Many cyclists don’t feel that conditioning the upper body is an important part of their riding experience, but ask anyone who has dealt with shoulder, neck, or upper back pain, and you’ll hear a different story. A strong upper body is as vital to health on the bike as it is off the bike. As a cyclist, I like doing exercises that will help me ride stronger and more comfortably, and one of the exercises I love is the Plank Row. I’ve chosen this as my focus for the month because of the way it creates a challenge for the arms, legs, back, and core.
The movement patterns used in this exercise resemble some of the movements that are used while riding a bicycle. While pushing our way up a challenging climb or pedaling hard out of the saddle we often search for more power through the rhythmic pulling motion on the handlebars. The Plank Row helps create efficient transfer of that power into the pedals instead of being wasted.
The Plank Row is a step up from the static plank, a well-known core exercise. In this exercise, instead of holding a steady position for a duration of time, you will be lifting a weight off the floor with one arm at a time for a prescribed set of repetitions. The goal of the exercise, just like on the bike, is to limit side to side movement of the body’s trunk and any twisting movement along the spine. One of the major challenges of this exercise is trying to keep the hip from popping up on the same side as the lift. Ideally, there is very little movement of the body as you drive the elbow to the ceiling.
The accompanying pictures show how I use a kettlebell (15lbs) as the resistance. Another way to do the exercise is with two dumbbells held in your hands. Either way, I would aim to use a heavy enough weight to feel a strong challenge. I would recommend using a starting weight of at least 10-15lbs so you can feel how the core has to work hard to keep your hips down.
I hope you find this exercise useful and something that brings more power and comfort to your ride. As always, please get in touch with me if you have questions about this article. Happy rowing/riding! See you on the road…
Performing The Plank Row
While in the plank position, pick up the weight with one hand. Lift by driving the elbow toward the ceiling. Hold for 1 second, then set the weight back down in front of you. Pick it up with the other hand and drive that elbow toward the ceiling. Hold for one second and then place it back on the ground. Alternate side to side for 6-8 repetitions. Repeat for 2 sets.
You should feel a challenge with doing the exercise, but still be able to complete the two sets with good form. If you can do more, you should increase the resistance.
(Another way to perform this exercise is by holding two dumbbells in your hands and lifting one off the ground while balancing your weight on the opposite dumbbell.)