Pure MTB fitness strength exercises muscle mountain bike training Alps Switzerland

Muscle up!


That’s right, muscle up folks it’s time for some strength training. I’m not talking about muscle bulk here. This is about muscle strength and endurance. I mean riding up that long rooty section and powering over that extra gnarly bit. I’m talking maximum stability when those rocks want to pinball you. Instead of muscle fatigue, I mean nailing the downhill after a climb. Muscle also means impact protection, essential for safe riding.

For me personally, strength training is best done with compound exercises. Remember, this isn’t a body building session. You’re looking for an efficient way to strengthen a multitude of muscles and with a few weights at home, you don’t even need to go to the gym. Here are my top four.

Twisting exercises

Coping with all that the trail has to throw at you requires our body to twist and resist rotation. For that we need a strong core, in other words, strong abs, back and obliques. This work out has some excellent compound movements. Check it out:

Pushing and pulling exercises

Pumping that front suspension for explosive bunny hops we need strong arms, shoulders and chest muscles. Push ups are the business but can stress the wrist joint. Adding a bar simulates the bike’s handlebars and means you don’t need to break your wrist. Just rest a broom pole / bar between two dumbells and you are ready to go.

For the pull up, if you don’t have a contraption like this one, securing that same pole between two high stools will also work. Move your feet closer to your body to reduce the effort.

Bending exercises

Shifting our centre of mass whether it’s in a drop, jump, corner or on a climb requires strength not just in our legs but also our hips and lower back. Squats are a winner here, especially adding an overhead lift using weights. But don’t overdo the weight. As your strength increases, aim to increase the number of reps rather than the amount of weight.

Some riders rate the Romanian Deadlift. Personally, I like the extended range of movement from the kettlebell swing. I actually use a dumbbell instead and keep the movement slow and controlled.

Split leg exercises

This is all about holding that essential, life saving Ready Position. I recently watched a video of a man riding downhill being catapulted from his bike simply because he was seated. Lunges are the favourite for building strength here but can be rough of the knees, especially when adding resistance. I really like this Lunge Build series from Becky’s workout, much softer on the knees and a real leg burner.

I like to do three sets, stretching the worked muscles after each exercise. Be sure to warm up beforehand. Finish off with a full body stretch (don’t skip it!) and a protein packed recovery shake – see recipe in my next post.

N.B. I am not a qualified fitness coach. If you are unsure or unfamiliar with any of these exercises, please seek professional advice.

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