Quick exercises to get you fit for mountain biking

Easy ways to get yourself in better shape - both on and off your bike

The fastest and most effective way to get bike fit is to ride as hard as possible as often as possible, with recovery periods in between. But you can’t always do that, so here’s a selection of bike-free exercises that can shortcut and complement strength and fitness gains.

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Make gains off the bike

1. Press-up

If you struggle on rough ground or long descents, it could be due to a weak upper body. With your hands just outside shoulder width, keep your body straight and extend your arms, pivoting from your toes. Lower yourself back down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

Press-Up
Press-Up
Philip Sowels/MBUK

2. Side bridge with leg raise

Want a torso and glutes of steel? This is the one for you! Start by supporting yourself on your elbow and foot, straight and strong from head to heel. Then draw in a deep breath, fill your belly and, as you exhale,lift your top leg as high as you can.

Side bridge with leg raise
Side bridge with leg raise
Philip Sowels/MBUK

3. Squat

With feet just over shoulder width apart and chest upright, ease your hips down as if sitting on a chair until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Push back up slowly.

Squat
Squat
Philip Sowels/MBUK

4. Bunnyhop

Stand in a jump position, engage your core, sink to a quarter-squat, then push up through the balls of your feet with max force. Absorb and control the landing.

Bunnyhop
Bunnyhop
Philip Sowels/MBUK

5. One-leg squat

Stand on one leg with the other leg slightly in front and off the floor. Keep your chest upright and core engaged, and bend the supporting leg, keeping the other straight.

One-leg squat
One-leg squat
Philip Sowels/MBUK

6. Plank

With your feet as close together as possible, and only your toes and forearms in contact with the floor, hold the rest of your body off the ground, in a straight line.

Plank
Plank
Philip Sowels/MBUK

7. ‘V’ sit-up

Lie flat, with both of your hands above your head. Sit up and raise one leg straight up so that you touch your ankle with both hands. Repeat with the other leg.

‘V’ sit-up
‘V’ sit-up
Philip Sowels/MBUK

8. Crunch

Raise your feet, with hips and knees at 90 degrees. With fingers on head, chin tucked in and legs still, engage your core muscles to bring your elbows to your knees.

Crunch
Crunch
Philip Sowels/MBUK

9. Close-arm press-up

Put your hands under the centre of your chest. Keep your body straight and extend your arms, pivoting from your toes. Lower yourself back down until your chest touches your hands.

Close-Arm press-up
Close-Arm press-up
Philip Sowels/MBUK

10. Dip

Put your hands on a step or a low table, with your fingers facing forwards. Bend at the elbows, lowering your body, back straight and chest upright. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and then return.

Dip
Dip
Philip Sowels/MBUK

11. Lunge

Standing tall, with your shoulders back and core engaged, step forward and lower your body, under control, until both knees are flexed to 90 degrees, then return to the start position. Repeat on the other leg.

Lunge
Lunge
Philip Sowels/MBUK

Pre-ride preparation

Four must-do warm-ups

It’s a good idea to warm up before you hit the trail, in order to raise your body/muscle temperature, activate your central nervous and muscular system, and also mobilise your joints. The following moves cover all the bases…

1. Star Jump

Simple and effective – get warm, improve ankle mobility and fire up your central nervous system! Do 20 or more reps. Star jumps are ideal for doing in the car park, before hitting the trail, while waiting for your mates to finish faffing about.

Star Jump
Star Jump
Philip Sowels/MBUK

2. Windmill

Hip mobility and control are crucial for mountain biking. Start with your feet shoulder width apart, shift your hips to one side, keeping your knees straight, and rotate your upper body so you’re looking up to the extended arm and touching the ground with the other. Reset and repeat on the other side.

Windmill
Windmill
Philip Sowels/MBUK

3. Lunge with Twist

Lunge backwards, catch your weight and lower yourself down, making sure all of your lower limbs are at right angles. Twist your upper body toward the supportingleg, with arms bent and elbows raised.

Lunge with Twist
Lunge with Twist
Philip Sowels/MBUK

4. Slow to Fast Push-Up

Getting your big upper body muscles ready for shredding is often overlooked. Get yourself into a strong push-up position with your upper arms about 25 degrees from your torso. Lower yourself for a count of four then push back up as fast as possible. Aim for 10 reps each side, unless stated otherwise.

Slow to Fast Push-Up
Slow to Fast Push-Up
Philip Sowels/MBUK

Tone up on the bike

Four ways your muscles are working while riding – and how to get better results, faster!

1. Legs

Improve your leg strength by hitting uphills hard in a slightly harder gear than normal – this is called over-gearing. Aim for about 60 pedal revolutions per minute and stay in the saddle for maximum effect. It’ll be harder than spinning at a normal rate but you’ll gain leg strength in no time. Alternate between normal and over-gearing on your next ride.

2. Arms

Though your legs are generating the power and doing most of the work while riding, your arms are also getting a decent workout. On the trail you have to be dynamic and move the bike around, so the muscles in your arms are constantly contracting and relaxing. To work them more, try standing up on a climb or do short sprints out of the saddle when on the flat.

Make like Danny MacAskill and think of your commute route as parkour for bicycles!
Make like Danny MacAskill and think of your commute route as parkour for bicycles!
Jonathan Ashelford

3. Abs

You aren’t going to get a six-pack from riding alone – sorry! But the key to riding a bike well is balance and power. When standing out of the saddle on downhill trails, your balance and power comes from your core, which is constantly making minor adjustments. These tiny contractions (and large ones, if you corner properly) all add up by the time you finish your ride.

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4. Heart

Research suggests that to improve your heart health you should exercise at varied intensities. As a mountain biker, this couldn’t be any more simple – just hit the trail. The intensity is constantly changing when you ride up or downhill or power through technical sections – you’d actually be surprised at how hard you’re working without thinking about it.