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How Bike Sway Contributes To Enhanced Leg and Core Strength

 How does bike sway work?

Should your bike sway while you ride?

Some cyclists would say that the less sway the better, however, the act of throwing every ounce of leverage, weight, and power into the pedals while incorporating a side to side movement is the visible result of trying that hard to move forward when riding outdoors. Watch as lance sways his bike about 10 degrees from side to side as he climbs (starting at :55 and throughout the video):

If you could stay absolutely still and input the same amount of force to the pedals, then more of that energy would go to moving forward, but physiologically it is very difficult. It's a matter of balance and leverage. Further, there is a mechanical advantage to be had in terms of body mechanics by swaying the bike, and it lets the cyclist apply a bit more force than if the bike remained completely straight.

Professional cyclist using bike sway during a sprint.The swaying motion from side to side will allow the cyclist to use more of his arm strength than he/she would otherwise be able to. Being able to use your full body weight in a sprint has its advantages, and that's one reason that cyclists shift the bike back and forth under them to 'throw' their body weight down on alternate legs to create additional momentum and speed. They must sway the bike back and forth because of the mechanical reality of the situation.

Bike sway is not always a conscious act; if a rider didn't do this, the bike might fall out from under them. Sometimes you will see someone move a traditional indoor cycling bike off the ground from side to side and hop around the floor in class. These riders are applying extreme power to each pedal. Since the pedals are not centered laterally, applying a large force to the right pedal will apply a rotational force that pushes the top of the bike to the right and the bottom of the bike to the left. Without this counterbalancing motion, they would quite literally kick the wheel out from under them.

By 'swaying' the bike in the opposite direction, they increase the amount of force on the legs and core that can be applied to the pedals without crashing. It is an intuitive motion that happens automatically for any rider, from novice to advanced. For a quick mental picture, imagine somebody swaying in the same direction as the pedal being pushed. For instance, somebody leaning the bike to the right while they apply a large force to the right pedal. The rotational force would rotate the bicycle clockwise, lifting the wheel off the ground. Not something you want to happen, especially at sprinting speeds or in a indoor cycle class setting. For a great example of how this technique comes into play in road cycling, watch any Tour De France finish line approach. It's incredibly intense and you can see how hard everyone sprints and works the whole body in order to get through the finish first. Legs, lungs, muscle endurance, and core play a massive role in the use of the bike!

In an indoor cycle studio setting with a range of beginner to advanced riders, a sway bike can work to engage the core muscles that you don't often feel on a traditional indoor cycle. Indoor cycles like the Evo Fitness Bike are equipped with just the right amount of bike sway to get the job done; only 10 degrees from one side to the other which provides a fun, core-blasting, muscle toning workout. Sway bikes move with your body so you can engage your core muscles in order to get more out of a traditional cardiovascular indoor cycling workout.

Engaging Your Legs AND Your Core

Two professional cyclists utilize bike sway to pull away from the pack.A 10 degree bike sway motion from side to side can enhance your workout by engaging your core and upper body as you pedal. Plyometric exercises may also be referred to as explosive exercises. With the use of a sway bike, an individual can take up the RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute) to the high range of 100-120 rpm or low range at 60-80 rpm in order to work the core in and out of the saddle.

Plyometric movements, in which the leg muscles are loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence, use the strength, elasticity, and core muscles and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, cycle longer, or hit harder depending on your desired training goal. Plyometrics play a huge role on sway bikes and can be used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions. Incorporating bike sway into your indoor cycling provides a perfect training tool in explosiveness of the legs and core muscles around your abdominal, obliques, shoulders, arms, and legs, helping to contribute power and strength to a variety of sports activities.

The use of bike sway uses every principle of plyometrics training and has been shown across the board to be beneficial in a variety of athletes. Benefits range from low impact injury prevention and rehabilitation, building lean muscle, and core strength among athletes and novice riders alike.

Sway bikes aren't trying to simulate turning a bike; for that, you need the g-forces that can only be generated with momentum. Rather, sway bikes simulate the natural motion of the body while pushing the pedals and balancing on a bike, as well as the upper body motion needed for standing sprints. With the integration of the 'sway' and or 'lean' of the bike, an individual is forced to automatically engage his or her core in order to control the handlebars and sway. Sway bikes, like the Evo Fitness Bike, will teach individuals how to use their core muscles and be smoother while swaying from side to side. In order to keep a little balance on the 10 degree sway, an individual must turn on their core, and as a result, receive a total body workout from the shoulders and arms all the way down to the feet!

Author Information:

Jack Nunn, Powerhouse FitnessJack created Powerhouse Fitness after winning numerous medals in various events on the international stage. He was a gold medalist in 2007 at the first ever Concept 2 Team Indoor Rowing challenge, held in Essen, Germany. In 2006, he took silver at the Masters Nationals Open Single Event. As a member of the US Rowing National Team from 2001-2004 he placed second at the 2003 Pan American Trials in double sculls and had an outstanding 2002 that saw him claim a gold medal in Senior 8 and a silver medal in the Elite Double at the US Nationals. He was also a silver medalist in 2001 in the Nations Cup (now the U23 World Championships) 8 in Ottenshiem, Austria. Find out more.