Improve your mountain bike fitness

– This a guest post by Nadine Gottal from Njoy Rides. An incredible website all about action sports fitness.

 

You’re flowing down this endless perfectly shaped single trail. It winds down to the valley between lush green trees and over dried out creeks. It’s just steep enough to let gravity do its work. You gather enough speed to playfully send the drops and bounce over rocks and roots. Your bike miraculously finds the perfect line as you stand in attack position on your pedals, absorbing blows and balancing out your weight.

 

Well, it’s not big news if I told you, that it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.

 

Dreamlike trails like the one described above do exist. But first of all, there’s the effort involved with getting to the uphill entrance of a trail. When it comes to riding your line, your body will be put to the test. You will need a good sense of balance to negotiate the bumpy rock fields, tree trunks or those hairpin bends.

 

Key areas needed for mountain bike fitness:

 

Legs

In between pedal-action your legs are serving as an additional natural suspension fork. They smooth absorbing blows from below and balance out your body’s weight.

 

 

Arms

Like your legs, your arms also absorb repeated blows: extending your arms when dropping off, absorbing the impact when landing, pressing your bike into the curve… All of this demands strong muscles in your arms and shoulders.

 

Core (including muscles of your back, belly, chest, shoulders and glutes)

While legs are the power source in mountain bike fitness, a strong and stable core allows you to transmit power efficiently to the pedals. A solid core, able to resist twisting and bending, is also essential to drive your bike through technical terrain without losing momentum and control.

 

Read: Improve your bikini – 7 tips to be a better mountain biker

 

 

The mountain bike fitness workout

 

This functional workout aims at combining exercises meant to build strength and endurance specific to mountain bike fitness. The workout aims to exercise the muscles usually neglected by bikers, to avoid the negative effects of muscular imbalances.

 

We will work the legs (thighs as well as hamstrings and calves), your arms and shoulders and your core, including upper and lower back, chest, muscles of your belly and the glutes. Stay tuned for my second article on endurance.

 

Here is what you need for the following mountain bike workout:

 

  • Two bottles of water or a pair of dumbbells
  • A stability ball
  • A timer
  • A towel, because you’re gonna sweat like hell! ;)

 

 

#1 Lunge, High Knee, Shoulder Press – 2 sets of 1 Min per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Balance
  • Stretches hip flexors -> with sitting either on a chair or on your bike all day, your hip flexors 
will thank you for getting out of their shortened position once in while☺
  • Shoulder strength
  • Leg strength -> prepares your legs for generating enough power to make steep climbs uphill

 

How to do it:

  • Stand before the stepper (or a sturdy box), with a dumbbell (or waterbottle) in each hand
  • Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height
  • Step up with your left leg
  • Without touching the stepper, bring the knee of your right leg up to your chest and press 
the dumbbells straight above your head
  • With your right leg make a long step back, bringing your foot back down to the floor, 
while taking your hands back to shoulder height
  • Lower your right knee towards the floor
  • Now push yourself back up again, bring the right knee to your chest and your hands 
above your head …
  • Repeat this move for one minute
  • Then switch sides

 

Make sure to: 

Keep your upper body upright but avoid a hollow back (engage your belly muscles!)
keep the knee of your standing leg stable above your ankle and prevent it from swerving 
to the in- or outside

 

 

#2 Single Leg Deadlifts – 2 sets of 1 Min per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Nice strength training for going into attack position
  • Works your legs including the hip extensors
  • Leg strength
  • Challenges the muscles of your back
  • Balance

 

How to do it

  • Stand on one leg and firmly root your foot, especially toes and heels
  • Keep your back long and straight
  • Now hinge your hips, pushing your bottom backwards and lifting your free leg back and 
up, while your upper body goes down
  • Squat down with your standing leg till you are able to grab the weight in front of you (a 
backpack for example)
  • Straighten your leg again and bring your upper body back up by squeezing your glutes
  • Repeat for 1 minute, then switch sides

 

Make sure to:

  • Push your bottom backwards
  • Keep your back strong and straight
  • Avoid rounding you back
  • Use your glutes to straighten your hips and get your upper body back up
  • Chose a light weight dumb-bell until you get this exercise technique right

 

Read: A 45 minute body weight workout you can do anywhere

 

 

#3 Lat plank on stability ball – 2 sets of 5-7 reps

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Core strength
  • Shoulder and arm strength: Look at the second picture and think of
    the way you extend your 
forearms and push your body backwards when preparing for a drop with steep landing…

 

How to do it:

  • Place your shins on the ball and bring your body in one straight line
  • Keep your belly muscles engaged to avoid a hollow back
  • Now push yourself forwards, without moving the hands
  • Then push yourself backwards as far as you can manage, without losing the tension in 
your core
  • Aim at 7 reps to the front and back

 

Make sure to:

  • Keep your core strong and tight and avoid a hollow back!
  • Pause, when you lose body tension

 

 

#4 Butterfly reverse in single leg standing scale – 2 sets of 1 Min per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Core, especially upper and lower back and posterior part of the shoulders:
  • Chest opening, while working the muscles of your lower back, this exercise opens up your chest and pulls your shoulder blades back, challenging the muscles of the posterior part of your shoulders including the rotator cuff and the muscles of the upper back. It helps balancing out the body from becoming too chest dominant from being in a hunched over position all day
  • Balance

 

How to do it:

  • Standing on one leg, extend the other leg straight behind you
  • While lowering your upper body, bring your leg up
  • Keep your upper body and extended leg in one straight line
  • Aim at bringing your upper body and extended leg in a horizontal position
  • Your standing leg is slightly bent
  • Hold this position
  • Holding a dumbbell or a bottle of water in each hand, extend your arms in front of you
  • Take your arms simultaneously out to the sides, lower them back down and bring them 
up again
  • Repeat for one minute, then switch sides

 

Make sure to:

  • Keep your upper body straight, avoid a round or hollow back
  • Try to keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground
  • Keep your neck in a neutral position
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and downwards, especially when bringing your arms up 
to your sides
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears

 

 

#5 BearSquat – 2 sets of 1 minute

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Core strength
  • Leg strength, especially thighs: Standing on your pedals for a time in a row, bending, 
straightening a bit, bending again while absorbing blows in rough terrain
  • Shoulder and arm strength: Straightening your arms, while pushing your body backwards, as 
you would do for drops …

How to do it:

  • Start from plank position
  • Without moving hands or feet, push backwards with your arms
  • Bend your knees, without letting them touch the ground and bring your booty back 
towards your heels
  • Keep a straight and strong back (as if you were doing a squat, just horizontally instead of 
vertically to the floor)
  • By straightening your legs come back into plank
  • Repeat for 1 minute

 

Make sure to: 


  • Engage your core muscles, especially when coming back into plank!
  • Avoid a hollow back!
  • Keep your back strong and straight when pushing your bottom backwards
  • Keep your knees off the floor

 

Read: Pro snowboarder Helen Schettini discusses the link between diet and injury

 

 

#6 Table Top and Donkey Kicks – 2 sets of 30 sec per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Core stability: helps teach your core to resist twisting or bending to one side
  • Works the glutes: being hip extensors, the glutes support you while peddling as well as when 
standing up, but cycling hardly helps to strengthen the outer glutes. As strong buns and stable hips contribute to better knee stability and powerful pedal strokes, working them is definitely worthwhile
  • Leg strength: prepares your muscles for standing in a centered low attack position

 

How to do it:

  • Start from all fours, with your knees on the floor
  • If possible, squeeze a small dumbbell or water bottle in the hollow of your left knee
  • Engage your core and make sure to keep your back strong and straight
    With hands and toes press into the floor and lift your knees just slightly off the ground
  • Remain in this position
  • Lift the heel of your left foot towards the ceiling, without losing the weight you are 
holding
  • Bring the leg back down, without touching the floor
  • Bring the leg back up again
  • Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides

 

Make sure to:

  • Keep your hips parallel to the ground
  • Keep your knees off the floor
  • Avoid a hollow back
  • Keep the rest of your body as motionless as possible. Only your leg should be moving

 

 

#8 Reverse Crunches on stability ball – 2 sets of 1 Min

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Muscles of your back: This exercise works the muscles of your body’s backside and opens up your body’s front. It is a good way for balancing out the constant forward bent you assume while being on your bike
  • Hip extensors

 

How to do it:

  • Lie facedown on the ball
  • Hold your hands to the side of your head and pull your shoulder blades backwards and 
down
  • Straighten your legs and hip, squeeze your glutes and bring your upper body in a slow 
and controlled motion upwards
  • Pull your belly button in to make sure not to straighten your back excessively
  • Lower yourself back on the ball and repeat for 1 minute

 

Make sure to:

  • Take your time doing this exercise
  • The movement should be slow and controlled
  • Keep the muscles of your belly tight
  • Try to pull your elbows backwards
  • Pressing your feet against a wall might help you to be able to focus fully on your back and 
hips

#9 Push Ups on stability ball – 2 sets of 1 Min per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Core strength
  • Shoulder strength and stability: balancing out uneven terrain, absorbing blows
  • Arm strength
  • Balance
  • Improves
 upper body strength by working your chest, arms and shoulders

 

How to do it:

  • Grab the ball at the sides and come into plank position with your feet a little more than hip width apart (for more balance)
  • Your body should form one straight line between shoulders and feet
  • Now lower yourself down on the ball and immediately push yourself back up
  • No resting on the ball or bouncing off it! ;)
  • Repeat for 1 minute

 

Make sure to:

  • Keep your core strong and tight and avoid a hollow back!
  • Come down to your knees when the plank position becomes too difficult

#10 Cool down:
 Knee Tuck, 3 legged Dog, Donkey Kick – 2 sets of 1 Min per side

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Upper body frontside stretch
  • Leg backside stretch
  • Works hip extensors

 

How to do it:

  • Start from plank position
  • Pull your right knee towards your chest while pushing your body forward with your left 
foot
  • While extending your right leg again, press back with your arms and shoulders, lift your 
booty towards the ceiling and bring your right leg out behind you
  • Try to bring your free leg in one line with your upper body
  • Take your time and try to bring the heel of your left foot closer to the floor
  • Make your back as long as possible
  • While coming back into plank position, bring your right knee towards your chest and 
repeat
  • Switch sides after one minute

 

Make sure to:

  • Take your time doing this exercise
  • Feel your way into the stretch
  • Try to make your back long and strong, when going into the down dog position
  • Focus on your belly muscles, when bringing that knee up to your chest
  • Move through this exercise in one fluent motion

Read: Why every athlete should practice yoga

 

#11 Kneeling on stability ball – for as long as you feel like doing it

All body workout for mountain bike fitness and training

This one is my favourite, I do it while watching TV!

 

Benefits / Target areas:

  • Balance

 

How to do it:

  • Kneel on a ball
  • Start close to a wall or anything you can hold on to or let your training partner help you, 
till you find your balance
  • If you have a training partner, play some ball while balancing yourself out
  • It’s a fun way to train your sense of balance

 

Make sure to:

  • Stay clear of anything you could hurt yourself with
  • Put a mat or anything soft beneath you, in case you fall off the ball
  • Let your training partner help you, if you feel insecure.

 

 

Follow through with the complete mountain bike fitness workout twice a week for 6 weeks. Or simply pick the exercises you feel you need most and add them to your workout routine. 
And, most importantly, have fun shredding those beautiful single trails out there!

 

One last thing before you start your mountain bike fitness regime: please always pay close attention to what your body’s telling you! Should you be in pain performing any of these exercises, stop immediately. When doing balance exercises, please always make sure there’s nothing around you could bump into. After all, working out and getting fit is about doing your body something good, right?☺

 

 

Head over to Nadine Gottal’s Njoy Rides for more in-depth and comprehensive workouts for all action sports. She is a wealth of knowledge and the website is available in both German and English.

About the author

Still Stoked (Alexa)

Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream.
I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)

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