even picking up your kids. And, no matter how you work out on a regular basis, you need the support of this crucial muscle group. That includes any kind of cycling session, both on the Peloton Bike and on the road. 

Why is that, you ask? We chatted with Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell to share why core strength is so integral for cyclists, and how it can help you prepare for your best ride ever. 

The Benefits of a Strong Core 

First let’s clarify one thing about the core: It’s not one thing, but rather a complex group of muscles, which includes the pelvic floor, obliques, and various abdominal muscles. 

Since this muscle group plays a role in all types of movement, the benefits of core strength abound: “Having a strong core is like having a powerhouse for your entire body. It's not just about those killer abs; it's about stability, balance, and injury prevention,” says Emma. “A strong core supports your spine, improves posture, and makes everyday movements smoother and stronger.” 

Plus, when it comes to workouts, “whether it's on the bike or off, a solid core is your best tool for maximizing power and endurance,” she adds. 

Why Do Cyclists Need a Strong Core?

Core strength and cycling have a pretty symbiotic relationship—while you need core strength to effectively ride, you also build it while you cycle. Let us explain:

Does Cycling Strengthen Your Core?

Contrary to what some might believe, cycling is a full body workout—if you’re moving correctly, it’s not just challenging that lower body. “When you pedal, you engage not only your legs but also your core to maintain stability and control,” says Emma. “Especially when you’re riding out of the saddle you need a strong core.”

How Core Strength Helps You Perform Better on the Bike 

On the flipside, going into a cycling workout with a strong core will help you move more effectively on the bike, and with greater power. “Strengthening your core is essential to cycling success. It will help you climb hills, sprint, and maintain proper form. Think of it as the powerhouse that keeps your legs pumping and your ride smooth,” says Emma.

In fact, one study found that among university cyclists, those who completed a 6-week core strength training program displayed improved speed over those who were in a control group.

Emma also notes that building a strong core can help reduce the risk of injury on the bike. And research backs her up: One study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that core fatigue resulted in altered cycling mechanics, which could increase the risk of injury. The study authors also noted that better core stability and strength can help you maintain good form when you cycle, which helps improve your performance and prevent injury

How to Train Your Core for Cycling

Ready to start building your cycling-ready core? Before you get started, Emma emphasizes that form is everything. “Start slow and focus on proper technique,” she says, noting that there are a number of beginner and prenatal core classes available on the Peloton app that focus on form. “And remember, a strong core is built over time, not overnight, you must be patient!”

While it’s important to stay consistent, that doesn’t mean your workouts have to be mundane. “To dial in that core strength, mix it up!” says Emma. She recommends
trying out her Crush Your Core and Crush Your Core 2 programs on the Peloton app, which offer a variety of moves and class lengths, which helps keep things from feeling stale. That said, she does circle back to some “familiar moves so you keep progressing.”

Also, Emma says it’s crucial to remember that while consistency is key, so is listening to your body. “Overtraining won’t get you anywhere fast,” she says. 

3 Best Core Exercises for Cyclists

With so many amazing core exercises to try, where should you begin? Here are some of Emma’s absolute favorite core classics: 

Peloton Instructor Emma Lovewell Plank GIF | The Output by Peloton

Planks

Planks are a core essential,” says Emma. Just remember to keep your body in a straight line, engage the abs, and hold strong. “Don’t let that booty sag or hike up.” 

1. Start in a push up position with hands directly beneath your shoulders. 

2. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels. 

3. Engage your core to stay steady, and hold.

Muscles worked: core, shoulders, back, glutes, quads

Emma Lovewell demonstrates a Russian Twist in Peloton Class

Russian Twists

This classic move is “killer for obliques,” says Emma. As you’re moving, rotate that torso with control and twist with purpose to really accentuate the move. 

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.

  2. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight.

  3. Hold your hands together in front of you and twist your torso to the right, then to the left.

Muscles worked: abs, obliques 

Emma Lovewell demonstrates leg lift exercise in Peloton class

Leg Lifts

Emma says this is a great move to target those lower abs. “Keep it slow and controlled to really feel the burn, and make sure you control your legs to avoid straining your back.”

  1. Lie on your back with legs straight and arms by your sides.

  2. Lift your legs toward the ceiling, keeping them straight.

  3. Lower your legs back down without letting them touch the floor.

Muscles worked: lower abs

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