Learning to ride a mini clown bike or a unicycle is not without its challenges. For those of you that have tackled this new objective and are looking for exercises you can do to keep yourself active during the down periods, here are some of our top suggestions.
Let’s Get to the Core of the Matter
…Your core, specifically. Once you start riding a unicycle, you will likely be surprised by just how much it engages your core.
There is a misconception that unicycle riding is mostly about the legs. Other than making adjustments to backward and forward progress, it’s really about your core muscles. Keeping your balance by shifting weight and attitude are really what drives unicycle riding, and consequently, most of the calories you’ll burn will come from your core groups.
So, with that being said, here are some workouts that can make you a stronger and more proficient unicycle rider.
Crunches and Situps
Situps, or, if you prefer them, crunches, are both excellent core exercises that will strengthen your rectus abdominus (ab) muscles, as well as your oblique muscles and hip flexors.
A lot of people don’t like crunches and sit ups because they can be uncomfortable and it’s tempting to rush through them, but this ruins the form and compromises the efficacy of the exercise.
Take your time and control your breathing when doing crunches or situps and do not rush. Focus on the deliberate motion of bringing your shoulders and hips together fluidly. Remember, a few done properly are better than a lot done poorly.
Others prefer reverse crunches which are easier on the lower back than standard crunches and situps. It also helps to perform these exercises on a mat or other cushioned surface. It’s also a better exercise for isolating and focusing on your lower abdominal muscles.
Start out laying flat with your arms extended along your sides, not crossed over your chest (this will help with form and balance). Bring your knees up to your chest, slowly and deliberately, then extend them, keeping them slightly elevated over the floor.
This exercise, like crunches, will work your abdominal muscles, obliques, and hip flexors.
Twists, also known as Russian twists, are excellent workouts that target your abdominal muscles, but more predominantly, your obliques, which help to stabilize your core.
Sitting on the ground with your knees bent and heels grounded, tighten your abdominal muscles to hold your back elevated at about a 45° to 50° angle off the floor.
Slowly twist your torso from left to right; focus on maintaining the static “tightness” of your abs and deliberately twisting your torso - and do not rush.
Leg lifts, like reverse crunches, are another excellent exercise that specifically targets the lower abs. Lying with your back on the floor and your heels touching the ground, slowly lift your legs above the floor to about a 45° angle, hold the position for a moment, then lower your legs.
For an added boost of efficacy that will strengthen your hip flexors and adductor muscles, when your raise and hold your legs, spread them apart by 20° to 30° and pause for a second before bringing them back together and lowering them to the ground.
Squats (Specifically Kettlebell Squats)
Finally, we have squats, which are not only an excellent workout for your quadriceps, erector spinae, and glutes, but also to a lesser degree, to your core and lower leg muscles.
Kettlebell squats, specifically, offer a really effective whole-body workout that engages the upper and lower body and strengthens the muscles you’ll need to stabilize your body while riding a unicycle.
When doing squats or any of the exercises mentioned here, remember the following maxim: lower weight and higher reps are better. Focus on form and consistency and strength will follow.
Besides, the goal here is not to bulk up, but to develop strength and endurance that arise from slow-twitch muscle fibers which are effectively cultivated by high-volume, sustained aerobic resistance training.
A Note on Stretching: The Most Neglected Component of Fitness
Unlike resistance exercises, stretching and flexibility are often the most overlooked components of overall fitness.
This is a shame since stretching helps to prevent injury and can vastly improve stability and handling when atop a unicycle - the more flexible you are, the greater will be your range of motion when attempting to keep your balance.
In other words: don’t neglect your stretches, warm-up, and cool-down periods.
Crossover Sports: Snowboarding and Windsurfing
In addition to these specific exercises, there are crossover sports you can dabble in which engage similar muscle groups and build similar skills as unicycle riding: namely, snowboarding and windsurfing.
Like unicycling, snowboarding will engage your core muscles and is more about balance and reactivity than it is about leg strength. The same could be said of windsurfing, in which rocking and pitching waves must be continuously judged and accommodated to prevent loss of balance.
If resistance training is just too boring for you, and you live by snow or water, consider some of these crossovers instead.
Challenge Yourself: Take Up a Unicycle or a Clown Bike for the First Time
While these are some of the better workouts you can try to help make yourself a stronger, more proficient unicycle rider, there’s no substitute for challenging yourself the right way: by riding.
Take a look through our collection and if you have any questions (whether about our models or about other exercises you can do) contact us at 678-494-4962.