Unicycling and Core Strength

I’ve had a few people make the observation that unicycling must be good for your core muscle group, ie abs/back. I’ve even had one other unicyclist assert that you won’t see many unicyclists with guts for this reason.

Have you found this to be the case?

definitely. Although covered in fat the abs are there and 1000000x better than they were without unicycling - and i did do other things before uni too :slight_smile:

I find I get a lot more core work off-road than on. Road
riding doesn’t seem to do too much.

probably shoulda mentioned that i do lots of hopping and jumping around compared to very little actual riding :slight_smile:

While the abs and back are most definitely challenged, the “core” concept is being refined to some of the deeper, intrinsic muscles around the spine and pelvis. In fact, it’s probably not specific muscles but how groups of important muscle work together and respond to dynamic movement.

This is where unicycling ROCKS… it forces us to dynamically respond to gravity, one of the most natural forces on earth, in functional ways that facilitate “core” strength.

I am trying to wrap my head around designing a rehab protocol using unicycling for my patients. I myself have not had any significant low back pain since November, when I started unicycling :slight_smile:

Awesome idea! I’ll have to think on that a bit. Most of my patients would laugh, I think.

same here

It helped my back quite a bit and I don’t do much more than ride around. But slowly my ability to twist has gotten better and after practicing idling I could definitely feel that my abs had done some work.

This year, I’ve been riding flat rail trails, and walkways. 2.5-5miles, 3 times a week, and I’m getting a gut. I need to hit some hills.

I just realized that, along the same line of unicycling to treat back problems, unicycling might be really great for patellar tracking disorder. The whole treatment is to strengthen the quads, and I’ve not found any other activity that works my quads this well. It even seems to isolate the medial quads more than the lateral. My only concern for the knees would be for true osteoarthritis and ligamentous problems dealing with the load the unicycle puts on the knee. At least it’s nonimpact, UPDs aside, but braking and climbing might be rough. Flat riding shouldn’t be bad though.


I agree that muni works the core more than road riding (I don’t really do trials). After a hard uni ride my lower back is stiff, but it’s a different pain than I used to get from a day of lifting stuff or shoveling heavy snow or gravel. I don’t get those kind of crippling back-aches ever anymore, even when I do those types of things.

When it does get a little sore (like from a hard game of ultimate (mucho sprinting)), then a few psoas (sp?) stretches, front and side planks, crunches, yoga child poses, and all is right with my back.

I’m fighting that myself right now. Since unis don’t have clips the hammies don’t get hardly any work. Also if the seat is too low (less than what I call cycling height, so that means most uni riders) the Vastus Medalias does not get engaged.

As seat height goes up you can feel that muscle starting to do some work. I have an extremely tight illio tibial band so Ive been working on stretching that. I have 4 separate stretches do to hit different part of the Illio Tibial band. I’m also working on hip adductions. Anything that helps pull the kneecap to the inside. The mid quad (outside) gets a lot of stretching as does the hip flexors. Lot’s of leg extensions and leg curls and when I stretch I try to remember to pull my knee cap up on any stretches where the leg is straight.

Oh yeah and calves get a fair amount of stretching as well.

And braking and hills are hard of the hills so I’ve been doing flat rides every three days and doing stretches exercises on the two off days. It’s getting better but not as fast as I hoped it would.

A few days ago I rode all day (like 8 hours) at the skatepark, and the next morning my back was crazy sore… After I watched tv for a few hours though it was all good and I went outside and rode some more.

On the rare occasion I ride my coker though, if anything is sore it’s my thighs.

Definitely NOT a good foundational exercise for patellar tracking syndrome… unicycling is much too stressful on the patellofemoral joint. Strengthening the quads is a secondary goal with PTS; controlling femoral rotation is paramount. While unicycling will do this eventually, in the mean time…it’ll chew up an existing PTS and will probably progress to patellofemoral syndrome and maybe even progress it to chondromalacia patellae. I’ve started developing a bit of patellofemoral problems since November; it’s manageable, but if I ride 4-5 days in a row or 3 days of Muni…I’m hurting and need to treat it with cold laser and functional taping.

I had back surgery 5 years ago. I had tons of back issues before. Since I’ve taken up unicycling 3.5 years ago I’ve had no major back issues. I definitely believe that riding has improved my core and contributed to my back health. Also, I primarily climb steep hills on my 36er and I think that works my core pretty well. Flat riding maybe not so much but steep hill work make my absolutely works my abs, (admittedly not as much as muni).
When I bike, now, (seldom) my neck and back are irritated and crave the uni posture.

It seems that for me, core muscles are “too” strong (I’ve been riding for more than 20 years, some people might say my whole life). Then my other muscles don’t work as much and are weak. My chiro said that apparently I use my core muscles for everything, so I don’t know how to use my pelvis muscles.
So I have back problems, not big though, but it comes back regularly.

the core strength i have built up is actually messing up my back. I have an overdeveloped right side ( back, side, and that muscle on your back behind your armpit). the doctor says that it is making my scoliosis worse. i figure its from all the hopping around i do.

For me core strength has nothing to do with abdominal muscles… I have a fair amount of extra weight around my midriff and still manage riding uni quite well :wink:

I hope its good for my back. Drops on the other hand are not I guess, I messed up my back from doing a 1.5metre drop :frowning: I have abbs :smiley: but there not from unicycling.

Unicycling will work some core intrinsic muscles.

I think that if you unicycle a lot, you should really also cross train with another sport and/or go to the gym to lift. A lot of unicyclists have muscle imbalances and weak inner thigh muscles and weak hamstrings. At least that was my case, and biking (with clipless pedals) and doing the leg workouts at the gym has really helped me.