For endurance athletes, the core is an essential component of functional movement and stabilization. The core includes more than just the abs. It also consists of your back, hips and hip flexors, obliques, and glutes. Think of it as if your whole midsection is your core.
A strong core helps tremendously in many activities, such as running, cycling, and swimming, which are the three primary components of a triathlon. These 12 core exercises for cyclists, runners, and triathletes alike will bring variety to your workouts and help you strengthen and tone your core.
1. Russian Twists
The Russian twist most likely got its name from an exercise Russian soldiers did during the Cold War for conditioning. There are variations of this exercise on the ground and standing up. For this exercise, start by sitting down with your knees bent. Put your heels on the ground and flex your feet.
Start lowering your torso to the ground, about halfway. Then twist your torso from one side to the other. Each full rotation from left to right is one rep. Engage your core by keeping it tight and remembering to breathe. If you want an even better workout, add dumbbells for more resistance.
2. Bear Crawls
Bear crawls are an excellent workout for the whole body. You’ll engage your entire core with this exercise. Ensure you have space by going outside or in a room with ample room to maneuver.
Start by getting down on all fours with your buttocks in the air and lean your back forward. Use one arm to crawl forward and move the opposite leg with it. Alternate with the other arm and leg and move in a forward direction. The exercise’s name is apt because you’ll feel like a bear running through the woods.
As with many exercises, there is a way to increase the difficulty of bear crawls. You can put something on your back, such as a weight plate, to add resistance and work your core even more.
3. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are an exercise similar to bear crawls in that they require you to be on all fours. They’re a practical core exercise, primarily working muscles in your back, abs, glutes, and hips.
To do a mountain climber, get on your hands and knees. Launch one knee forward and kick the other leg backward. Alternate knees and legs while keeping your core engaged. Launch your knees towards your elbows instead of straight if you want a more challenging exercise.
4. Pool: Flutter Kicks
One integral part of triathlons is the swimming section. You can do valuable exercises in the pool to strengthen your core and build your stamina for a triathlon. The first exercise you can do is flutter kicks. This workout will be powerful for your hips, glutes, and core.
Go to the deep end of the pool and stand by the edge. Hold on to the pool’s edge and pull your legs up. Use the pool’s edge to keep your body floating, or you can use a pool noodle. Now, start kicking your legs in a scissor motion. Keep your toes pointed and legs straight.
5. Pool: Kickboard Kicks
Kickboard kicks require a paddleboard or any device you can hold on to while swimming in the pool. You may have done this simple exercise when you were a child learning how to swim. It’s practical for increasing strength and stamina in your legs, in addition to your core.
When you’re in the pool, stretch out your arms and hold the board with your hands while kicking your feet. When swimming, you should engage your core by keeping your stomach in. You can do laps around the pool or go back and forth.
6. Pool: Pikes
Pikes are a third effective pool exercise. These reps will work your abs and arms while in the pool.
Start by standing in the pool with the water at your neck. Then make your knees even with your chest. Lean back, push your legs forward, straighten them, and make a V position with your body. If you want to tone the abs, you can hold the position. If you wish to tone your triceps, use your arms to stay afloat by pushing them in a circular motion.
Planks are one of the most engaging exercises you can do for your core. But getting the form correct can be challenging. Get a yoga mat or something comfortable to put your arms on to get the best workout possible.
Rest the arms on the ground and make sure your body is in a straight line down to your feet. Stay as still as possible and distribute the weight evenly around your body. Your core should be burning, and that’s a good sign.
8. Plank Taps
If you like planks, you can take them one step further by doing plank taps. They’re challenging and they’re a fantastic workout for your core. Start by getting in a plank position and holding it. Take one hand and touch the opposite shoulder. Try to maintain your form as best you can, especially at your hips. Each time you touch both shoulders can count as a rep.
9. Ab Roll-ups
Ab or core roll-ups are ideal for engaging your abs and lower body. In practice, it appears like a sit-up, but it can be trickier and just as effective. This workout is excellent for your spine and works your abs by engaging them and putting them in motion.
Start by lying on the ground with your arms raised above your head. Start peeling your back off the floor and lifting up your torso. Once you’re at a 90-degree angle, bend down and touch your toes. Roll back to the starting position. That counts as one rep.
10. Break Dancer
Doing break dancer reps can seem unusual for your body, but they’re an effective core workout. This exercise is great for toning and primarily works your lower back, obliques, and abdomen. It’s also great for your shoulders, arms, and legs.
Start on all fours and keep your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Lift both knees off the ground. Take your left leg and extend it under your stomach while rotating your body to the right side. Put your right arm in front of you and attempt to touch your toes. Now you can return to your original position and alternate with each side.
For a complete core workout, v-ups are some of the best exercises you can do. They’re great for your core as well as your lower body, which is helpful for runners or anybody wanting to increase strength in their legs.
To do v-ups, lie on your back, put your hands above your head, and ensure your legs and feet stay together. Lift both feet about 6” off the ground, making a “V” shape with your body. Lower your legs back down to the floor to complete the rep. You should be keeping your legs straight and hands above your head the entire time.
12. Walking Push-ups
Push-ups are one of the best exercises for any athlete or person wanting a good workout. Doing push-ups helps your upper body primarily, but the way it works your core is a terrific exercise. This variation is called the walking push-up, and it’s beneficial for cyclists because it helps balance the muscles that aid your pedaling.
To do a lateral push-up, get in a push-up stance on the ground. Do one regular push-up and then move laterally one step with both legs and feet. Do another push-up and repeat the process. To ensure the correct form, maintain a flat lower back during your reps. Keeping your back flat will engage your abs and create a great workout.
Engage Your Body’s Core
Your core is one of the most critical areas to work out. When you build a strong core, you take the load off your spine and increase your body’s balance. You can stabilize your body and increase your physical rotation any way you want. Your overall performance in cycling, running, and swimming will improve when you try these 12 exercises for your core.
Jack Shaw works at Modded.com as a senior writer. Aside from helping build that site, he also likes to spend his free time playing pickleball and training for marathons.
Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler