Feeling stagnant in your riding performance and not quite sure where to begin with prepping your body for an optimal mountain bike experience? It doesn’t have to be complicated, overwhelming, intimidating, or even all that time consuming. Simplicity is a good place to start and acknowledging the basics of what you need to be both physically and mentally prepared when riding your bike.
Getting on your bike more often is the initial starting point then followed up with the strength, flexibility, and focus components that may be missing. The skill specifics of mountain biking that we focus on in our clinics are greatly improved when these other components are refined.
Lets lay it out, you want to be strong and have the endurance to hold on in technical terrain and power up a hill. You also need to recognize and apply the importance of flexibility so you don’t damage yourself and tear a ligament and/or much needed muscle. And you need to have a clear focused mindset so you don’t steer yourself off a cliff or down a gnarly line you were not prepared for. That’s where yoga comes in hand. If you are not a yogini type and the mere word yoga steers you in the other direction, then replace it with flexibility, focus, strength and breath. Basically it is those things that will improve your performance.
So, with that we have compiled a few exercises from each necessary arena to improve your performance on the bike.
*While performing your exercise routine FORM is super important-If you compromise your form to accomplish the exercises you are causing more harm than good.
Take a few minutes before each ride to center yourself with 3-5 deep breaths. Clearing your mind of the bustle of life, all consuming planning or worried thoughts. Exhale out the chaos of your day and inhale the positive strengths in your life as well as the stoke you have for the upcoming ride. Integrating that focused mindset will prepare you for a more engaged mountain bike experience. Without the distraction you will pick a line to ride with greater success, you will charge with more confidence and you will have an overall more enjoyable experience.
FLEXIBILITY -YOGA inspired:
Here are just a few valuable stretches that target bike fatigued muscle groups. Incorporate into your daily routine to better prepare your body for being mobile on the bike.
*You can flow each of these poses into one another for a great cycling preparedness sequence. Inhale and then as you enter the stretch exhale. Hold each pose for 4-5 breaths
• Forward Fold with hands interlaced behind back- Feet are hip width apart. Fold forward. Interlace your hands together behind your back and let the arms hang over your head.
Benefits: Hamstrings Shoulders, Chest
• Pyramid- Left leg is in front and is extended straight. Right leg is back and straight as well. Fold over front left leg. Hands are to the hips, shin, or floor. Spine is long. SWITCH
• Deep Low Lunge- Step right leg back. Your right leg is extended behind you and you are on the top of your right thigh not knee. Your forward left ankle and knee are stacked. Hands to your hips. Spine is long. Sink into the stretch. SWITCH
Benefits: Hip Flexors, Quads, Psoas
Variation: Hip opener deep lunge with opposite arm of your forward leg reaching up and over to open up your psoas.
• Cat/Cow- On all 4’s, line your knees with your hips and wrists with shoulders. Round your spine towards the ceiling keeping your neck in line with your spine at all times in cat pose and then arch your low back in cow pose. Inhale as you round your spine, exhale as you arch your spine.
Benefits: Neck, Shoulders, Low back, Spine
• Half Fold- Seated, lengthen left leg and bring right foot to inner thigh. Your spine stays long, and gently, slowly fold down over your lengthened leg. You don’t have to touch your toes. SWITCH
Benefits: Hips and Hamstrings
• Seated Twist- Cross right foot over left leg.Your spine stays long. The bent left leg crosses over the right extended leg. Your left hand is on the ground supporting you and your right arm wraps around the left leg. Look over to the right. SWITCH
Benefits: IT Band, Back
• Thread the Needle-Lie on your back, bring left ankle over right knee, clasp hands around right thigh. Gently pull right knee towards chest. SWITCH.
Benefits: Hips, IT Band
• Knees to Chest- On your back bring knees to your chest, rock back and forth, Ironing out your tension along your spine.
Benefits: Lower back, in-between your shoulders
Doing exercises that use the whole body, and that work diagonally to mimic the movements on the bike. Here are a few simple, functional and yet effective exercises.
Recommendation: 10-15 reps x 3 sets
A strong CORE/ABDOMINAL support will help protect your back. And helps stabilize your body on the bike.
• Plank Variations- Using your own body weight as well as doing a series with TRX- 60 sec each
-Hold plank and circle hips to right, then to the left. Figure 8
-Hold plank and alternate knee’s out to elbow
-Hold plank, rock from toes to heals keeping spine parallel to floor.
-TRX Knee Tucks. Hands in plank position. Put toes in TRX straps in lowest setting. Tuck knees to your chest and repeat
Strengthening your lower body to improve your pedal stroke and power
• The Lunge–Strengthening the hamstrings, the Quads and the Gluts in the cross lunge movement will get your legs ready for your next incline on your bike.
*Be aware of your knees and the load put upon them. Warm-up, especially before doing explosive movements.
• Power Jump Alternate Lunges- for explosive strength to power through the finish or get your best PR.
• Jump Squats– Strength gluts, quads, hamstrings and explosive power. Strong Quads, and gluts with the explosive power in the jump squat will allow your body to pedal through technical terrain and stay in control through the process.
Maintain a strong Upper Body– Improves your maneuvering of your bike on the trail and control over your steering.
• Overhead Squat– Squat down with weight overhead. With control and a neutral pelvis lift weight up with straight arms. Strengthening legs, gluts, core and upper body while lifting a weight overhead. Tuck pelvis, engage core at all times. Accomplishing the entire body in 1 strength movement.
• Chops– Start in a split stance with right leg forward. The cable or bands will be to the side and over your right shoulder. Pull down across your chest towards your left hip. The Cross diagonal movements will prepare you real life changes on the bike where you need to have the strength to respond quickly to changes.
Variation: TRX straps or weights
• Spider Push-ups-With each push-up bring alternate foot to the outside of the hand, switch with each push up. Keep your belly button pulled up towards rib cage. Never drop your hips. Repeat
• Rows– Start in a solid athletic stance. Use resistance bands, weights, TRX straps to pull resistance towards you. Keep elbows close, sliding by rib cage. Repeat.
By fusing the mental, the flexible and the strength elements together you will greatly improve your riding experience. Your skills will surpass where they have been with a blended simple, functional and effective routine. With the positive mindset of accomplishment you will see great rewards.