You might think it’s the powerful muscles in your lower body that allow you to crank out those last few pedal strokes when powering up a steep hill. But did you know that your core muscles—more specifically, your obliques—play just as important a role as your legs when it comes to cycling?

Core strength in general is important to all athletes, but it’s especially necessary if you’re riding outside or spinning indoors.

“The core holds the body stable and balanced on the bike while riding,” explains Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., founder of Le Sweat and a Master SoulCycle Instructor. Your core also limits the amount of movement your torso makes, with no sway and limited side-to-side motion, which means you’ll be a more energy-efficient rider.

So why work the obliques, in particular? Your obliques are just one of the muscle groups that make up your core and include the external and internal obliques. They’re the muscles that fire when you want to twist (also known as rotation), side-bend (lateral flexion) or “crunching” your trunk (spinal flexion)—all necessary actions when cycling, as well as everyday activities such as walking, running, and other quick movements or twisting as in basketball or golf.

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With those actions in mind, Atkins says the best types of exercises to target the obliques are those that twist, side-bend, and crunch the torso. So she developed this 7-minute core circuit featuring moves that do just that.

How to to this workout: Each exercise is demonstrated by Atkins herself in the video above so you can learn the proper form. Perform each exercise for 50 seconds, followed by a 10-second recovery.

Hip Dip

Start in a forearm plan position with core tight and elbows directly under shoulders. Engaging the obliques and core, rotate your lower body to the right and dip right hip bone toward the floor. Repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate.

Knee Drive

Start in a high plank position with core engaged and wrists directly below shoulders. Keeping core tight, draw your right knee toward your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left knee. Continue to alternate with control.

Butterfly Sit-Up

Lie faceup with the soles of your feet together, and heels tucked up toward your glutes. With your knees open out to the side and arms overhead, engage your core and sit up as you reach your fingers past your toes and return to the start. Repeat.

Forearm Plank With Side Reach

Start in a forearm plank position with elbows under shoulders and core engaged. Stabilize your pelvis with your core, then reach right arm out to the right, touching the floor. Bring your arm back to the starting position and repeat on the other side with left arm. Continue to alternate.

Oblique Crunch

Lie on your left side, with your legs stacked on top of each other and knees bent out in front of you. Keep the left leg firmly on the ground. Place your right hand behind your head for support and rest your left arm over your torso. Exhale and crunch up with the right side of your body (think of a small movement from your elbow to hip). Lower back down and repeat. Complete the reps then repeat on left side.

Spider Crunch

Start in a high plank position with core engaged and wrists under shoulders. Lift your right foot and draw right knee out to the side toward your right elbow. You should feel this along your right obliques. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side. Continue to alternate.

Headshot of Sara Lindberg
Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg, B.S., M.Ed., is a freelance writer focusing on health and fitness. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Exercise Science and a Master's Degree in Counseling. Her work is published in LIVESTRONG, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Health, SheKnows, Healthline,, HealthyWay, Yahoo Health,, and many more.