The Knowledge is a new podcast from Wahoo. It provides straightforward, science-based, useful information from world-class experts to help endurance athletes maximize their performance. Sports scientists Neal Henderson and Jinger Gottschall discuss a single training topic in this episode and provide key takeaways to apply to your training.
In this episode of The Knowlege by Wahoo, we are joined by co-host Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Director of Sports Science here in Boulder CO. Neal and Jinger crunch the numbers and discuss three-dimensional core as the foundation of your musculoskeletal system. Listen as they break down why and how to properly train and what exercises to implement when structuring your workouts. All this and core? on this episode of The Knowledge Podcast by Wahoo.
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Hello, welcome back to another episode of the knowledge podcast brought to you by the wahoo sports science team here in Boulder, Colorado. I'm Neil Henderson, head of wahoo sports science.
Jinger Gottschall 0:09
And I'm Dr. Ginger Gottschall, Director of applied research. And today, we are going to chat about sit-ups.
Well, kind of maybe I guess we'll talk about setups. But really ginger, I think we're gonna talk about the core, right?
Jinger Gottschall 0:25
Oh, well, the President's physical fitness assessment, though, is such a fun thing that we used to do.
Definitely, how many setups can you do in 60 seconds was, I think, really that primary measure of potentially trying to look at core strength, stability, and endurance, but in reality, I don't think that really did the trick. Did it there, Ginger?
Jinger Gottschall 0:45
No, not so much. Because unfortunately, a setup is really only targeting your six-pack. But when we talk about the core, it's a whole lot more.
What about those who have like, say, an eight pack and those who have like a knot pack. And like a no pack?
Jinger Gottschall 1:05
Well, let's just move on from those various examples and talk about the core today. Let's focus, let's focus right back in. I like to think about the core as being three-dimensional. So we've got our four up we talked about how we're going to talk about a three-dimensional core. That means the muscles on the front, the side, and the back. And I really like to talk about all these muscles from the shoulder to the hip.
Hmm,well, do you think there are any of these core muscles that might actually potentially even go beyond the hip somewhere down maybe like, you know, upper mid-thigh, possibly?
Jinger Gottschall 1:40
You could, you could absolutely expand my definition into some of the rotators of the hip, we're talking about the AB and adductors, I'm going to give that one to you too.
All right, I'm gonna bring them into the fold for sure.
Jinger Gottschall 1:53
All right, the core is super important because it really is the foundation of our musculoskeletal system. And let's do a quick anatomy refresher. I'm going to give you some actual anatomical terms at this point. If we are speaking about the six-pack, that's your rectus abdominus. So we're talking about the front of the core, we move to the side, in the lateral area, we have the obliques that are superficial, and these are crossing we've got external and internal, as well as the transverse abdominous, which are deep to those obliques. If we move to the back, we've got a whole set, we've got the erector spinal muscles, the multifidus, the quadratus lumborum, will just miss dorsi. And then as we move distally towards the edge of the core more towards the thigh, we've got the muscles of the hip that are definitely included four flexions. So you're thinking trunk to the thigh of the psoas as well as the extension of your gluteus maximus, don't want to forget that now what else you're going to bring in to me? I don't know that all just sounds Latin to me. That it is but I know you want it to go further into the thigh. So what are you going to add on?
Well, I think all the AB and ad doctors just that internal-external rotation of the hip, again, a lot more Latin names in there. But we got kind of six of those deep internal and external rotators, as well as some of the things that we might be more familiar with like the TfL, or tensor fascia Lata. But that kind of then goes down to that IT band, which we know can be a bit of a problem for folks with cycling with improper positioning especially or excess movement or lack of stability. Absolutely. So and that
Jinger Gottschall 3:29
was what we really want to focus on today. What is the importance of having a strong core? And I don't want to just say strength? Because it's not just about that. It's also about endurance, how long can these muscles be active, especially for cyclists who are on the road for two hours plus, they can not only improve your performance, but they can also reduce injury risk. So I know you are very attuned to talking to athletes about the importance of the core. And what would you say if asked, why should they spend the time caring about this or doing exercises? What are going to be your three primary reasons for why
Yeah, the first thing is really that you know, kind of old analogy used is the weakest link in the chain is where things are going to break down. And if you think about the body, you know, we have our upper body, which we're actually holding on to the handlebars on a bike, we then go through that midsection including that entire core area down to then our legs that are pushing into the pedals and being able to transfer that power from one area to another is going to require strength and stability across that entire body from top to bottom. And if your core through the middle is not well trained, then you're going to be potentially losing out on some of those performance benefits. And then over time, increasing stress and strain will definitely lead to some of those types of overuse injuries that can occur. Thinking about maintaining that integrity. You know, you're Core has to be as strong as your legs, otherwise, you're not able to get as much out as you could otherwise.
Jinger Gottschall 5:05
And interestingly, with that, the stronger your core, the less fatigued your legs will be. It sounds kind of crazy. But if you dedicate some time to these hip to shoulder muscles, you will absolutely see a decrease in terms of that pain that you feel and that fatigue towards the end of your ride.
Definitely, in some of these, again, it's not just having like strong stomach or back, it's actually all these rotators and control that provide that stability to allow your legs just to continue to move straight up and down and not be moving more side to side if you have a lack of stability and control there, which can then cause problems, knee pain, and whatnot. So definitely, it's that whole area. The other thing that I think about is the term has often been, you know, abused, but functional training that it's, you know, we can put the fun into it or the funk into it. But functional training is really about being able to do things well beyond just that kind of linear pattern. And so activities of just living, you know, great example athlete that I've coached for a long time Olympic medalist, World Champion, Rohan, Dennis, he and his wife, they've just had their second child. And so with that comes more time of holding some several pounds, several kilos, a little one that eventually keeps getting bigger and adds more kilos and carrying and moving around those, you know, children and babies require strength and stability that again, if he didn't have enough strength and stability built up to be able to just do his daily living and his training, then he's going to potentially pay a price in having some injuries that could creep up on the bike. And then again, decreased performance and, you know, decrease fatherly duty performance as well, which wouldn't go over very well.
Jinger Gottschall 6:46
Right. So it is critical for us to mention, not only is a strong core that can be active for a long period of time, important to produce transfer and control force from the core to the legs, it's helping you stabilize your position on the bike, not compromising your technique. So it's reducing your injury risk by supporting the spine. But the bigger picture to this is it allows you to do these daily things in life. That means sitting up from a chair, getting up from the ground, walking up and downstairs, which we don't want to take for granted at any point in time. So I think we've just given you a couple of reasons why you want to pay attention to these muscles from the shoulder to the hip.
Definitely, definitely, the other thing is, you know if you do some of the longer types of rides or races, then being able to maintain your position on the bike is super important for anyone out there who does you know, long-distance events that are in Aero bars, that aerodynamic position is a little bit more stressful in certain ways. And if you don't have the requisite core strength and stability, you can no longer maintain that aerodynamic position for the entire event, which then you start having to push more air and then you have to produce more power, which if you're tired, well, you know what happens, you can't produce more power. And so you just start to slow down. And so that's definitely for sure, less ideal. And the same thing goes whether you're on a road bike or mountain bike, and being able to maintain that position on the bike and have good control stability out on the road is going to again, allow you to perform better.
Jinger Gottschall 8:19
That's exactly it. How many times a week, would you recommend an athlete perform exercises specific to the core?
Yeah, there's gonna be some variation in terms of exactly like frequency, I would say probably no less than twice a week would be kind of on the minimum level to maintain what you've got, or maybe make slight gains. Some folks, if you've got problem areas might literally require some level of daily movement and activity, though to basically make the gains to stay healthy and be able to improve performance. So there is a little bit of a range there. But for sure, a couple of times a week up to daily and how long would you say any given session might be ginger? What would you typically think?
Jinger Gottschall 9:09
I think that is such an excellent question. If you are wanting to make it a daily routine, then I think the ideal time is actually at the end of a ride, or the end of some sort of cardio activity, even if it's just a long walk out with your family and the dog because you're already warm. And then you could just literally it could be a five-minute bout of a couple of exercises. On the other end of that, I would actually not recommend longer than 30 minutes. I don't think a core routine should extend past that 30-minute mark. You can really hit all these target points without going overboard. And I also want to mention just the difference between exercises and which ones we may recommend over others. There are isolation exercises that are really just targeting one specific area, either the front side or the back, as opposed to what we call an integration exercise, in which you're getting activity from the entire three-dimensional core at one point. So now what would be an example of an isolated versus an integrated,
Oh isolate like a simple like crutch just on your back and just doing you know, elbows to knees, that's pretty much just straight on that, that rectus abdominus, just in that flexion. And that's about it. Right,
Jinger Gottschall 10:31
Exactly. And we're not actually saying to not do crunches, because they are still targeting one of the most important core muscles. But that's not the only thing you would want to do. So what would you say is your very favorite integrated core exercise,
if I'm looking in the anterior space, I actually like the bicycle crunch, not just because I like bicycles. But it is that across the body movement, that is really great. So I would be, you know, thinking about this as going my right elbow to my left knee, and extending my right leg straight. And having a bit of a rotation in my upper body, have my shoulders twist, and then go to the other side. And the most important part of this exercise I tried to emphasize is going slow,
Jinger Gottschall 11:20
Yes, controlled movement. But can you actually imagine a better core exercise for a cyclist than a bicycle crunch, that's really a top choice that we could give you? Now, if you want to maximize that integration and really get from shoulder to hip, the plank maybe your best option. And there's both the forearm plank, or you can go to the high plank, and I'm going to give you a little fun fact, the forearm plank actually gives you more activity than the high plank. So go for it on your forums, you can go for this while you're listening to this podcast, how much of this podcast Can you listen to, you know, for our implant, we should have actually had that as a goal at the beginning. And then we just want to finish it off. So if we talked about planks being three dimensional, and a bicycle crunch, we absolutely have to recommend that one for cyclists that gives you anterior as well as lateral, we don't want to forget the posterior chain, which is so critical for cyclists, especially thinking about that rounded shoulder position, and a lot of weakness in the glute Meade.
Yep. So when you're saying posterior chain, you're talking about basically my back right, everything behind the front of me
Jinger Gottschall 12:33
Exactly. for cyclists, it's particularly important to think about those muscles between the shoulder blades, your rhomboids, as well as getting into the erector spine all the way into the glutes, and a Glute Bridge is probably one of my favorites for this. Because the cues for this is to lie down on the ground, pull your heels as close as you can to your hips, so your knees are bent up towards the ceiling or the sky, and you push through the heels and lift your hips up the same time, pull your shoulder blades together to open up your chest. So you're contracting that area that's always being flexed in the cycling position. And then you're going to get the activity of that entire chain from the shoulder all the way actually down through those muscles that you loved to talk about lower into the thigh into the knee. Now some critical things to think about here. Make sure that your hips stay square. And you can add some instability for extra activity with just some alternating leg lifts. And then you're really solid from the front side and back.
Yep, and for those leg lifts, just like with the bicycles, low weight,
Jinger Gottschall 13:43
Right time under tension for these core activities is really your best bet. instability can be added to any of them with multiple different balls or weights. But really, all you need is bodyweight on this.
Yeah. So foam roller might give you instability and just really one direction, right? And then if you actually use like a big, you know, big football, then you get that instability in all the directions. Absolutely. There you go. So you can kind of like progress yourself a little bit from the ground to a foam roller to a ball would be kind of like three levels of progression on that.
Jinger Gottschall 14:18
I love it. So now back to it. How many setups Do you really think you could do in a minute? Right now? I'm afraid to even try. Okay. Well, thank you guys for listening. We hope you got a little bit from the car here.
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the knowledge podcast. We will be back with you next time with more information to help you be a fitter faster and healthier, cyclist.