What does “engaging your core” actually mean?

There are plenty of videos and instructions on the best core exercises for cyclists to do.

But there is almost no information on what engaging your core on the bike means.

I’ve been told I need to engage my core to take weight off my arms and shoulders. That sounds great but I really don’t know what that means :person_shrugging:

I’ve been working on my plank, but I can’t hold an ab crunch for 4 hours :grinning:


the most obvious job of your core muscles on the bike is to take away pressure from your hands like you heard. if all your upper body weight is on your hands, you’ll have a lot of soreness and pain on hands, forearms, shoulders, etc. if you have good bike fit, you should be able to keep your upperbody up without using your hands at all (let go of handle bars and see if you can stay up)

imo less obvious and hard to identify job is for your core to take away some of the pressure off everything else (including legs). Cycling is a constant power + balance act. The more you use your core for the balancing and ancoring your body, the more your hands and arms can focus on steering, and the more your legs can focus on just pushing power through pedals.

That’s just my take and how I interpret it.

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Your core is always engaged unless you’re laying down. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to stay upright. There are degrees to this obviously. The minimum required to stand vs. a plank. The thought behind this advice is a stronger core will let you hold position without relying on your arms as much. It’s not really a conscious thing as in something you decide to do. Whether true or not, I have no idea. I naturally have powerful core muscles and never need any exercises to keep the 6 pak top.

IDK but, the result of engaging your core is a very cement like upper body while pedaling at high power.

It’s involuntary if you have a proper bike fit.

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That is when you are pressing hard on the pedals, while your shoulders and head remain totally oblivious of what is going on with the lower body.

Usually it means I’ve been doing at least twice a week 10-min of heavy kettlebell swings plus face pulls, rows, dead bugs, goblet squats, and Pallof presses. And always with a 12-minute original Foundation routine as warmup.

Many cyclists get confused about engaging the core in a functional way. They end up doing lots of static type of work that doesn’t incorporate cycling specific movement and breathing. I really like menachem brodie, a usa cycling coach’s approach to function core engagement and training. The two most effective workouts are bird dogs and mcgill crunches


Thanks! I’m going to try these out!

Just for the demonstration: When you do situps in a floor, knees bent about 90 deg angle - not necessarily mandatory to keep hands crossed behind your neck or up above your chest, just by your side is fine - start coming up by first turning only your head toward your top upper chest as far as it goes nice and keep it there. Then proceed coming up but just so that your back shoulders takes up like 3-4 inches from the floor.

If you stop to this position you probably feel best your core engaged in a way it works/should work when pedalling seated.

When you train this feel with a movement like this on a floor first several times, you then find it pretty easy when sitting in your bike. You then try to devide your body so that your upper body above this core area is not stiff but relaxed and same below core area.

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I was just doing a workout and remembered this thread. So I started paying attention to how I was sitting on the saddle and it felt really stable, without doing anything special.

Then I realized that I was actually tightening my abs automatically. So I concentrated on relaxing the core muscles and what do you know, I started wiggling left to right with every pedal stroke.


Yup. It’s possible to sit “actively” or “passively” even when on a bike. I’ve watched enough group rides outside and inside on trainers to know that not everyone “sits” the same. A quick look at the hips in particular is quite telling as to how “stable” a rider is.

At least some of that stability (or lack of it) comes from the core/trunk activity. Like many things in life, some people do it with no real thought since it is effectively trained into them and their habits. But it is there for them while it is absent in others that have not reached that level of interaction. Many skills are still ‘learned’ even if they aren’t actively practiced.