- Al Painter, NASM-CPT, CES, PES
4 EXERCISES TO BUILD STRONGER MOUNTAIN BIKE MUSCLES
Coming up with the first sentence of a blog post is the absolute hardest thing about writing one. Find the right set of syllables and vowells, and IT'S BAM!! Word smithery galore.
Wow, look at that. First sentence done, it appears to be mildly entertaining and this post is off and running. A little bit of coffee, throw in an episode of "Batman The Animated Series" (BTAS) in the background and it is go time with the prose. I love it when a a plan comes together!
Much like drinking coffee (Verve Hambela Estate if you're keeping score at home) and watching BTAS, riding a mountain bike is a blast. On the plus side, you've got being in nature (which has proven to have a whole hosts of benefits from stress hormone reduction to increased immune system function) (1), pre-ride coffee, exercise, pre-ride coffee and it is just an awesome sport. Plus, did I mention pre-ride coffee?
The flip side of that doesn't read as well. It is a sport that takes place in one plane of motion: straight ahead. Is usually done after sitting all day, then driving to the trailhead to sit on your bike to ride. You then sit in your car to drive home, sit to eat dinner and then you get to lay down to go to sleep for the night.
That's a ton of sitting compounded by a repetitive stress activity in one plane of motion. That's a fast track to losses of mobility and potential injury. There is however, hope to easily manage this with some very simple body weight exercises.
Undo Your Riding
This week you get to INTEGRATE with Karen Koutsavlis from New England 360 Fitness and learn four very effective ways to keep your body strong off of your bike so you can have a lot more fun when you're on it. She's a mountain biker, knows her fitness knowledge inside and out and, more importantly, is one of the few people I'd let train me. That my friends, is about the highest PE praise I can give another trainer.
Since we know the legs essentially only go up and down when you ride, this puts you at risk at shutting down your glutes and a whole host of not so fun things happening to not only your muscles, but your joints as well. We're going to show you four exercises that will go a long way to helping you build not only joint mobility (READ: better flexibility), but more joint stability as well. Since your body only let's you put out the amount of power your joint stability can handle, this is a very good thing.
The Exercises: Two Lower Body and Two Upper Body
To do these exercises, all you need is you, a suspension trainer and something to hang it from. We're going to help you crush calories coast to coast. Yep, I totally just wrote that.
Single Leg Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
This is one of my favorite suspension training lower body exercises. You get the benefit of the single leg hip stability and strength work coupled with the ability to really drive the obliques opposite the working leg into the movement. By doing this, you can activate the glutes on the kickstand leg that much more.
Very simple exercise, it can be incredibly challenging to do. However, it mimics the angle of pushing down a pedal really well, so it is a good thing for a cyclists to have in their stable of weekly exercises.
Just be sure to do this midweek. If you ride all weekend, focus on hip dominant moves on Monday or Tuesday to give your hip flexion pattern a break.
Single Arm + Single Leg Squat
Diagonal loading, single leg stability and strength with lat activation all for the price of one movement. This contraction pattern will mimic what your muscles are doing when you corner. This connection is really important to moving your best off the bike as well.
As you come up out of the squat, pull on the handle to strengthen the connection between the upper body and opposite lower body limb. You should feel the lats and obliques on the pull side in turn firing up the glutes on the working leg that much more. The harder you pull, the more you connect the muscles to the movement.
Upper Body Exercises From New England 360 Fitness
Now that it’s my turn to write, I’ve got to say thanks for the HUGE compliment Al gave me…if we ever cross paths (in like, Kansas) there’s bound to be some fun fitness had! And if mountain bikes are involved, even better.
I too enjoy the pre-ride coffee, but I’m also a fan of the post-ride/post-race beer! As someone who used to use my bicycle as a means to get to work and run errands until I suffered a bad crash on Memorial Drive in Boston, it was the trail system that got me back on my bike after almost 5 years of not riding. What I love about mountain biking is the slew of challenges it offers for balance, strength, power, and endurance. Al’s got some great lower body suspension exercises and I’m adding two for your upper body to round out your workout for MTB strength.
Suspension Push Ups
Push ups have been around forever and as much as they suck (<— yup, I said it) I love them. There are also many ways to add variation to a pretty simple and effective exercise. The reason I think these are so great for riding is the instability they provide causing your shoulders to be stronger and more stable. Riding a mountain bike, especially on technical terrain, requires you to be in control of your bike at all times. This exercise is almost exactly like having your hands on the handlebars, bouncing down some rocky single track. Your core must be engaged while your upper body is stable, yet strong to absorb the rocks and roots…let’s not even get into turning just yet.
*Using suspension trainers is also a great way to train because you can move the handles and change the angles so that any level of exerciser can begin where it’s most comfortable for them to get uncomfortable…make sense?! Beginners, start with a shorter suspension band and a higher angle with the body. As you become stronger, lengthen the ropes so your body is closer and getting more parallel with the ground.
Kneeling Suspension Tricep Extension
Ask anyone who is in fairly good shape and begins riding how they feel after their first ride and you’ll almost always get a response similar to “I feel awesome, but my triceps are burnt out!” Triceps are a huge part of our upper arm and they provide A LOT of stability while riding. Even though they are working during the push ups, I like the extra burn from Suspension Extensions as well. And it’s easy to forget that exercises don’t always have to be done in a standing position…so performing this in a kneeling position mimics riding your bike a little better, still helps you focus on your core, but really isolates the back of the arm. Make sure when you begin, your arms are parallel to the ground and your body is at an angle leaning into the ropes so tension is always on.
I’d suggest alternating these lower body and upper body exercises so your workout would be Single Leg Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, followed by Push Ups, followed by Single Arm + Single Leg Squat, completed with Kneeling Tricep Extensions. Have some fun with this one!
Thanks a ton once again to Karen for the tag team PE prose-ification of some pretty solid exercise advice. This is the first of many East Coast/West Coast Caloric Collaborations, I’m pretty excited about it, so stay tuned for more!
If you live in the Silicon Valley in the SF Bay Area, send me a note if you'd like to come in for a complimentary fitness eval to see how we can help you move your best to get that much more out of your workouts.
If you’d like more info on NE360 Fitness, here are the best ways to connect:
1) "The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative," Florence Williams
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