Will using aerobars on my roadbike strenghten my core?
April 21, 2006 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Will using aerobars on my road bike strengthen (or better yet slim!) my core?
posted by neilkod to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I can't see why. If your bike is set up properly, then it doesn't take any extra effort to be on your aerobars.

In any case, biking is certainly not a good activity for core-strengthening.
posted by Elpoca at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2006


In any case, it won't slim your midsection any more than any other type of calorie burning. See The Spot Reduction Myth.
posted by OmieWise at 9:33 AM on April 21, 2006


The short answer is yes, if your aerobars are properly set up, you will work your core more than you probably would with a starndard drop-bar setup. This has nothing to do with the amount of effort, only the position, and the position you use in your aerobars allows you to work your core more than the more upright position you'd use if you were on the tops or hoods. You could also use the drops for a similar effect, but over the long haul it might be less comfortable to ride for a long time in the drops than with aerobars.

But there's a catch anyway: if you're just looking to slim down, you're probably better off without the aerobars, since an aero position will reduce the amount of wind resistance -- and thus the amount of calories you burn -- on the average ride. (On preview: basically what OmieWise said.)

And I think it's a little inaccurate to say that cycling is not a good activity for core-strengthening. It is certainly not an ideal activity for core-strengthening, but it is definitely better than nothing. That said, you'll need a complementary lifting program if you really want to develop your core.
posted by dseaton at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2006


dseaton, you hit the nail right on the head-I leaned forward to 'simulate' the aero position and i noticed a feeling in my core/sides that I dont feel in any of my other riding positions.

I'm well aware of the spot-reduction myth; but I noticed some different activity while stretched-out over the position. Obviously, its not practical to do this (steering with my elbows!) without the aerobars!
posted by neilkod at 9:54 AM on April 21, 2006


The short answer is yes, if your aerobars are properly set up, you will work your core more than you probably would with a starndard drop-bar setup. This has nothing to do with the amount of effort, only the position, and the position you use in your aerobars allows you to work your core more than the more upright position you'd use if you were on the tops or hoods. You could also use the drops for a similar effect, but over the long haul it might be less comfortable to ride for a long time in the drops than with aerobars.

I'm sorry, but if you find aero-bars to be working your core, then I don't believe your aero-bars are set up properly... I go into my aero-position partly because it's more relaxing for my core, not less!

And I think it's a little inaccurate to say that cycling is not a good activity for core-strengthening. It is certainly not an ideal activity for core-strengthening, but it is definitely better than nothing. That said, you'll need a complementary lifting program if you really want to develop your core.

Again, I'm sorry, but there's no physiotherapy or conditioning program in the world that would prescribe cycling for improving core strength. Is it better than doing nothing? Absolutely. Is it a good activity relative to all available? Definitely not.
posted by Elpoca at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2006


Perhaps we disagree on what exactly we mean by core. When I use the word core, I mean to say pretty much the muscles of your hips, lower-back, abs, obliques, and butt -- the muscles which anchor the 'core' of your body. If you're in a truly aero position -- like this -- then you'll be working your back, hips, and butt considerably more than in a more upright cycling position. You will definitely notice that you're working these core muscles and you will probably agree that it's less comfortable.

Aerobars are not meant to make cycling more comfortable, they are meant to make you faster, and many people with their bars set up properly for that purpose find that they lack the core strength to remain in the aero position for very long. Focusing on stability and power while in the aero position will help you build core strength.

Elpoca is right that nobody would prescribe cycling specifically for core training, but I don't think that's what really neilkod was asking. Perhaps what I should have said is that, if you're going to be cycling anyhow, and want to work on core strength, a well-designed workout making use of the aero position would definitely be a way to do that.
posted by dseaton at 12:00 PM on April 21, 2006


dseaton - YES!! keep going. Great pic by the way. This is exactly what I'm after. I spend quite a bit of time on the bike (warning: showoff! http://neilkod.motionbased.com ) and noticed that I can't hold the 'aero' position very long. I'm also looking to see if I can strengthen that area by holding the areo position.

Additionally, we have some MONSTER wind here in Utah that I was considering aero bars for. For whatever reason, I seem to always be riding into the wind-tailwinds are pretty rare here in the SLC!
posted by neilkod at 12:08 PM on April 21, 2006


I've been a licenced cycling coach for nearly ten years. if you're interested in making your core stronger, cycling of any type isn't going to do it, unless you spend literally hours at a time climbing out of the saddle, dirt jumping, or hucking 3 foot ledges on a freeride bike.

If you want to improve your core strength, the cheapest and most direct solution is to get a yoga ball and do 30 minutes of core strength work on it, three times a week. Any beginning swiss ball workout video or book can provide plenty of routines to get you started.

The road cycling position effectively suspends and isolates the core muscles and effectively uses them *less* than any other aerobic sport, which is a primary reason why high-mileage cyclists are encouraged to crosstrain at some form of full-body activity such as yoga, lifting, rowing, XC skiing or running. If this is not done, the static position of road cycling can cause the glutes, spinal erectors and quads to become so disproportionately strong in comparison to the abdominals, that the entire pelvic structure can become tipped or rotated forward, and this engenders a host of overuse injuries such as ITB syndrome, back pain and various strains and pulls in the knees and hip flexors; the most classic of these being when the psoas (deep anterior hip flexor) becomes strained, sprained or ruptures. These imbalance issues in high mileage cyclists are so common that exercise physiologists in my region have even coined a term for the characteristic 'swaybacked' stance that results from doing too much riding and not enough core balancing crosstraining: 'Cyclist's Butt'.

Aero bars don't solve this, and may even exacerbate these problems. The vast majority of recreational riders will tend to set up their aerobars so that they become a 'prop' or compensation for their limited core and upper body strength (a classic example is that guy packing the 30-40 extra pounds of midriff around on the local century ride); as they allow the rider to form a 'suspension bridge' stance where the weak midriff becomes completely disengaged from the pedalling gait.

setting them up for a 'correct' aero position as shown in the link (if you don't pull a hamstring right off the bat) will quickly prove to you that professional bike racers are a) extremely strong; b) as flexible as top level gymnasts; and c) quite possibly may begin evolving like haddocks to move their eyes to the tops of their heads.

ok now let's break out the propeller hats. I live a couple hours' drive from the Olympic Training Centre and have been a fly on the wall for a few wind tunnel sessions featuring collegiate guinea pi... er, racers. Aerobars have a proven distinct advantage in any ITT where the rider is travelling in excess of 20kph and/or ascending a greater than roughly 5% gradient. They also provide a distinct advantage in a direct headwind. the watts/kg benefit varies according to rider fitness, steepness of grade, forward speed, wind speed, wind angle and gust intensity / angle.

In crosswinds of greater than roughly 8 degrees lateral angle, this benefit rapidly decreases. the main reason being that the overall rider and bicycle profile 'shown' to an increasingly angular crosswind becomes increasingly impossible to streamline in any meaningful way except by minimising frame and wheel rim profiles and spoke counts. However, another critical issue is that in increasing angular crosswinds, the rider also rapidly loses efficiency -- meaning the rider must 'wrestle' or correct the bike more frequently as the wind angle / wind speed increases, and particularly if the wind is gusting or swirling unpredictably, at which point the fight to maintain a balanced, straight path of travel down the road increasingly trumps any aero advantage. I can probably download you a few hundred (more) pages of really boring and cryptic datasets on this if you're interested in sifting thru the details.

last but not least, there's the extra added bonus that aerobars have of moving the steering input so far forward of the front hub that it turns most users into pretty universally terrible bike handlers, unless they have been properly coached to steer from their hips and isolate their upper body from providing steering input (word: very few recreational riders have the physical strength or skill to manage this). This is the main reason aerobars are banned on most club rides and in all mass start racing. I've seen scads of crashes happen on recreational rides due to inappropriate aerobar use, not merely due to handling issues, but also for the simple fact that they put you too far away from the brakes to react appropriately in an emergency.

in summary: caveat emptor, and your mileage may vary.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:52 PM on April 21, 2006


Can I mark lonefrontranger's answer as 'best answer' please?
posted by fixedgear at 3:42 AM on April 22, 2006


rats. what I MEANT was:

::snip::
...Aerobars have a proven distinct advantage in any ITT where the rider is travelling in excess of 20kph and/or ascending a greater than less than roughly 5% gradient. ::snip::

which plainly stated means: the steeper the climb / slower you're going, the less advantage you gain.

and as I'm sometimes forced to tell the smug collegiate types I coach after committing one of these blunders: just do what I meant, not what I said...
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:15 AM on April 22, 2006


I think it must be pointed out that there is a difference between how a pro tour rider sets up his aerobars, and how triathletes set up their aerobars. Both are equally correct, depending on the application.
posted by Elpoca at 11:48 AM on April 25, 2006


And the third way to set up aerobars, the beer bellied guy riding aerobars who jumps in my paceline and makes me want to stick my pump in his spokes.
posted by fixedgear at 3:14 AM on April 27, 2006


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